The Tavistock First-Time Parent Study: a pilot randomised controlled feasibility trial of a brief couple-focused perinatal intervention to reduce inter-parental discord

Kennedy, Eilis, O'Nions, Elizabeth, Bursnall, Samantha and Senior, Rob (2021) The Tavistock First-Time Parent Study: a pilot randomised controlled feasibility trial of a brief couple-focused perinatal intervention to reduce inter-parental discord. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry . ISSN 1018-8827 (Print), 1435-165X (Electronic)

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Abstract

Numerous studies report that some first-time parents experience a decline in relationship quality and an increase in conflict after the birth of a first baby. Inter-parental discord that is frequent, intense, and poorly resolved increases the likelihood of relationship breakdown and adversely impacts child development. We investigated the feasibility of a brief preventative couple-focused psychotherapeutic intervention in the perinatal period in a general population sample. Sixty couples expecting their first baby were recruited from the Royal Free Hospital, London. Thirty were randomly assigned to treatment (TMT, a newly developed five-session couple-focused intervention), and 30 to usual care (TAU). Outcomes were collected at 28 weeks into pregnancy, 6–8 weeks after birth, and when the baby was 6 months old. The intervention was feasible and acceptable, evidenced by 100% attendance. However, no change in relationship quality or inter-parental discord was detected in either TMT or TAU groups across the transition to parenthood. The intervention did not improve outcomes vs. TAU. Depression assessed by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale increased across the cohort and mood symptoms assessed by the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale decreased in mothers but not fathers. The absence of a decline in relationship quality could reflect sample attributes: couples were older than average UK first-time parents, had high levels of educational qualifications, and low discord. Even in this low-risk sample, only 20 out of 30 TAU couples completed all three assessments, vs. 29 out of 30 TMT couples. Larger-scale RCTs of perinatal couple-focused psychosocial interventions may be hampered by selection effects and attrition. They may benefit from co-design with stakeholders and active control conditions.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Received: 22 September 2020, Accepted: 13 August 2021, Published: 21 September 2021
Uncontrolled Keywords: RCT, Feasibility, Couple-focused intervention, Inter-parental conflict, Couple adjustment, Transition to parenthood, Perinatal, Psychotherapy
Subjects: Couple & Family Therapies > Couple/Marital Therapy
Families > Childbirth
Families > Parent Child Relations/Parenthood
Psychological Therapies, Psychiatry, Counselling > Couple & Marital Therapy
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services
URI: http://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/2531

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