Parenting can transform children, families, communities and big global problems

The pathway to addressing many of the world’s biggest social problems could be found in improved parenting according to an international parenting conference presented by The University of Queensland and the Life Course Centre in Brisbane.

The Helping Families Change Conference (5-7 February) will discuss the benefits that can flow from improved child and family development and well-being – from dealing with the emotional trauma of Australia’s bushfire crisis, to tackling big global issues such as climate change and meeting the world’s sustainable development goals.

Director of UQ’s Parenting and Family Support Centre Professor Matthew Sanders said the impact that positive parenting can have had been vastly underestimated.

“There are the obvious benefits to children but there are also many benefits to adults, including improved relationships, problem solving and mental health,” Professor Sanders said.

“We are now demonstrating how evidence-based parenting support can transform whole communities.

“Through this, parenting can provide a common pathway to major societal change and addressing many of the world’s biggest and most complex problems.”

Professor Sanders is the founder of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program and initiated the first Helping Families Change Conference in 1995.

He’ll provide the opening keynote address at the conference, which is expected to draw around 300 participants from more than 20 countries.

As well as the big-picture potential of parenting to tackle major global problems, the conference will cover more specific parenting issues such as raising depressed or anxious teenagers, managing children’s screen time, same-sex parenting, and the benefits of pets.

The Life Course Centre, a research hub focused on investigating the drivers of disadvantage within families and across generations, is a co-sponsor of the 2020 Helping Families Change Conference.

One of the centre’s flagship research projects is the ‘Every Family: Australian Triple P System Population Trial’ which is examining the effects of positive parenting support on community disadvantage.

It seeks to determine if a certain level of community engagement can create spill-over benefits for families who do not receive parenting assistance through Triple P, and triggering wider community change.

Life Course Centre Director Professor Janeen Baxter will outline research relating to family dynamics, and the centre’s future directions for improving outcomes for children and families in social disadvantage.

“Our researchers are interested in the entire life course, not just a single point in time, and this is closely aligned with the wide-ranging focus of this year’s conference,” Professor Baxter said.

“We know that parenting and family relationships are crucial over every stage of the life course, and that they exert enduring influence on the transmission of disadvantage within families and across generations.

“Parenting therefore presents a strategic intervention to disrupt this cycle.”

The Helping Families Change Conference runs from 5-7 February.

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