21 February 2014

Federal and State Governments should ensure The University of Queensland’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program is accessible to all families, the program’s founder told a conference in Sydney yesterday (20 February).

Triple P founder and UQ Parenting and Family Support Centre director Professor Matt Sanders said a major independent evaluation had found that the program significantly reduced serious cases of emotional and behavioural problems in children when used as a public health strategy.

A study conducted by the National University of Ireland on the introduction of Triple P to families in the Irish Midlands showed Triple P improved a range of outcomes for children and parents when used as a population-based health strategy.

Speaking at the Helping Families Change Conference in Sydney, Professor Sanders said Australian governments should consider making the program widely available for Australian families.

“Australian Governments have paid for the research and development of a program that is helping families all over the world,’’ Professor Sanders said.

“What would be great is if Australian families could get better access to Triple P.

“It's going to take political will, forethought and planning. But really, the only way it’s going to happen is if Australian families demand it.’’

He said improved behaviour and emotional health could save the community millions of dollars.

The Triple P system is now available in 25 countries.

Professor Sanders said all families needed access to the program to ensure benefits flowed to all children, and not just to those targeted by service agencies.

The Irish report shows that in two counties where Triple P was made broadly available, the total number of children identified as having serious emotional and behavioural problems decreased by 37.5 per cent.

Within this category, the number of serious cases of children with conduct problems was reduced by 31.4 per cent and serious cases of emotional symptoms decreased by 29.6 per cent.

Professor Sanders said the Irish report added to a growing body of international evidence supporting the value of Triple P as both a targeted response for vulnerable families and a way to improve the lives of children and families across an entire population.

He said the study showed the importance of parenting programs being seen as natural and normal and something people aspired to do.

“The Irish research shows that parents who did Triple P spoke to their friends and neighbours about their experiences, giving each other tips from the program.

“This is the kind of thing that builds social momentum for positive parenting.

“It means you’ve got a major conversation going on in the community about raising your children.”

The implementation of Triple P in the Irish Midlands was conducted by a collaborative organisation called Longford Westmeath Parenting Partnership, and was  partly funded by Atlantic Philanthropies.

As well as reporting reduced symptoms of emotional distress and difficult behaviour in their children, parents in counties where Triple P was delivered were more likely to use appropriate discipline strategies, their levels of psychological distress were less and they were more likely to find parenting a good experience.

Note: This article was amended on 17 July 2014, updating figures in the 11th and 12th paragraphs.

Media: Paddy Hintz, 0431 706822 or p.hintz@uq.edu.au.