Challenging disadvantage : the social outcomes of an early educational intervention within the family

Green, Jennifer (2008) Challenging disadvantage : the social outcomes of an early educational intervention within the family. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Recent decades have seen increasing empirical investigation of the value of early educational intervention in challenging the inhibiting developmental effects of socioeconomic and educational disadvantage. A range of interventions involving small children and their families have been the focus of such research. The present research was based upon an evaluation of the implementation by Glastonbury Child and Family Services, a major family support agency in the regional centre of Geelong in Victoria, of the Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters program, now known in New Zealand and Australia as the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY). When the two-year version of HIPPY was introduced to Australia in 1998, with newly arrived immigrant in inner Melbourne, it was formally evaluated to be successful with that population. Soon after, in 1999, it was offered for the first time to Australian-born, transgenerationally disadvantaged families of angloceltic origin, in Geelong. This study has focused on the third implementation in Geelong, once the program had been settled in with this new community. Two main lines of inquiry were pursued. The first concerned whether the program operated as planned within this particular context and the second was the examination of program outcomes. The focus on program outcomes went beyond the expected cognitive or learning readiness gains for children to explore the socio-emotional developmental domain of learning readiness. Socio-emotional benefits to parents and Home Tutors were also explored. Complementary qualitative and quantitative methodologies were used with program participants at three points in time, once during the first year of the program, once during its second year, and once during the year after its conclusion. Each stage of data collection involved indepth interviews with family participants and all staff of the program. Formal psychological assessments of aspects of the developmental status of children were conducted at each stage. A strong attempt was made to find a matched control or comparison group, but logistical and methodological problems made this very difficult, such that the comparison group secured was somewhat less disadvantaged than the HIPPY group. Nevertheless, the study found that the HIPPY children kept pace in terms of learning readiness, and demonstrated over time significantly greater gains in socio-emotional development than the comparison group. Parents and staff were also found to benefit socio-emotionally from their participation in the Program. The indepth qualitative interview data revealed changes to the quality of the parent-child relationship, as a function of the early intervention, with parents reporting feeling closer to the child and an enhanced security of attachment from the child to the parent within day-to-day interactions. The study found that HIPPY was directed in general accordance with the standard model of delivery, but with several areas of adaptation in response to the needs of the particular population of families. The child's enthusiasm for the program and the willingness of HIPPY staff to maintain a flexible approach to implementation were found to be the most facilitative factors contributing to the Program's success. The information produced was rich and allowed for the exploration of how participation in the program may have led to the outcomes found. This line of inquiry raised the idea that improvements in the quality of the parent-child relationship may have mediated the positive socio-emotional outcomes found. The findings also suggested the value of involving the interaction of the parent and the child in the intervention designed to challenge disadvantage by changing developmental trajectories.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Keywords HIPPY Australia, The Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters, home tutors, parent-child relationships, early childhood education, disadvantaged children, child development, disadvantage, preschool, childhood interventions, parent participation, home schooling, parents, compensatory education, Geelong
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