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Mental Health - Neurological Disorders - Pediatrics and Child Health - Women's Health - Neuroscience

A New Mother-Child Play Activity Program to Decrease Parenting Stress and Improve Child Cognitive Abilities: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial
Published: Friday, July 27, 2012
Author: Yoshiyuki Tachibana et al.

by Yoshiyuki Tachibana, Ai Fukushima, Hitomi Saito, Satoshi Yoneyama, Kazuo Ushida, Susumu Yoneyama, Ryuta Kawashima


We propose a new play activity intervention program for mothers and children. Our interdisciplinary program integrates four fields of child-related sciences: neuroscience, preschool pedagogy, developmental psychology, and child and maternal psychiatry. To determine the effect of this intervention on child and mother psychosocial problems related to parenting stress and on the children's cognitive abilities, we performed a cluster randomized controlled trial.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Participants were 238 pairs of mothers and typically developing preschool children (ages 4–6 years old) from Wakakusa kindergarten in Japan. The pairs were asked to play at home for about 10 min a day, 5 days a week for 3 months. Participants were randomly assigned to the intervention or control group by class unit. The Parenting Stress Index (PSI) (for mothers), the Goodenough Draw-a-Man intelligence test (DAM), and the new S-S intelligence test (NS-SIT) (for children) were administered prior to and 3 months after the intervention period. Pre–post changes in test scores were compared between the groups using a linear mixed-effects model analysis. The primary outcomes were the Total score on the child domain of the PSI (for child psychosocial problems related to parenting stress), Total score on the parent domain of the PSI (for maternal psychosocial problems related to parenting stress), and the score on the DAM (for child cognitive abilities). The results of the PSI suggested that the program may reduce parenting stress. The results of the cognitive tests suggested that the program may improve the children's fluid intelligence, working memory, and processing speed.


Our intervention program may ameliorate the children's psychosocial problems related to parenting stress and increase their cognitive abilities.

Trial Registration

UMIN Clinical Trials Registry UMIN000002265