Nurse-Family Partnership and Children’s Mental Health

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Schwartz, C., Waddell, C., Shepherd, C., Garland, O., Barican, J., Gray-Grant, D., & Nightingale, L. (2011). Nurse-Family Partnership and children’s mental health. Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly, 5(1), 1–16. Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

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Background: Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is a targeted prevention program that aims to improve the lives of vulnerable first-time mothers and their children.  The program involves nurses visiting young mothers in their homes, starting prenatally and continuing until children reach age two.

Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluations of NFP. Applying our inclusion criteria, we accepted three RCTs.

Results: All three RCTs found substantial benefits. For children, these included fewer hospital visits for injuries, less reported and substantiated maltreatment, fewer behaviour problems, and fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. NFP also produced very significant long term gains for children including less alcohol and cannabis use at age 12 as well as fewer arrests and convictions at age 15 and 19. As well, NFP advanced mothers’ parenting including improving competency and sensitivity. 

Conclusions: Three rigorous RCTs have documented NFP’s ability to help vulnerable young mothers and their children achieve positive outcomes. The duration of the benefits was striking, lasting up to 17 years after the program ended. As well, the program has been found to be cost-effective.  

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