Promotion of Co-parenting
at the Transition to Parenthood
Overview. Family Foundations (FF) is a series of fun, participatory classes for expectant parents that aims to enhance parent and child well-being. The program helps prepare couples by fostering attitudes and skills related to positive family relationships. Research has shown that FF produces positive outcomes on family relationships, parenting quality, and parent physical aggression to children, and child and parent emotional and behavior problems.
Goals. The innovative short-term goal of Family Foundations is to promote co-parenting (the way that parents support each other). Recent research indicates that positive co-parenting is a strong influence on parenting and child outcomes. FF also covers emotion regulation, temperament, promotion of secure attachment, and positive parenting. Through these targets, the program goals are to:
- Decrease postpartum depression
- Improve parenting sensitivity/warmth
- Decrease harsh parenting
- Foster positive couple relations
- Foster positive child self-regulation
- Decrease child behavior problems
Family Foundations consists of four class meetings before birth, and four classes after birth to help parents adapt material to their own situation. The classes are conducted by a male/female co-leader team.
Childbirth Plus combines Family Foundations with standard childbirth education and preparation. The advantage of Childbirth Plus is that families do not need to sign up for multiple programs.
Positive outcomes of FF have been found in an NIH-funded randomized trial on maternal depression, father-infant relationship, coparenting, couple relationship quality, and parenting quality. In addition, positive program effects have been found for infant self-regulation and emotional and behavior problems at 3 years of age.
For certain outcomes, FF had the greatest benefits for families at higher levels of risk (based on baseline levels of mother education, father emotional security, mother depression, or couple relationship conflict).
Training. Training for group leaders consists of a total of 2.5 days. Go to: http://www.famfound.net/pages/educators.
Program delivery is recommended through universal context, such as hospital childbirth education departments, community centers, or religious congregations.
The target population for FF is couples in committed relationships, whether cohabiting or married, who are expecting a first child. FF is intended and has been evaluated as a universal prevention program.
Adaptations of FF in development include: (1) A home study version, with a DVD/workbook package for couples (currently in a randomized trial).
(2) Adaptation of FF classes for teen parents (currently in randomized trial).
(3) Adaptation for home visitation programs targeting at-risk ‘fragile families’.
(4) Adaptation for dissemination in the UK.
Outcome Research on Family Foundations
(Funded by NICHD and NIMH)
Post-test: Child age 6 months
Feinberg, M. E. & Kan, M. L. (2008). Establishing Family Foundations: Intervention effects on coparenting, parent/infant well-being, and parent-child relations. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 253–263.
A sample of 169 heterosexual, adult couples expecting their first child was randomized to intervention and control conditions. Intent-to-treat analyses indicated significant program effects on coparental support, maternal depression and anxiety, distress in the parent-child relationship, and several indicators of infant regulation. Greater positive impact of the program was found for families with lower-educated parents or a father reporting emotional insecurity in close relationships.
Follow-up: Child age 1 year
Feinberg, M. E., & Kan, M. L. (2008). Family Foundations at child age one year: Effects on observed coparenting, parenting, and child self-regulation. Prevention Science, 10, 276–285.
A sample of 169 couples, randomized to intervention and control conditions, participated in videotaped family observation tasks at pretest (during pregnancy) and at child age one year. Intent-to-treat analyses of program effects controlled for age, education, and social desirability. Evidence of significant (p < .05) program effects at follow-up emerged in all domains: couple relations, parent well-being, parenting quality, and child outcomes. Intervention effects on mother’s parenting were mediated by coparenting quality, and effects on child self-regulation were mediated by the combination of coparenting quality and parenting quality. Conclusion. Targeting the coparenting relationship at the transition to parenthood represents an effective, non-stigmatizing means of promoting parenting quality and child adjustment.
Follow-up: Child age 3 years
Feinberg, M. E., Jones, D. E., Kan, M. L., & Goslin, M. (In press). Effects of a transition to parenthood program on parents, Parenting, and children: 3.5 years after baseline. Journal of Family Psychology.
Intent-to-treat analyses utilizing data collected from child age 6 months through 3 years, indicated significant program effects on parental stress and depression, coparenting, and harsh parenting for all families. Among families of boys, program effects were found for child behavior problems and couple relationship quality. These results indicate that a universal prevention approach at the transition to parenthood focused on enhancing family relationships can have a significant and substantial positive impact on parent and child well-being.
Follow-up: Impact on Parent Aggression
Kan, M. L, & Feinberg, M. E. (In preparation). Impact of Family Foundations on parental physical aggression: Moderation by baseline risk.
FF was found to reduce physical parent aggression towards children among couples who were higher on baseline maternal depression or couple conflict.
Related Publications on Family Foundations and Coparenting
Feinberg, M. (2002). Coparenting and the transition to parenthood: A framework for prevention. Clinical Child & Family Psychology Review, 5, 173–195. [PDF]
Feinberg, M. (2003). The internal structure and ecological context of coparenting: A framework for research and intervention. Parenting: Science and Practice, 3, 95–132. [PDF]
Feinberg, M., Kan, M., & Hetherington, E. (2007). Longitudinal study of coparenting conflict on adolescent maladjustment. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 69, 687–702. [PDF]
Kan, M., & Feinberg, M. (2010). Measurement and correlates of intimate partner violence among expectant first-time parents. Violence and Victims, 25, 319–331. [PDF]
Brown, L. D., Feinberg, M. E., & Kan, M. L. (2010). Predicting engagement in a transition to parenthood program for couples. Evaluation and Program Planning. DOI:10.1016/j.evalprogplan .2011.05.001
Feinberg, M. E., & Sakuma, K. (2011). Coparenting interventions for expecting parents. In J. McHale & K. Lindhal (eds.), Coparenting: Theory, research, interventions (pp. 171–190). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Feinberg, M. E., Jones, D. E., Bontempo, D., & Granger, D. (2011). Relation of intimate partner violence to salivary cortisol among couples expecting a first child. Aggressive Behavior, 37, 1–11.
Kan, M. L., Feinberg, M. E., & Solmeyer, A. R. (In press). Intimate partner violence and coparenting across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Family Issues.
Feinberg, M. E., Brown, L. D., & Kan, M. L. (In press). A multi-domain, self-report measure of coparenting: Psychometrics and validity. Parenting: Science and Practice.
Feinberg, M. E., Jones, D. E., & Marshall, A. D. (In press). Enduring vulnerabilities, relationship attributions, and couple conflict: An integrative model of the occurrence and frequency of intimate partner violence. Journal of Family Psychology.
Brown, L. D., Feinberg, M. E., & Goslin, M. C. (In press). Relating engagement to outcomes in prevention: The case of a parenting program for couples. American Journal of Community Psychology. DOI 10.1007/s10464-011-9467-5
Solmeyer, A., & Feinberg, M. E. (In press). Mother and father adjustment during early parenthood: The roles of infant temperament and coparenting relationship quality. Infant Behavior and Development.
Kan, M. L., & Feinberg, M. E. (Submitted). Links between pre-birth intimate partner violence and observed parenting among first-time parents.
Mark Feinberg, Ph.D.
Prevention Research Center
Pennsylvania State University