There are many theories about the best way to bring up children, but many if not most of these, have not been tested in real life. There is therefore a need to find out what works to make a difference to children’s well-being and success. The National Academy for Parenting Research (NAPR) aims to do this through an ambitious programme of trials of different approaches to the parenting task, with a variety of children and young people. Projects range from testing different approaches for improving children’s social adjustment and reading soon after they have entered primary school, to whether family therapy helps prevent reoffending in adolescents, or whether our in-house programme for foster-carers promotes secure attachment and makes home life easier.
As well as the trials, the Academy undertakes fundamental research on issues such as the relative contribution of sensitive responding and limit-setting in promoting secure attachment and reducing disruptive behaviour, and the development of instruments to measure parenting more easily and more accurately.
The Academy began its research programme in 2007 as part of the National Academy for Parenting Practitioners (NAPP), an organisation set up by the Department for Education, with a grant of £30 million to promote effective practice in parenting support. 4000 practitioners were trained in evidence-based programmes which are estimated to have benefited over 250,000 children in the UK. After this task was done, further training stopped, but Central government funding continued (£7.5 million) for two years until April 2012. Since then, the Academy has become a collaborative of research associates at leading institutions throughout the United Kingdom who share the mission to find out what makes children’s lives better through improved parenting practices. The Academy is now entirely self-funding, having contributed to successfully gaining a wide range of highly competitive grants, to the value of £8.4 million in the three years to April 2015.
Based in the Department of Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College, London, we are a team of psychologists, clinicians and researchers working under the direction of Professor Stephen Scott (Director of Research and Professor of Child Health and Behaviour).
The aim of NAPR’s research is to:
- gather and evaluate the best quality evidence in parenting practice;
- use this evidence to refine programmes, training and service organisation; and
- communicate these evidence-based findings to practitioners who can then use evidence-based practice in their day-to-day work.
What's our research ethos?
Our research programme is evidence-based. This is when knowledge of the best external research, evaluation-based evidence and practitioner expertise are combined together to identify best practice that has been proven to work under the most rigorous research conditions.
We use scientific and systematic approaches to identify parenting programmes that work because the methods we recommend have been repeatedly tested and challenged. For example, we use Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) (commonly used in medical and drug research) where participants are randomly put into groups that receive the programme or treatment and a control group that doesn't. This tests whether the intervention works or not.
By doing many RCTs across different settings over a period of time we are then able to scientifically measure whether the programme works.
Evidence-based approaches are gaining popularity in different professions and sectors (social services, policing, health care) that are adopting evidence based approaches because using something that is proven to work is, in the long run more time and cost effective than something that doesn't.
Our research approach ensures that we can refine and improve parenting practitioners' skills and the quality of the programmes they use to meet children's needs effectively. Service organisers (e.g. local authorities) are then in a position to commission and deliver the best programmes and training that are proven to work.