Quick and Easy Parenting Assessment Could Prevent Adverse Events

Heidi Splete

May 21, 2021

A parenting assessment can add value to a clinic visit by facilitating conversations about discipline and potentially mitigating adverse childhood experiences, based on survey data from 167 health care providers.

"Some of the most modifiable adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are unhealthy parenting behaviors," according to Amber J. Cooke, MD, of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues. "Despite the widespread use of standardized health assessment tools in pediatrics, a gap in services is that parenting assessments are not routinely administered," they said.

In a study presented at the virtual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, the researchers assessed clinicians’ perspectives on the use of the Quick Parenting Assessment (QPA), a validated 13-item parent support tool designed to identify children exposed to unhealthy parenting practices such as yelling, threatening, humiliating language, and physical punishment.

The researchers surveyed clinicians about how they integrated the QPA into a 15-month or 30-month well-child visit. Clinicians were trained to review the QPA and respond to parents during the visit.

Overall, the health care providers reported that the QPA could be reviewed with parents in less than 3 minutes for more than 80% of encounters.

The QPA takes approximately 1 minute for parents or caregivers to complete. Participating clinicians underwent training to learn how to interpret and respond to the QPA, and responded to a survey based on their inclusion of it in clinical visits. Key factors measured in the survey included the time needed for the clinician to review the QPA with the parent; whether the QPA increased clinicians’ objectivity about the level of support needed for the caregivers, whether the QPA affected communications with the caregiver about parenting, and whether the QPA added value to the well-child visit.

The survey respondents included resident physicians, nurse practitioners, and attending physicians. Approximately 75% of the providers said they were able to review the QPA in 1 minute or less; approximately 24% took 1-5 minutes, and less than 1% took longer than 5 minutes.

A majority of respondents (79%) said that the parent or caregiver was receptive to the QPA, and 74% said that the QPA facilitated communications with caregivers about parenting. In addition, 61% and 60% said the QPA improved the quality and value, respectively, of the visit, and 64% of the respondents said that the QPA increased their objectivity in assessing the level of support needed by caregivers.

Responses were similar, but slightly higher, in each category when the researchers compared providers who reviewed three or more QPAs with parents to those who reviewed less than three QPAs with parents.

The study findings were limited by several factors including the use of data from a single clinic site serving primarily low-income families, which might affect the generalizability of the results, the researchers noted. A lack of data on all QPA encounters might result in a participation bias as well, they said.

However, the results support the feasibility of the QPA, and clinical implications include mitigating ACEs, preventing child abuse, and enhancing the value of the well-child visit, they said. Next steps for research include integrating the QPA into 5-year and 8-year well-child visits, they concluded.

Data Support Value of Parenting Assessment Screening Tool

"In order to be useful, a screening tool has to be validated, not add significant time to the well-child visit, and result in useful data for the clinician to more effectively serve their families," Suzanne C. Boulter, MD, of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, N.H., said in an interview. "The Quick Parenting Assessment Screen was developed at Vanderbilt, is free for clinicians to use, and takes an average of 1 minute to assess," she noted. "This poster highlights a study that was done by residents and attendings at Vanderbilt who administered the tool to caregivers attending their well child clinics."

Boulter explained the study was important because "there is increased emphasis on the social determinants of health within the context of well child care, and discipline is one aspect of significance in the assessment of adverse childhood experiences," she said. "The practitioners overall felt that the tool improved communication with their caregivers, which increased the quality of the visit. It was also surprising that 79% of the providers noted that the caregiver was receptive to the assessment tool," Boulter added.

"In general, this tool offers clinicians a quick overview of disciplinary practices in the households of their patients. It would be useful, as a next step, to expand the testing to a wider socioeconomic population of families," she concluded.

The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose. Boulter had no financial conflicts to disclose, but serves on the Pediatric News Editorial Advisory Board.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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