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Links between Shared Reading and Play, Parent Psychosocial Functioning, and Child Behavior: Evidence from a Randomized Controlled Trial
Objective. To investigate pathways by which interventions that promote shared reading and play help prevent child behavior problems. We examined whether family processes associated with the family investment pathway (eg, parental cognitive stimulation) and the family stress pathway (eg, mothers' psychosocial functioning) mediated impacts of a pediatric-based preventive intervention on child behavior.
Study design. The sample included 362 low-income mothers and their children who participated in a randomized controlled trial of the Video Interaction Project, a pediatrics-based preventive intervention that promotes parent-child interactions in the context of shared reading and play. Parent-child dyads were randomly assigned to group at birth. Three mediators—parental cognitive stimulation, maternal stress about the parent-child relationship, and maternal depressive symptoms—were assessed at child ages 6 and 36 months. The outcome, child externalizing behaviors, was assessed at 36 months. We used a series of path analytic models to examine how these family processes, separately or together, mediated the impacts of the Video Interaction Project on child behavioral outcomes.
Results. Intervention impacts on child behavior were mediated by enhancements in cognitive stimulation and by improvements in mothers' psychosocial functioning. A sequential mediation model showed that Video Interaction Project impacts on cognitive stimulation at 6 months were associated with later decreases in mothers' stress about the parent-child relationship and that this pathway mediated intervention impacts on child behavioral outcomes at 3 years of age (P=.023).
Conclusions. Using an experimental design, this study identifies pathways by which parent-child interactions in shared reading and play can improve child behavioral outcomes.