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A comparative evaluation of an infant stimulation program for public health utilizatio Arlett, Christine

Abstract

An infant stimulation program developed for mothers from low income areas with children under the age of three years is described. The program was developed for use in a public health setting and involved close collaboration with personnel from a number of community service agencies. The program, which had a duration of eight weeks, involved a combination of group meetings and home visits. Outcome was assessed in terms of developmental quotients and estimates of the quality of the home environment. Three additional programs consisted of a waiting list control and programs in which each of the two intervention components, home visits and group meetings, were offered separately. Assessments were carried out prior to the programs, immediately following them and four months later. Pre-assessments established the equivalence of the four groups on both the dependent measures and socioeconomic indices, although the groups were found to differ on the measure of maternal intelligence obtained. Following intervention, the scores obtained on both dependent measures for the home visits plus group meetings program were found to be significantly greater than those obtained by the waiting list control clients. The effect of the home visits only program was indeterminate as the scores did not differ significantly from either the control group or the home visits plus group meetings program. Clients in the group meetings only program did not differ significantly from control group clients on either measure. Similar results were obtained at follow up assessments, with no evidence of any decline in scores following the end of intervention. Whereas the correlations observed between maternal intelligence and children's developmental quotients remained much the same over the three assessment periods, the correlations between the home environments and the children's developmental quotients increased, both concurrently and predictively, following intervention. These findings were interpreted as providing support for the hypothesis that the changes in the home environments resulting from the programs were indeed important ones in terms of the children's development. There was some evidence to suggest that the socioeconomic indices of age, education and income of mother were positively related to outcome, while, in addition, maternal intelligence was related to the maintenance of treatment effect at follow up. The correlation of socioeconomic status with outcome was consistent with the results of other infant stimulation programs but was not considered to reflect on the effectiveness of the program as all of the clients in the study were of low socioeconomic status. The implications of these results are discussed both in terms of the further development and implementation of the program described and in the context of research in the area of infant stimulation.

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