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Fathers' sensitive parenting enhanced by prenatal video-feedback: a randomized controlled trial using ultrasound imaging

The transition period in which men become fathers might provide an important window of opportunity for parenting interventions that may produce long-term positive effects on paternal care and, consequently, child development. Existing prenatal programs traditionally focus on maternal and infant health and seldom involve the father.

Renate Buisman
10 October 2022
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In this study we evaluated a prenatal intervention using assisted interactions between the father and his baby by means of ultrasound imaging, aimed at improving paternal sensitivity and stimulating paternal involvement: the Prenatal Video-Feedback Intervention to Promote Positive Parenting (VIPP-PRE).

A total of 73 first-time, healthy expectant fathers were randomly assigned to the VIPP-PRE intervention (n = 39) or a dummy intervention (n = 34). Parental sensitivity was coded from video-recorded 10-min interactions with an infant simulator at a prenatal pretest and with fathers’ own infant at a postnatal posttest. Prenatal and postnatal involvement was assessed via an application on participants’ smartphones.

Fathers receiving VIPP-PRE demonstrated increased sensitivity across the perinatal period, relative to fathers receiving a dummy intervention. Fathers’ involvement with the infant increased significantly from the prenatal to postnatal period, regardless of the intervention.

These results suggest that prenatal video-feedback using ultrasound imaging of the unborn child has the potential to promote the quality of parenting in an important, but understudied, population and period: men in the transition to fatherhood. Ultrasound measures are currently used to monitor fetal growth and development, but they may also create an opportunity for stimulating father–infant interaction to promote postnatal caregiving quality.

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