Novel antenatal class can help parent/child relationship

Parents undergoing a novel antenatal class that focused on helping understand the world from the infants' perspective are more likely to develop better relationships with their child.

This is the finding from a study being presented today as part of the Division of Clinical Psychology’s annual conference.The study explored the impact of a novel antenatal class called ‘Babyworld’ on the subsequent mind-mindedness of participants as well as its impact on the parent/infant relationship.  Mind-mindedness refers to parents' ability or willingness to represent their children's likely thoughts and feelings.

Dr Tejinder Kondel-Laws, lead author of the study, explained: "In my opinion this is a unique antenatal class where we encourage prospective parents to think about their baby as an individual with thoughts and feelings; really experiencing the world through their infants' eyes and not just as an entity with needs to be satisfied."

Before the birth, 21 participants (including mothers and fathers) who attended the one-off three-hour class and standard NHS antenatal classes were compared to those (20) who had only attended standard NHS antenatal classes.

When the babies were seven to 12 months old, parents were invited to complete questionnaires relating to maternal/paternal/infant attachment. Interactions with their baby were filmed for five minutes under the instruction ‘interact with your baby as you normally would if you had some free time together'. These videos were then coded for levels of mind-mindedness.

The results showed that parents who attended ‘Babyworld’ used significantly more mind-minded comments (i.e. comment on what their infant seems to be feeling or thinking) and reported higher levels of pleasure at spending time with their child.

Tejinder continued: "I believe this is the first ever study to develop an antenatal intervention that helps the parent see the world through the eyes of their infant, whilst still in utero. Policy makers have started to address the need for preventative, early intervention that focuses on the parent/infant relationship. As the economic costs of the class are small many of the parents commented if this were available at a larger scale, this could go a long way in addressing the recommendations set out in the 2011 report ‘Early Intervention: The Next Steps' that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure."

"My motivation in developing the class was to help guide parents in respectful parenting, offering them the skills to start considering the infants perspective even before birth. This class engenders an approach that allows the infant to grow in a secure environment that allows them to feel good about themselves. A follow up study is currently undergoing ethical approval to run this group with young teenage parents to be.”

Find out about other studies being presented at the conference by viewing the full conference programme.