Pilot Intervention to Reduce Parenting Stress and Child Abuse – Duke University
Developed and implemented an innovative community engagement program focused on helping low-income young mothers cope with stress.
2006

MEE developed and implemented a pilot intervention for Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy, which was seeking to significantly reduce child maltreatment among young, low-income African American parents in Durham, NC (the city with one of the state’s highest incidences of child maltreatment). MEE conducted audience research in a local housing project to identify strategies that could motivate young mothers (ages 18-25) to seek out the support they need for healthy parenting. Based on the parenting challenges they reported, with stress being a major element, MEE executed a unique intervention, “A Day of Pampering,” designed to provide a “stress break” for young mothers and increase parenting knowledge, while also providing a safe space to share childrearing concerns and offering a venue to foster and strengthen connections with available community resources.

MEE offered nearly 100 mothers from a public housing community a day away from stress. More than just a day of beauty, the pampering events were designed to innovatively reach and teach young mothers about how to better deal with the stresses of being a single parent. A key feature of the pampering event was a series of “information zones” where mothers could obtain information from community-based organizations about their services and talk to local “experts” about issues they were facing. The information zones linked mothers with local community resources that offered information and assistance in a variety of areas that could help make their jobs as parents easier. Short (10 to 20-minute) small-group learning sessions included these topics:

  • Effective and age-appropriate discipline strategies for children
  • Information on “ages & stages” of early childhood development
  • How to create balance in one’s life
  • Easy-to-implement stress relieving activities
  • Dealing with hyperactive children or those with developmental delays
  • Job training and development (including GEDs, continuing education and community colleges).

During MEE’s event, participants were encouraged to mingle and talk with other local mothers. These interactions decreased the feeling of isolation that mothers of young children sometimes feel, and allowed them to see that “they are not alone.” A kind of informal “support group” was created through the interaction of these women with similar challenges and interests.  Such events/interventions are a great start toward reducing parental stress and encouraging healthy parent-child relationships.

An initial evaluation of this project showed that young mothers overwhelmingly felt that the Day of Pampering provided good parenting and stress management information, increased their informal social support networks, and introduced them to resources available in their communities of which they had not been aware.

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