This study assessed the feasibility and efficacy of a parent-education group for families with young children and a parent with depression. We designed the program to be readily disseminated if shown to be effective.
We recruited 44 parents with depression from clinics and family doctors in Hamilton, Ontario, and randomly assigned them to receive the parenting program or to a wait-list control group. The outcomes measured included knowledge of depression, parenting, family relationships, depression symptoms, child depressive symptoms, and functioning. We used analysis of covariance to test for posttreatment differences between experimental and control groups.
Of the treatment group, 27% dropped out at posttreatment, and 43% by follow-up. Those who dropped out had more severe depression at baseline than did those who completed the program, and there was selective loss of parents with more severe depression in the experimental group. In intention-to-treat analyses at posttreatment, probands in the experimental group reported more improvements on family functioning, parenting sense of competence, and family and parent conflict than did control subjects. Standardized effect sizes (ES) were medium (0.4 to 0.6). When baseline depressive symptom scores were controlled in the analyses, the between-group differences were reduced, showing that selective loss of participants may have influenced the findings.
On balance, the results are encouraging and support the further development and evaluation of the group intervention. However, the study does not provide unequivocal evidence in support of the program. Before it is transferred to other settings, the program needs further modification to improve participation by parents with more severe depression and further evaluation of its effectiveness.