Use of video feedback by health visitors as part of their work with new parents strengthens the relationship between the infant child and the mother, according to Danish public health researchers.
They said their findings underlined that when a health visitor reviewed the clips with the mother and talked about what was working well, it helped to promote the early establishment of relations.
“The health visitor can focus on what works, and on what needs support to improve”
Their study looked at the video-based Marte Meo method, which is widely used as part of parenting programmes in Scandinavia.
The method, developed in Holland in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is intended to overcome the difficulties in explaining scientific observations of a child’s problems to parents and other educators.
It involves normal situations between the child and parent being recorded by video and later watched by the parents or other educators to enable discussion together.
The new study involved 69 families who received, on average, 4.2 extra home visits with video feedback, which were then compared to 209 Danish families who received usual healthcare.
All the families had been identified in advance as being particularly vulnerable, either because of a premature birth, an incipient postnatal depression or other conditions that affected them.
“Healthy early relationships between parents and children are very, very important for their future health”
The 69 families received four extra visits from a health visitor with a Marte Meo therapeutic education, where the mother was video filmed while she was together with her child.
The result showed an improvement in the early mother and child relationship in almost all the families that participated in the programme, compared to those that acted as controls.
The study authors said: “The programme was found to increase dyadic synchrony between mother and infant and to be conducive to a more co-operative infant interaction and a more sensitive mother interaction in the intervention group compared with the matched video subsample of the comparison group.
“The observational outcomes were supported by the self-reported data that showed a significantly higher level of maternal confidence and significantly lower level of parental stress among mothers in the intervention group than among mothers in the comparison group,” they added.
The research project, by Aarhus University and published in the journal BMC Pregnancy Childbirth, is the first Danish study of a standardised parenting programme with video feedback.
Use of video feedback by health visitors ‘helps vulnerable families’
Dr Ingeborg Hedegaard Kristensen, lead study author and health visitor, said: “The study documents that the Marte Meo method has a beneficial effect on the relationship between mothers and children.
“With video feedback, the health visitor can focus on what works, and on what needs support to improve,” she said. “For example, when the mother and child have eye contact, or when voices have a relaxed tone.”
She added: “Healthy early relationships between parents and children are very, very important for their future health. It is therefore important to know what has the greatest effect, so that help can be quickly provided for those families who need it.”