Parent support and education programmes all aim to improve outcomes for children but have considerable variation in their design, delivery, objectives and actual outcomes (Younger, 2003, citing Gray, 2001).
Within the New Zealand context, HIPPY (Home Interaction Programme for Parents and Youngsters) is one of several early intervention programmes supported by the Government. However, HIPPY is rare in having shown positive educational outcomes for children in New Zealand. As well as this national research, HIPPY is also able to draw on a substantial body of international research which supports the effectiveness of the programme, both for children and parents (Younger, 2003).
Great Potentials (formerly Pacific Foundation), the umbrella organisation for HIPPY NZ, maintains a database on all families enrolled in HIPPY programmes throughout New Zealand. This information is used to maintain accountability regarding the provision of the programme, and provides demographic, outcome and satisfaction data on HIPPY families.
HIPPY in New Zealand has also been evaluated by two independent researchers (BarHava-Monteith, Harre & Field, 1999a; Burgon, 1997), studied by Gotching (2000), and researched for Great Potentials by Sauer (2003), Younger (2003; 2009), and Teehan(2010).
Click here for details of Evening Up the Odds: A study of the long-term effects of HIPPY on eighteen young people who completed the programme with their parents between 1992 and 1998 – A report prepared for Great Potentials Foundation by Sue Younger in 2009
Research and Studies on HIPPY Children
Research on New Zealand children shows that HIPPY prepares children for school, and that the gains in literacy and numeracy are maintained over time. In particular, HIPPY children perform better than classmates on:
Receptive vocabulary, and mathematics and problem solving tests (Burgon, 1997, cited in Younger, 2003). This study showed some positive results regarding HIPPY children’s academic performance, despite the comparison group of children being more advantaged than the HIPPY group on important background variables. Click here for more information.
Literacy measures, problem-solving and mathematics (BarHava-Monteith et al, 1999b). This study also found that HIPPY children consistently performed better than a control group on all literacy measures used and showed statistically significant gains for three of the six sub-tests of the Reading Diagnostic Survey and the BASE scale. Click here for more information.
Reading ages and numeracy levels (Sauer, 2003). The gains from HIPPY were shown to be maintained for HIPPY graduates at age nine and ten years when compared with non-HIPPY graduates matched for age, gender, ethnicity, preschool and school experience. Three years after completing HIPPY, the HIPPY graduates were, on average, nearly one year in reading age above the non-HIPPY children, and were continuing to outperform on numeracy tests. All of the non-HIPPY children had attended Finlayson Park School from five years of age. Literacy and numeracy levels were carried out by teachers as part of on-going school assessments. Numeracy measurements were adjusted into a nine-point scale for statistical analysis. [This research was carried out by Lin Sauer, HIPPY NZ Manager, previously Coordinator, HIPPY Finlayson Park.] Click here for more information.
A further study (Sauer, 2010) looked at HIPPY graduates in Year 8 of schooling and compared literacy and numeracy assessment results with national achievement. Results showed that, compared with the national achievement, the HIPPY graduates were more highly represented in the group working ‘above expectation’ and less represented in the group working below their expected level. Click here for further information.
Surveys from parents of children completing HIPPY in 2003 and 2004 showed that: The activities and role play were effective in preparing children for school (HIPPY New Zealand Surveys, 2003 and 2004).
Information provided by the Flaxmere Project, Ministry of Education.
Research and evaluations of HIPPY programmes have focussed on children’s ability to adapt to the classroom environment, performance on standardised tests and academic trajectories (Younger, 2003).
A longitudinal study by Bradley and Gilkey (2002, cited in Younger, 2003) used post-hoc matching to compare third- and sixth-grade children: 516 HIPPY children who had no other preschool experience were compared with 516 children of the same grade who had preschool experiences other than HIPPY. Results showed participation in HIPPY: Increased school grades and achievement test scores; improved classroom behaviour; reduced levels of school suspension; reduced use of Title 1 services.
In randomised trials, Baker, Piotrkowski and Brooks-Gunn (1999, cited in Younger 2003) showed that, when compared with a group of children who had attended the same high-quality early childhood education setting, HIPPY children scored significantly higher on measures of cognitive skills, classroom adaptation, and reading scores.
Research on HIPPY Parents
The research on outcomes for HIPPY parents in New Zealand is less detailed and, to date, the focus of research has been on the parents’ involvement in educational activities for both themselves and their children. This is indicative of the programme’s emphasis on bringing school-related activities into the home (Younger, 2003).
In a New Zealand study, BarHava-Monteith, Harre & Field (2003, cited in Younger, 2003) assessed the benefits of HIPPY to parents, caregivers and tutors by comparing HIPPY parents with a control group. The results showed that HIPPY caregivers were significantly more involved in educational activities, including: Involvement on school boards and parent-teacher associations; assisting on school trips; employment as teacher aides; use of the library with their child; attending school functions; enrolment in adult education classes. Measures in attitudes to parenting showed no difference between the two groups as all parents indicated positive parenting attitudes.
Data provided by parents shows that:
HIPPY increases parental educational activities (BarHava-Monteith et al, 1999b; Younger, 2003); helps the development of supportive relationships; increases the understanding of child development; improves personal skills such as time management and problem solving (Gotching, 2000); has a positive effect on parenting skills and family well-being; increases community involvement and employment for HIPPY tutors (Younger, 2003).
Surveys from parents of children completing HIPPY in 2003 and 2004 showed that: HIPPY was culturally accepting; the activities and role play were effective in preparing children for school; HIPPY increased parent-child interaction; tutors were supportive during home visits; the group meetings were informative, and a time of sharing; HIPPY helped parental confidence to be involved in their child’s school (HIPPY NZ Surveys, 2003 & 2004).
International research has considered the impact of HIPPY in areas additional to outcomes of an educational nature:
A 2012 report from the Australian Institute of Family Services evaluated HIPPY in Australia. Results show that parents are more confident in engaging in their children’s learning; parents have more self-confidence and an improved level of self-esteem as a result of being involved in their child’s learning; there is an improvement in communication and interaction between the parent and child, and the family as a whole. Read the full report here.
Roundtree (2003) studied the effect of HIPPY on maternal-scaffolding behaviour with their young children and found HIPPY to be an appropriate intervention for facilitating parental scaffolding behaviour due to the emphasis of the programme on: Parent-child relationships; use of language as the primary medium for teaching and supporting the child; use of child-centred, educationally-focused activities.
A study of South African caregivers by McLean in 1998, examined by Westheimer (2003) looked at the effect on the quality of time parents spend with their children due to enrolment on HIPPY. One finding from this was that parents who participated in HIPPY became involved in more educational activities that required greater effort than those who did not participate in HIPPY, indicating that HIPPY is an effective method of assisting parents to engage with their children.
Biddulph, Biddulph & Biddulph (2003, cited in Younger, 2003) considered a dramatic and positive impact on children’s achievement was created by the method of incorporating school-like activities into family activities, and providing parents with access to pedagogical knowledge and resources. This method is the basis of HIPPY’s operation.
Research into the Effectiveness of Components of HIPPY
Mare (2003, citing a study by Ramey & Ramey, 1998) examined HIPPY against each of six components that Ramey and Ramey had previously highlighted as necessary for an intervention programme to be successful:
Developmental timing (programmes which begin earlier and last longer are more effective): As a two-year programme beginning when the child is between 3½ and 4½ years, HIPPY is a relatively long intervention and is maximally effective for achieving good school readiness outcomes.
Programme intensity (more intensive programmes produce greater positive effects, and where participation is greater and more regular, the progress is also greater): Weekly contact with parents and caregivers through alternating home visits and group meetings, and daily activities between parent and child, ensures HIPPY both requires and supports active, regular involvement.
Direct provision of learning experiences (where children receive direct educational experiences the benefits are greater and more enduring than where only the parent receives the intervention): The scaffolded materials focusing on language, discrimination and problem solving, are practised between HIPPY Tutor and parent, and then the parent puts this into practice with their child. HIPPY curriculum and materials provided direct teaching and learning experiences for both parent and child.
Programme breadth and flexibility (the effects of the intervention are greater when more services are offered and where there are more routes to enhance development): HIPPY not only focuses on school readiness skills for children, it also increases family access to other services through the home-visiting tutor, and through the parent and caregiver participation in centre-based group meetings which provide enrichment and parenting support.
Individual differences in benefit gained from a programme (those with the lowest levels of education show the greatest benefit from educational interventions): HIPPY works with families whose children are considered to be ‘educationally at risk’ through lower levels of parental education, lower family income, etc. The use of modelling and roleplay provides support to families with literacy or English difficulties.
Environmental maintenance of development (that the benefits of the programme will ‘fade out’): HIPPY is designed to create development not only in the children, but also in the parents. Parents develop a belief in the value of education as well as a belief in themselves as their children’s first and most important educator. Parents are able to initiate, support and maintain their children’s development and positive attitudes to education.
Click here for references