A longtime partnership between the University of South Carolina and the University of Queensland, Australia, has contributed to a global effort to improve child and family well-being through parenting advocacy and support.
As a next step in the initiative, psychologists, public health experts and educators around the world will meet online for the first International Congress on Evidence-based Parenting Support on June 6-8. Cosponsored by the USC College of Arts and Sciences, the event will explore scientific evidence about ways to support parents through education and resources.
“Improved access to evidence-based parenting support has never been more important than in this COVID-19-affected age of uncertainty,” says Ron Prinz, a Carolina Distinguished Professor in the USC Department of Psychology.
“Children’s mental health, learning, development and wellbeing are at greater risk due to unprecedented disruptions in family lives, caused by climate distress, war, natural disasters and more. These disruptions have increased parental mental health problems, family violence and poverty, and worsened children’s health and risk of being maltreated,” Prinz says.
Matt Sanders, the organizer of the International Congress, is a University of Queensland professor who has partnered with Prinz on projects for about 20 years. Their collaboration grew out of a sister state relationship between South Carolina and Queensland, Australia, that began in the late 1990s as an agreement to encourage cooperation and cultural exchange between the states.
In the 2000s, Prinz and Sanders conducted the world’s first population-level scientific study about how to improve child welfare through a public health approach enlisting many families living in an area, rather than singling out a narrow group of distraught parents.
In their study, they trained counselors, educators, medical personnel and other providers in nine South Carolina counties to present seminars and workshops about positive parenting strategies. They also shared parenting tips through media outreach in newspapers and radio. Those counties saw a decrease in signs of child abuse ― such as children being placed in foster care and children treated for injuries at hospitals ― compared to another nine counties that did not receive the programming.
It was the first child-maltreatment prevention study to show that a population-wide approach to parenting support could have positive effects, Prinz says.
The ongoing collaboration between Prinz and Sanders is one of many partnerships that led to the International Congress on Evidence-based Parenting Support. Through sessions about parenting discipline strategies, emotion-focused parenting programs, remote education, teen-parent relationships and more, the event will explore how to translate evidence into practice.
The participants will establish policy guidelines for governments and nonprofits. The program is being held online to make it easier for people around the world to participate and gain insights on policies to advocate in their communities.
Prinz will chair a panel discussion on the topic of interventions that can promote healthy lifestyles for children, encompassing mental as well as physical health. The panel includes three additional USC faculty members ― Nada Goodrum and Daniel Cooper in the Department of Psychology and Michael Beets in the Arnold School of Public Health ― as well as Julie Lumeng from the University of Michigan School of Medicine.
"The International Congress on Evidence-Based Parenting Support is an excellent example of how USC faculty can participate on a world stage to influence public policy in an effort to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Joel Samuels, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I’m pleased that the college can support this program so that research can inform policies that can help families and children to thrive.”
Registration is still available at https://www.i-ceps.pafra.org/. Those who register will have access to recordings of each session.