The term ‘parent’ is used to here to refer to those who may carry out ‘parenting’ – including biological parents, step-parents, adoptive parents and other carers.
Parenting is an activity undertaken by those who bring up children. This includes mothers and fathers, foster carers and adoptive parents, step-parents and grandparents. All of these play a crucial role in giving the children in their care a flying start in life, providing the best basis for children and young people’s growth and development. There are a lot of ways in which families can be supported to bring up their children. Emotional support, timely information, practical and preventative action and a network of parenting and relationship support can be crucial in helping some families cope. The quality of relationships parents make with their infants and children is of paramount importance with regard to the emotional and social development of children. Infancy is known to be a significant period in cultivating good mental health and wellbeing for later life, as it is at this time when connections in the brain are made in response to early experiences and influences from care givers.
Post-natal depression is the most frequently reported barrier to warm care-giving and secure attachment, and as many as 35% of new mothers report mood changes that interfere with forging the social and emotional bonds that are essential for an infant’s developmental needs.
The diversity of family life means that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is unlikely to be successful. Parents need access to information, advice and support that is matched to their need. Parenting support needs to be available to all those who may play a key role in bringing up children. Good parenting is respectful to the child’s best interests and rights, and is key to successful outcomes for children.
Parenting has been identified as the single largest variable in health outcomes for children, notably: accident rates, teenage pregnancy, substance misuse, truancy, school exclusion, and under-achievement, child abuse, employability, juvenile crime and mental illness. Parenting is also considered to be the most important influence on self-esteem. Low self-esteem is a risk factor for a broad range of psychological and behavioural problems.