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Open Access Study protocol

Effectiveness of a family-centered method for the early identification of social-emotional and behavioral problems in children: a quasi experimental study

Margriet Hielkema1*, Andrea F de Winter1, Gea de Meer2 and Sijmen A Reijneveld1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Antonius Deusinglaan 1, 9713 AV Groningen, the Netherlands

2 Municipal Health Service Fryslân, Harlingertrekweg 58, 8913 HR Leeuwarden, the Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:636  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-636

Published: 9 August 2011

Abstract

Background

Social-emotional and behavioral problems are common in childhood. Early identification of these is important as it can lead to interventions which may improve the child's prognosis. In Dutch Preventive Child Healthcare (PCH), a new family-centered method has been implemented to identify these problems in early childhood. Its main features are consideration of the child's developmental context and empowerment of parents to enhance the developmental context.

Methods/design

In a quasi-experimental study, embedded in routine PCH in the Netherlands, regions in which the family-centered method has been implemented (intervention condition) will be compared to "care as usual" regions (control condition). These regions are comparable in regard to socio-demographic characteristics. From more than 3,500 newborn babies, 18-month follow-up data on social-emotional and behavioral development will be obtained. PCH professionals will assess development during each routine well-child visit; participating parents will fill in standardized questionnaires.

Primary outcomes in the study are the proportion of social-emotional and behavioral problems identified by PCH professionals in children aged 2-14 and 18 months in both conditions, and the proportion of agreement between the assessment of PCH professionals and parents. In addition, the added value of the family-centered approach will be assessed by comparing PCH findings with standardized questionnaires. The secondary outcomes are the degree to which the needs of parents are met and the degree to which they are willing to disclose concerns.

Discussion

The family-centered method seems promising for early identification of social-emotional and behavioral problems. The results of this study will contribute to evidence-based public health.

Trial registration

NTR2681