$2.9M NIH grant expands successful parenting education program of Rush University

January 15, 2007

A record $2.9 million grant will help Rush University College of Nursing faculty to reach out to parents struggling with their children's behavior problems. The grant from the National Institutes of Health will be used to study ways of increasing participation in the Chicago Parent Program (CPP), a successful parenting skills program developed by faculty of the Rush College of Nursing. It is the largest grant in the College of Nursing's history.

The CPP equips parents of two-to-four year-old children with preventive parenting and positive child discipline strategies to help avoid and decrease child misbehavior. These techniques include focusing more attention on desirable behavior while de-emphasizing behavior problems, and using diversions to prevent children from getting into trouble. The 12-week program is offered through day care centers serving low-income African-American and Latino communities in Chicago.

"When you've got a challenging, highly active child, it becomes very difficult for a parent to understand how to set limits on their kids and promote good behavior," said principal study investigator Deborah Gross, DNSc, RN, associate dean for research and scholarship in the College of Nursing at Rush University. "We've already seen that the program empowers parents to reduce problem behaviors in their children. Now we're going to try to make it more accessible so that even more parents and children can benefit from it."

The program uses videotapes of actual parents in real-life situations to teach participants how to respond to such common situations as children throwing tantrums in public, demanding attention when the parent is busy with a household task, or resisting going to bed at night or getting up in the morning.

"It's much easier to learn when you see parents like you making the same mistakes you do," said Gross.

A follow-up assessment of CPP participants found significant long-term decreases in child behavior problems and increases in parents' confidence. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota now is implementing the program. Gross also has received a fellowship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to collaborate with the City of Chicago Department of Children and Youth Services in order to implement the program through the city's Head Start program.

The new, five-year study will build on the CPP's success by implementing strategies to increase parent attendance and participation levels in the program. The study, which is being conducted at eight day care centers in the city, will look at incentives such as offering the program in Spanish or providing a discount in the parent's portion of the program fee. Responses will be evaluated in terms of attendance, parental involvement, completion of the program's homework assignments, and group discussions.

Gross believes that the study will demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of the CPP and provide a model for parent education that can be incorporated throughout the state.

"Child behavior problems result in a variety of personal and social costs, such as parents missing work and a greater need for school special education classes," said Gross. "We know that investing in the first years of a child's life is one of the most effective preventions we can provide."
The CPP has been offered at Chicago daycare centers since 2002. The design project was funded with a previous $2 million NIH grant. In addition to Gross, the program design team included Christine Garvey, DNSc, RN, assistant professor of community and mental health nursing; Wrenetha Julion, DNSc, RN, assistant professor of women and children's health nursing, and an advisory group of African-American and Latino parents from the community.

In addition to the original CPP design team, the participants in the study also include Lou Fogg, PhD, assistant professor of community and mental health nursing; Irma Ordaz, MSW, Chicago Public Schools; Alison Ridge, MSN, RN, instructor of community and mental health nursing in the College of Nursing; and Tricia Johnson, PhD, assistant professor of health systems management in Rush's College of Health Sciences.

Rush University Medical Center includes the 613-bed (staffed) hospital; the Johnston R. Bowman Health Center; and Rush University (Rush Medical College, College of Nursing, College of Health Sciences and the Graduate College).

Rush University Medical Center

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