Knowledge Gained by Mothers Enrolled in a Home Visitation Program

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study examined whether new mothers would gain knowledge of child development after participating in a home visitation program for six months, and whether there would be differences between adolescent mothers and older mothers. Forty-seven mothers were administered the Knowledge Inventory of Development and Behavior: Infancy to School-age (KIDS) after the birth of their babies and six months later. Results indicated an overall increase in total knowledge of child development for mothers (of all ages) participating in a home visitation program. KIDS subscale scores indicated a significant increase in new mothers' knowledge about both infant and school-age development. There was no significant difference between the adolescent and older mothers in knowledge of infant development.

Becoming a parent is one of the most significant life changes, and new parents often need extra support. Home visitation programs that address the concerns of first-time parents strive to fulfill this need.

A growing body of literature supports the effectiveness of home visitation programs. Mothers who receive home visitation have been found to demonstrate improvement in several areas: child-care techniques (such as meeting their children's physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs), work-related experience, identifying social support, addressing safety in the home environment, preterm health, length of gestation, and use of community resources (Barrera, Rosenbaum, & Cunningham, 1986; Dawson, Robinson, Butterfield, van Doorninck, Gaensbauer, & Harmon, 1990; Marcenko & Spencer, 1994; Polit, 1989; Olds, Henderson, Tatelbaum, & Chamberlain, 1986). Children of mothers receiving home visitation have been found to experience fewer visits to the hospital and, as reported by their mothers, to have fewer behavioral and adjustment problems (Gray, Cutler, Dean, & Kempe, 1979). For mothers, long-term effects of home visitation include fewer subsequent pregnancies, decreased use of welfare, and fewer verified incident s of child abuse and neglect (Kitzman, Olds, Henderson, & Hanks, 1997). Fulton, Murphy, and Anderson (1991) found that a home visitation program was "effective in yielding significant gains in knowledge of infant development by the young mothers" (p. 79). Culp, Culp, Blankemeyer, and Passmark (1998) found that, "after six months of intervention, the mothers significantly improved their knowledge of infant development, empathetic responsiveness, and child and parent roles in the family" (p. 111).

The present study examined new mothers' knowledge of child development as a result of home visitation (with a focus on parent education), and compared younger mothers with older mothers regarding change in knowledge of infant development. An important element of this study is that a screen, the Kempe Family Stress Check List (National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, 1998), was used to determine if the mother was at risk for less positive parenting practices before participating in the program. At-risk mothers are defined by the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse (1998) as those experiencing a high level of stress. Other studies generally assumed that there was a high level of stress due to the mother being an adolescent, single, or lacking resources.

Three hypotheses were investigated. First, there would be a significant increase, from baseline to six months later, in total knowledge of child development for mothers (of all ages) participating in the parent education/home visitation program. Second, there would be a significant increase in mothers' knowledge of child development at specific ages (infant, toddler, preschool, and school-age). Finally, older mothers (18 years and above) would gain more knowledge about infant development than would younger mothers (below 18 years).

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

The Healthy Families America (HFA) framework was used as a model in this parent education/home visitation programming effort. …