Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 39–46 | Cite as

Encouraging Parenting Behaviors That Promote Early Childhood Development Among Caregivers From Low-Income Urban Communities: A Randomized Static Group Comparison Trial of a Primary Care-Based Parenting Program

  • Reshma ShahEmail author
  • Ashley Isaia
  • Alan Schwartz
  • Marc Atkins


Objectives Encouraging key parenting behaviors in early infancy may help decrease income-related developmental disparities. In this study we assessed whether a brief, primary care-based program (Sit Down and Play; SDP) could be successful in impacting key parenting behaviors that promote early childhood development. Methods An ethnically diverse group of predominantly low-income caregivers of children 2–6 months of age were enrolled, interviewed, and randomized to intervention (n = 20) or control (n = 20) groups. Intervention families received SDP at recruitment and the subsequent well-child visit. Control families were provided handouts regarding developmental milestones. One month after the second well-child visit, all families were reinterviewed (n = 34; 85% retention rate). Using open-ended questions and standardized measures (i.e., StimQ), parents were asked about parenting behaviors central to children’s development: (1) participation in cognitively stimulating activities, (2) provision of learning materials, and (3) the quality of parent–child verbal interactions. Potential impact on perceived parenting confidence was also explored utilizing The Parenting Sense of Competence Scale. Analyses were conducted using chi square tests and analysis of variance. Results A significant main effect of time, and as hypothesized, an interaction between time and condition emerged that favored SDP on play behaviors (p = 0.03). Post-intervention, SDP families had significantly higher levels of interactional activities between a parent and child that promote cognitive development (p = 0.02). Conclusions for Practice Results appear promising for an accessible, low-intensity program delivered in the primary care setting. Further studies to determine the effectiveness of SDP on parenting behaviors and subsequent developmental outcomes are warranted.


Pediatric prevention Child development Poverty Disparities Primary care 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the commitment and dedication of Aleah Martin, Alexis Menias, Winifred Obanor, and Nichole Waltrich who assisted with the implementation of the program. The authors would also like to thank all the families who participated in this study.


The work described has been supported through funding provided by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through Grant UL1TR000050.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pediatrics, College of MedicineThe University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThe University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Medical Education and Department of PediatricsThe University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Institute for Juvenile ResearchThe University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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