There is ‘remarkably’ little support for children and families (Trowell and Bower, 1995). Targeting families in need with scarce resources often means that only families that present with extreme or easily identifiable problems like violence and abuse will get help. It is important that new avenues are opened up to help ‘ordinary’ families in distress. The above authors identify that the stressful challenge of parenting is having the ability to be in direct contact with raw, powerful emotions that babies express. The impact of this is particularly challenging on parents that lack social support or are on their own. A well-supported caregiver has a much greater capacity to be receptive and responsive to the baby’s feelings and by processing these feelings in her mind can make them more manageable for her child – the concept of containment. Awareness of and receptiveness to children’s emotions and needs is at the heart of all good childcare practice. There is a tendency to over-emphasise children’s need for stimulation over their need for tenderness and reflection.
There is an important need for the worlds of child mental health and education to be familiar with each other (Trowell and Bower, 1995). A lot of child mental health problems manifest as learning or behavioural problems in school and schools can be settings in which help is offered. Social work tends to stress social and political factors, while neglecting the unconscious and the inner world which can lead to a loss of empathy and compassion for clients. There should be a balance between attention to external and internal unconscious factors in considering interventions.
What are the best ways to intervene to prevent problems in adolescence? There are a number of components (Santrock, 2017). Intensive individualised attention is important. Successful programmes involve an at-risk child being attached to a responsible adult who gives them attention and deals with their needs. Community wide, multiagency, collaborative approaches are important too. Community wide programmes should involve a number of different services. For example, a substance abuse programme might involve schools, media and community education.
Reaching children and their families before problems develop is also important – i.e. preschool and early childhood programmes (Santrock, 2017). Perry preschool is an enrichment programme working with disadvantaged African-American children in Michigan. They receive weekly home visits and a high-quality two-year preschool experience. At 19 these children were less likely to have been arrested or drop out of school and they were rated as more socially competent by teachers than a control group.
Fast track is an intervention that seeks to lower juvenile delinquency and other problems (Santrock, 2017). Schools in an area were identified as high-risk based on crime and poverty data. The average age beginning was 6.5 years. The ten-year intervention was comprised of parent behaviour management training, child social cognitive skills training, reading tutoring, home visits, mentoring and a revised curriculum that aimed to increase socioemotional competence and reduce aggression. Children were assessed throughout for oppositional defiance disorder, ADHD, conduct disorders and others. The intervention was effective only for those who were identified as having the highest risk in kindergarten, lowering the incidence of all the above disorders and antisocial behaviour. At 19, arrest rates were reduced and by 25 violent and drug crimes as well as risky sexual behaviour were reduced. Also, at 25, those given the intervention had higher rates of well-being.
Bower, M., & Trowell, J. (2002). The emotional needs of young children and their families: Using psychoanalytic ideas in the community. Routledge.
Santrock, J. W. (2019). Life-span development.