A randomised controlled trial and process evaluation of the Lifestart parenting programme

Millen, S. (Presenter), Miller, S. (Advisor), Dunne, L. (Advisor), Clare McGeady (Advisor)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This paper presents the methodology and interim process evaluation findings from an on-going randomised controlled trial
evaluation of the Lifestart parenting programme. Lifestart is a structured child-centred programme of information and practical
activity for parents of children aged from birth to five years of age. It is delivered to parents in their own homes by trained, paid
Family Visitors and it is offered to parents regardless of social, economic or other circumstances.
The evaluation comprises two strands: a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme and
a process evaluation, which documents programme delivery and is a qualitative exploration of parent and child outcomes. 424
parents and children are participating in the RCT: 216 in the intervention group and 208 in the control group.
Parent outcomes include: parental efficacy, stress, social support, parenting skills and social capital. Child outcomes include
cognitive, language and motor development and social-emotional and behavioural development. Both groups are tested at
four time points during the evaluation: pre-test (when children are less than 1 year old), two mid points and finally at post-test
(when children are aged 5). Data are collected during a home visit, which takes approximately two hours. The process evaluation
consists of interviews and focus groups with parents (n=11), Lifestart Coordinators (n=9) and Family Visitors (n=24). The purpose
of this strand of data collection is to provide a commentary on the process of the evaluation; qualitatively test the theory
hypothesised in the Lifestart logic model and explore parental satisfaction and engagement with the Lifestart programme.
Quantitative findings from the RCT are not yet available however interim findings from the qualitative process evaluation have
highlighted important issues and challenges related to conducting trials of this magnitude and design in the general population.
Parents reported that a key incentive to take part in study was receiving feedback from the developmental assessment,
which is part of the data collection for the RCT. This highlights the potential importance of appropriate incentives in terms of
recruitment and retention of participants. The interviews with intervention parents indicated that one of the first changes they are
experiencing as a result of the
Lifestart programme is increased knowledge and confidence in their parenting ability.
The outcomes and pathways as perceived by parents and described in the interviews are consistent with the theory of change
depicted in the Lifestart logic model, which hypothesises that improvement in parental outcomes, arising as a consequence of
the programme, mediates the change in child outcomes. Parents receiving the Lifestart programme reported great satisfaction
with and commitment to the programme, with the role of the Family Visitor being identified as one of the key components of the
programme. The study is due to be completed in 2014 with the final report available after this time.
Period29 Feb 2020
Event titleImproving Children's Lives
Event typeConference
LocationBelfast, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational