Dissemination of prevention programs targeting young children is impeded by challenges with parent engagement. Matching program characteristics to parent preferences is associated with increased retention in clinical/intervention settings, but little is known about the types of prevention programs that interest parents. The objectives of this study were to better understand parents’ preferences for services designed to prevent externalizing and anxiety disorders and to identify factors associated with preferences. Ethnically diverse, low-income caregivers (n = 485) of young children (11–60 months) completed surveys on child anxiety and externalizing symptoms, parental worry about their children, parent anxiety symptoms, and preferences for prevention group topics. Parents were more likely to prefer a group targeting externalizing behaviors compared to anxiety. Cluster analysis revealed four groups of children: low symptoms, moderate anxiety-low externalizing, moderate externalizing-low anxiety, and high anxiety and externalizing. Parents’ preferences varied according to co-occurrence of child anxiety and externalizing symptoms; interest in a program targeting externalizing problems was associated with elevated externalizing problems (regardless of anxiety symptom level), parent anxiety symptoms, and parent worry about their child. Only parent anxiety symptoms predicted parents’ interest in an anxiety-focused program, and preference for an anxiety-focused program was actually reduced if children had co-occurring anxiety and externalizing symptoms versus only anxiety symptoms. Results suggest that parents’ interest in a program to prevent externalizing problems was well-aligned with the presenting problem, whereas preferences for anxiety programming suggest a more complex interplay among factors. Parent preferences for targeted programming are discussed within a broader framework of parent engagement.
Prevention Science – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 27, 2015
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