Chapter 2

Parenting Interventions to Promote Wellbeing and Prevent Mental Disorder

Sarah Stewart-Brown

University of Warwick, U.K.


The last two decades have witnessed the emergence of a large body of research from several different disciplines, including biology, psychology, social science, psychiatry, and epidemiology, which has put parenting at the forefront of determinants of wellbeing. At the same time, parenting represents something of a paradox. It is one of the oldest human activities and one we seem to have mastered pretty well. Human infants very rarely survive without the care of their parents (or surrogate parents) and survival rates in the Western world are now very high. Perhaps as a result, in Western societies, parenting is now often regarded as a low-status activity and relegated to low-paid, poorly educated women. Parenting is one of the few essential societal roles which is entirely voluntary and unpaid, and for which, until recently, there has been no training.

Families are regarded as private, and policy makers are often reluctant to intervene in family life or to specify the nature of good parenting. At the same time, recent research on the developing brain and the profound influence of early relationships on future functioning (Gerhardt, 2004; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000) has required policy makers and practitioners to rethink parenting as a political and social issue. At this time of transition, established political attitudes towards parenting—that ...

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