An intervention for parents with severe personality difficulties whose children have mental health problems: a feasibility RCT

C Day, J Briskman, M J Crawford, L Foote, L Harris, J Boadu, P McCrone, M McMurran, D Michelson, P Moran, L Mosse, S Scott, D Stahl, P Ramchandani, T Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: The children of parents with severe personality difficulties have greater risk of significant mental health problems. Existing care is poorly co-ordinated, with limited effectiveness. A specialised parenting intervention may improve child and parenting outcomes, reduce family morbidity and lower the service costs.

OBJECTIVES: To develop a specialised parenting intervention for parents affected by severe personality difficulties who have children with mental health problems and to conduct a feasibility trial.

DESIGN: A pragmatic, mixed-methods design to develop and pilot a specialised parenting intervention, Helping Families Programme-Modified, and to conduct a randomised feasibility trial with process evaluation. Initial cost-effectiveness was assessed using UK NHS/Personal Social Services and societal perspectives, generating quality-adjusted life-years. Researchers collecting quantitative data were masked to participant allocation.

SETTING: Two NHS mental health trusts and concomitant children's social care services.

PARTICIPANTS: Parents who met the following criteria: (1) the primary caregiver of the index child, (2) aged 18-65 years, (3) have severe personality difficulties, (4) proficient in English and (5) capable of providing informed consent. Index children who met the following criteria: (1) aged 3-11 years, (2) living with index parent and (3) have significant emotional/behavioural difficulties. Exclusion criteria were (1) having coexisting psychosis, (2) participating in another parenting intervention, (3) receiving inpatient care, (4) having insufficient language/cognitive abilities, (5) having child developmental disorder, (6) care proceedings and (7) index child not residing with index parent.

INTERVENTION: The Helping Families Programme-Modified - a 16-session intervention using structured, goal-orientated strategies and collaborative therapeutic methods to improve parenting, and child and parent functioning. Usual care - standard care augmented by a single psychoeducational session.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Trial feasibility - rates of recruitment, eligibility, allocation, retention, data completion and experience. Intervention acceptability - rates of acceptance, completion, alliance (Working Alliance Inventory-Short Revised) and experience. Outcomes - child (assessed via Concerns About My Child, Eyberg Child Behaviour Inventory, Child Behaviour Checklist-Internalising Scale), parenting (assessed via the Arnold-O'Leary Parenting Scale, Kansas Parental Satisfaction Scale), parent (assessed via the Symptom Checklist-27), and health economics (assessed via the Client Service Receipt Inventory, EuroQol-5 Dimensions).

RESULTS: The findings broadly supported trial feasibility using non-diagnostic screening criteria. Parents were mainly referred from one site (75.0%). Site and participant factors delayed recruitment. An estimate of eligible parents was not obtained. Of the 86 parents referred, 60 (69.7%) completed screening and 48 of these (80.0%) were recruited. Participants experienced significant disadvantage and multiple morbidity. The Helping Families Programme-Modified uptake (87.5%) was higher than usual-care uptake (62.5%). Trial retention (66.7%, 95% confidence interval 51.6% to 79.6%) exceeded the a priori rate. Process findings highlighted the impact of random allocation and the negative effects on retention. The Helping Families Programme-Modified was acceptable, with duration of delivery longer than planned, whereas the usual-care condition was less acceptable. At initial follow-up, effects on child and parenting outcomes were detected across both arms, with a potential outcome advantage for the Helping Families Programme-Modified (effect size range 0.0-1.3). For parental quality-adjusted life-years, the Helping Families Programme-Modified dominated usual care, and child quality-adjusted life-years resulted in higher costs and more quality-adjusted life-years. At second follow-up, the Helping Families Programme-Modified was associated with higher costs and more quality-adjusted life-years than usual care. For child quality-adjusted life-years, when controlled for baseline EuroQol-5 Dimensions, three-level version, usual care dominated the Helping Families Programme-Modified. No serious adverse events were reported.

CONCLUSION: The Helping Families Programme-Modified is an acceptable specialised parenting intervention. Trial methods using non-diagnostic criteria were largely supported. For future work, a definitive efficacy trial should consider site selection, recruitment methods, intervention efficiency and revised comparator condition.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN14573230.

FUNDING: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 24, No. 14. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-188
Number of pages224
JournalHealth Technology Assessment
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


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