Research aims to strengthen parent-child bond - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Research aims to strengthen parent-child bond

18 Mar 2019

A clinical psychologist and mother of two young children has developed a free online program as part of her PhD at USC to help parents build happier, healthier bonds with their children.

Mary Gregory, who has worked in New Zealand, the UK and more recently at a youth mental health clinic in Brisbane, enrolled in postgraduate Psychology at USC in 2017 to research innovative ways to improve family relationships.

The Buderim resident is now trialling the six-week program, www.BetterBonds.com.au, supported by research and created under the supervision of Senior Lecturer in Psychology Dr Rachael Sharman and Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology Dr Lee Kannis-Dymand.

“Parents are looking for new ideas but they are busy with work, kids and household tasks and don’t always have time to attend face-to-face appointments,” Ms Gregory said.

“This web-based parenting program is easy to access and offers practical, everyday solutions according to the principles of ‘attachment’, a psychologist’s term for the connection between a parent and a baby and how this affects both people in the long-term.”

Ms Gregory said connection came easily to some parents who simply ‘clicked’ with their children from birth and enjoyed effective communication at each stage, while other parents found it difficult to understand their children, read their moods or respond appropriately.

“There is terrible guilt and stigma around immediately ‘not knowing’ how to handle your baby or toddler,” she said.

Dr Sharman encouraged parents, step-parents, foster parents and kinship carers to participate in the program and its evaluation, by first completing the survey on the website.

“It may surprise some people to know that their attachment to a parent in childhood is often replicated in their attachments to romantic partners later in life, as well as to their own children,” Dr Sharman said.

“Getting this right at the earliest possible point in time won’t just benefit parent and child, it will improve the child’s chances of forming positive romantic relationships in adulthood.”

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