World news


A new study has demonstrated that it’s not just a coincidence if your baby looks deep in thought when you talk to them — their brain is hard at work figuring out which sounds are important.

The University of Washington study, led by Patricia Kuhl and reported on Baby, is part of an increasing body of research showing the importance of talking to babies.

By using magnetoencephalography (a baby-friendly brain scanner), researchers looked at the brain activity of 7-month-olds and 11-month-olds who were listening to different sounds. (You can see a short YouTube video of one of the babies taking part here.

The babies heard two types of speech sounds: familiar ones from their own language, and unfamiliar ones from a different language.

In the younger babies, the brain scanner showed the most activity in the auditory [listening] and motor [muscle movement] areas of the brain, no matter what language sounds they were hearing .
The older babies, however, reacted differently. The auditory areas of the brain became more active if they were listening to everyday sounds from their native language. If they were listening to sounds from a foreign language, the motor areas of the brain were more active.

This second pattern mimics the results of similar experiments on adults: if we hear sounds that are familiar and might mean something to us, we listen actively, but if we hear speech sounds we don’t recognize, we start thinking “how do you make that sound?” instead.

The researchers say this tells us more about how babies use both auditory and motor systems to make the developmental journey from hearing to understanding to speaking. The full study can be accessed here.

The same team has also previously found an important link between one-on-one (versus group) linguistic interactions between adults and children and future language performance.

Spending one-on-one enjoyable time with your child and providing a safe educational environment are also key features of the Triple P — Positive Parenting Program®.



A new study shows that protecting children from bullying and associated emotional problems is more successful when appropriate parenting strategies are used in addition to school-based strategies.

The findings, to be published in the journal Behavior Therapy, show that parents can actively help their children reduce both the incidence and impact of bullying.

The study was a randomised control trial of Resilience Triple P, a variant of Triple P that is designed to foster children’s emotional and social skills in peer interactions. It was undertaken by the University of Queensland’s Parenting and Family Support Centre.

A total of 111 families of primary school children with a history of being bullied at school participated in the study. Study author Dr Karyn Healy says program participants) reported that after participating in Resilience Triple P, the children were bullied less and were much less emotionally distressed.

"Parents want to help – but some things parents do instinctively to help their child may make matters worse,’’ Dr Healy says. She adds that while many schools do a good job of managing student behaviour, current efforts to prevent bullying and aggression usually focus on stopping perpetrators. Dr Healy says more support is needed for children who experience emotional and peer problems rather than behaviour problems, including those who are victims of peer aggression.

The new program combines teaching children social and emotional coping skills with giving parents skills to support their children and work with schools to address problems. It encourages families to do what they can to improve their child’s victimisation rather than having to wait for the school to solve the problem.

Parenting and Family Support Centre Director and Triple P founder Professor Matt Sanders says the study has broken new ground in Australia and internationally as it is the first published controlled trial of a family intervention for children who are bullied at school: “The next step is to investigate how to make it more widely available to the community, because the potential for improved outcomes for young people’s mental health will be considerable”.

More information about the program can be found on the University of Queensland website here:



Managing to say “no” to a never-ending stream of requests floating up from the supermarket trolley is a worldwide parenting challenge, but new research says kids pester their parents more in some countries than in others.

According to a report on the the University of South Australia’s website, the University’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science is investigating supermarket parent-child interactions, including the influence children have on their parents’ shopping.

PhD candidate Bill Page recently collected more than 1800 hours worth of data from four large Australian supermarkets, comparing it with the latest research from other countries around the world.

“Kids’ pestering can be quite stressful or even embarrassing for parents, who may be on a tight budget and are trying to get in and out of the supermarket quickly,” Page said.

Kids in the United States reportedly make a purchase request once every 75 seconds, on average, while Australian kids averaged one request every three minutes. Parents from both countries argued just as frequently: both countries averaged one supermarket adult-child ‘conflict’ every seven minutes and 42 seconds.

US data reported that parents give kids 97 per cent of the things they ask for in store; in Austria, it’s a 52 per cent pester power success rate, while Australian parents give in 26 per cent of the time.

However, these numbers may be skewed by the fact that, according to Page, just over half the shoppers studied had no conflict at all, while “a few were constantly battling”.

The Triple P — Positive Parenting Program has for many years recognised that “pester power” is a problem for parents. The Triple P parenting website has some information on dealing with pester power and teaching kids to be smart consumers. Parents dealing with supermarket stress can also benefit from the Triple P Discussion Group covering this issue: ‘Hassle-free shopping with children’.



A new University of Washington (UW) study has identified five parenting programmes (including the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program®) that are especially effective at reducing aggression, depression and anxiety in children, and result in better mental health and reduced substance abuse in adolescents.

Twenty programmes were evaluated, with Triple P one of five deemed particularly effective and confirmed to work with a wide variety of families in diverse settings.

"You see the impact of when parents get on the same page and work together to provide an environment that promotes wellbeing. You can make long-term impacts,” says Kevin Haggerty, study co-author and assistant director of the UW’s Social Development Research Group in the School of Social Work.
The study, published in the Journal of Children's Services, and also reported in a UW media release, was partly funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Read the full University of Washington media release here :

The published research paper (abstract only – full article available to buy or for registered institutions):



Triple P’s Professor Matt Sanders has been honoured at the University of Queensland’s inaugural Top Five Innovators awards held in Brisbane, Australia.

Professor Sanders, who is Director of the Parenting and Family Support Centre at the University, was named one of the University’s Top Five Innovators, in recognition of the impact his Triple P – Positive Parenting Program has had on communities throughout the world.

The Top Five Innovators awards, along with the Top Five Inventors awards, were presented to UQ researchers whose efforts optimised the benefits of quality research.

UQ President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj said the winners were not only excellent researchers, but had also been able to translate research outcomes into benefits for society.

“They demonstrate the tremendous economic, social and sustainability potential that can be realised when outstanding researchers work with partners in private industry, government and communities.”

The Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, which began life as Professor Sanders’ doctoral thesis more than 35 years ago, now has an evidence base of more than 100 international trials and studies. The Triple P programme is being delivered in more than 20 countries throughout the world and has helped millions of children and their families.

Read more about the University of Queensland awards on the UQ News Online website.



Irregular bedtimes, especially at young ages, can affect a child’s brain power later in life, a study has found.

Researchers in the UK tested 11,000 seven-year-olds in three areas of intellect – reading, maths and spatial awareness.

They found that both girls and boys with irregular bedtimes at age three had lower scores in all three tested areas, suggesting that the age of three could be a sensitive period for brain-power development.

Click here to read the story.
Click here for the journal article.



A social network that delivers the University of Queensland’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program to at-risk parents in Los Angeles has been recognised with a major technology award.

The Triple P Online Community programmed by Brisbane digital agency Liquid Interactive won the educational category of the Queensland iAwards.

It’s now in the running to win the national award.

Development of the online community platform was funded by US philanthropic organisation the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help parents identified as being at risk of harming or abusing their children.

The social network uses gaming technology, discussion boards and facilitation by a certified Triple P provider to deliver the online version of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, Triple P Online, developed by The University of Queensland’s Dr Karen Turner and Prof Matt Sanders.

Its effectiveness is being monitored in a trial by the California State University, Northridge, and the University of Queensland.

“The online community programme is currently under trial in Los Angeles with predominantly African American and Hispanic parents,’’ Karen Turner, the Deputy Director of the Parenting and Family Support Centre, University of Queensland, said.

“These families are very poor. Three-quarters of the parents are on an income of less than $15,000 per year and most are relying on food stamps. A quarter of them have children placed in foster care, more than half are single parents and 40 per cent have been in jail.’’

Dr Turner said despite some technical issues with getting broadband connections in the community agencies, parents loved the programme.

The collaboration around the online community in California has been driven by Dr Susan Love, a professor at California State University.

“The whole point is to provide parents with the tools they need to make the right decisions for their families so that their children grow up in loving, supportive, healthy environments,’’ Dr Love said. “These parents need to be able to learn to make good decisions for themselves, not be dependent on others.’’

Dr Love is hoping that if the online community in LA proves successful, it could be replicated across the US.

The Triple P Online parent training programme has been evaluated in four randomised controlled trials in Brisbane, Perth, Auckland and New York.

It has been adopted by several not-for-profit community agencies such as Family Lives UK and government departments, including Families New South Wales. Triple P Online will be available for direct purchase by parents later this year.

Dr Turner said the rollout of Triple P Online gave parents who were isolated, time-poor or unable to attend existing training programmes another avenue to access Triple P’s evidence-based support.



A review of more than 70 studies involving more than 200,000 children has found that negative parenting, including being over-protective, increases a child’s risk of being bullied.

The review conducted by University of Warwick researchers in the United Kingdom found that poor parenting had the strongest effects on children who were both victims of bullying and bullies themselves.

The University of Queensland is currently developing a new version of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program which helps parents whose children are being bullied at school.

Resilience Triple P is being trialled in Australia, with promising results.

Read more about the Warwick University study here.



New York Times social issues commentator David Bornstein has called for parenting support in general – and Triple P in particular – to be considered as a way to prevent child abuse, gun violence and mental health issues in the United States.

Writing in his online NY Times column Fixes, Bornstein said any efforts to “reduce gun violence – or child abuse, intimate partner violence, suicide or sexual abuse – must include serious discussion about how society can improve the quality of parenting.”

And while he highlighted a number of programmes that had been shown to impact on child maltreatment statistics, he said the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program was the only one that could be delivered to an entire community, in the way successful public health campaigns had been.

“Can we influence a behavior that is rooted in upbringing and culture, affected by stress, and occurs mainly in private?” Bornstein asked readers. “And even if we could reach large populations with evidence-based messages the way public health officials got people to quit smoking, wear seat belts or apply sunscreen, would it have an impact?”

Bornstein says Triple P could have that impact, pointing to the results of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded trial in South Carolina.

Bornstein’s piece also quoted Richard Barth, dean of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, who has studied parenting programs for 30 years.

Bornstein quoted Barth as saying: “The Triple P study showed that if you engage people before things go awry, they can avoid problems that we might have predicted for them, or they might have predicted for themselves. There should be a significant investment in understanding how to implement some of the elements of Triple P – so every family and clinician in the United States knows the basics of parenting and the things we can do if things get more difficult.”

Read the full story here.



A new study has found that the more time kids spend in front of the TV before bed, the harder it is for them to fall asleep.

Researchers from the University of Auckland surveyed 2000 children aged between 5 and 18. They looked at what kids do during the 90 minutes before bedtime and found watching television was the most common activity.

According to TIME, previous studies have looked at the effects of television in shortening children’s sleep but this research is one of the first to focus on what children do just before bedtime.

Read the full story here