Parents-to-be: Get your pencils and notebooks ready — it’s time to head to class. The latest research suggests that expectant parents who've attended prenatal classes to help improve their co-parenting skills saw a big pay-off for their child — both at home and in school.
In a study published in the *Journal of Family Psychology, * a team of researchers at Penn State followed two groups of first-time expectant parents, one set who received prenatal coaching and another control group who didn't. Those participants who benefited from prenatal co-parenting classes had children who were better adjusted at age seven than children whose parents were assigned to a control group.
“The Family Foundations program focuses on fostering positive co-parenting — that is, more cooperative and supportive teamwork between parents — because research shows such co-parenting can benefit children in many ways," says Mark E. Feinberg, research professor of health and human development and senior scientist at the Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development.
“Parents who have better co-parenting relations feel more supported and confident, less stressed and depressed and they show more warmth and patience with their children."
The study analyzed 80 families who responded to a questionnaire when their child was between five and seven years old. Half of these families were originally assigned to the intervention program, while the other half were assigned to the control group. Parents answered questions about their child’s behavior and also surveyed each child’s teacher about the child’s adjustment and adaptation to school.
And it’s important to note that this study included all first-time expectant parents — not just those in high-risk groups.
“The transition to parenthood is stressful for most parents, and most couples experience greater conflict and less romance after the birth of a first child," says Feinberg. "Levels of depression and anxiety are high for new parents, and levels of family violence seem to be highest for families with young children."
The good news: the research team hopes to find ways to financially support the program’s expansion, including reimbursement by health insurance, to help standardize the education and preparation for new parents.