Trained parents can improve children’s IQ scores by up to 10 points, research suggests

Parenting programme trial shows positive impacts on children’s IQ, obesity levels and social behaviour

Parents can improve their children’s IQ scores by up 10 points with the right guidance, according to a new study.

Researchers say results from a parenting intervention programme trialled in north Dublin show significantly improved outcomes for children and families. 

By the age of four, children who took part in the scheme had average IQ scores 10 points higher than the control group.

Only 13% of participants scored below average for cognitive development, compared to 57% of those acting as control subjects.

The children whose parents received the intervention were also less likely to be overweight (23% compared to 41%) and had fewer behavioural problems (2% compared to 17%).

The study, one of the first of its kind ever carried out in Ireland, focused on intensively mentoring over 100 parents in Dublin 5 and Dublin 17 from midway through pregnancy until their children started primary school.

The intervention was designed by Preparing for Life, a part of the Northside Partnership, and evaluated by a team at the Geary Institute for Public Policy at UCD using a randomised control trial.

Call for investment

Parents taking part in the programme received around 50 home visits from trained mentors and were supported through each stage of their child’s development with tip sheets on age appropriate topics.

Lead researcher Dr Orla Doyle of the Geary Institute said the programme had “changed the life trajectories” of children involved in the study.

“The results show that developing the skills and knowledge of parents is a particularly effective and impactful approach to changing and improving outcomes for children,” she said.

Preparing for Life manager Noel Kelly called on the new Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, to review the results and to adopt the programme in other communities.

“Investment in supports for parents should be channelled towards programmes which have the strongest evidence of effectiveness and impact,” he said.

“This is a manualised programme and has the potential to be replicated in other communities in Ireland which have similar needs.

“Now that the programme has been developed, trialled, evaluated and manualised we estimate that it would cost at most €2,000 per family per year to deliver.”