Fifteen-year follow-up study suggests Group Triple P led to long-term improvements in children’s literacy, numeracy and school attendance

shutterstock_373108393A 15-year follow-up of a Group Triple trial in Perth, Western Australia, suggests Triple P contributed to long-term improvements in literacy and numeracy for primary school children and better attendance for high-schoolers.

The Western Australian report, A 15 Year Follow-Up of the WA Triple P Trial, was prepared by Grant Smith at the Collaboration for Applied Research and Evaluation at the Telethon Kids Institute in Perth for the Western Australian Department of Health.

The study looked at 15 years of Western Australian administrative data to determine whether Triple P was associated with long-term benefits.

Performance on the Western Australian Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (WALNA) in Years 3, 5 and 7, as well as the rate of school absence in Year 11 from Department of Education databases, were linked to data from the original Western Australian evaluation of Group Triple P in 1996.

“Whilst the noted effects of the intervention on reading and numeracy achievement were small (between 2.0% and 5.5%), it is remarkable (though not unexpected) to find lasting academic effect of an eight session parenting intervention carried out when the child was between three and five years of age,’’ the report states.

“Given the relatively low time-burden Triple P poses for parents (a total of 10-12 hours) and the time between intervention and testing, these effect sizes are not insubstantial.’’

The study points out that differences between the groups who did and did not receive Triple P created some limitations. For example, geographic differences between the two groups suggest differences in schooling may be partially responsible for the observed effects.

“However, the dose-response pattern provides strong evidence for the intervention being responsible for the observed differences in academic performance,’’ the authors state.

Dose response links Triple P to better academic performance

The report explains that the more sessions parents attended, the more likely it was that children would have higher WALNA numeracy and literacy scores in year 7.

Despite a wealth of short- to medium-term studies showing the value of Group Triple P, there are few long-term studies into the effects of the intervention, apart from a four-year investigation of the universal availability of Group Triple P in a selection of preschools in Germany. This study demonstrated improved parenting behaviour (less dysfunctional parenting practices) four years after the intervention.

The Western Australian report also suggests that preschool children whose parents participated in Group Triple P between 1996 and 1997 were less likely to be involved in hospital emergency department visits than children in the comparison group.

However, despite a clear relationship between the intervention and the rate of emergency department visits, it was not conclusive whether this was due to Triple P or unmeasured differences between the intervention and comparison groups.

Group Triple P

Group Triple P is one of the more intensive forms of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program and is generally accessed by families who have a child with behavioural problems or parents wanting more intensive support to develop positive parenting skills. It involves a combination of face-to-face group sessions and one-to-one telephone support sessions over eight sessions.

In Western Australia at the time of the original evaluation, the program was delivered by community health nurses, social workers, health promotion officers and psychologists recruited from community and child health services within the relevant health region. Facilitators attended a three-day intensive training program and were required to co-facilitate at least three programs with an experienced facilitator.

All families in the intervention group lived in an area where there were high rates of child abuse notifications and high rates of families receiving Family Crisis Program benefits. Families in the comparison group lived in an area with higher-than-state-average child abuse notifications and Family Crisis Program benefits – although not quite as high as the intervention regions.

The follow-up study also suggests Triple P increased use of of community mental health services. This finding might be explained by the fact that the Triple P curriculum encourages appropriate parental engagement with child development services or that a number of the Triple P-trained facilitators were able to refer to mental health services where they had a concern about a child’s psychological well being.