Working with fathers – research report from AIMH Scotland

‘Local research in Glasgow demonstrated the importance of social support as a protective factor for the mental health and wellbeing of mothers.2 The evidence around the role and impact of social and peer support for fathers is lacking’…………
On behalf of Christine Puckering and Penny Rackett, (Leads AIMH Scottish local IMH Hub) please find attached paper for your interest.

Fathers NE Glasgow Summary Paper Sep 172

For more on AIMH visit there website

Video Interaction Guidance

The service champions that have been such a crucial part of Support from the Start have had regular shared learning time, in which they exchanged ideas, proposals and problems. From the outset the champions were looking for ways for services to be more positively focused on very young children – prebirth – three, recogising the cricitcal importance of these years to childrens development.

Janice Macleod, (School nurse team leader) in particular has been indefatigable in her pursuit of the importance of attachement theory for the practise of frontline staff. She now chairs a multi agency working group which is leading on the development of training and practise development that will support staff to incorporate attachment theory into practise. Janice initiated a range of contacts – local, national and international in her pursuit of the goal of incorporating attachment theory into practise. Very productive relationships have been developed with East Lothian Councils Educational Psychology team, academics from a range of universities, researchers and practioners from a range of agencies and national agencies. In particular Janice established a working relationship with Penny Rackett an educational psychologist from North Suffolk who is particular proponent of the use of video interaction guidance (VIG) as a tool to improve attachment in the very early years.

VIG is a well established method in Psychology. It is also a Scottish invention being based on the work of Colwyn Trevarthen a  Scottsih psychological researcher and I believe an East Lothian resident. It is a method or technique that requires carefully trained practitioners with excellent communication and interpersonal skills, who need access to detailed supervision. However, there  is a simplicity to the method that is appealing – basically it helps parents / carers to see the positve aspects of their communication with very young children and by so doing helping them to build on the strenghts that they do have. An excellent website give a full description of what VIG is and how it is used in various settings and age groups.

The website describes VIG as follows:

Video interaction guidance is an intervention through which a “guider” aims to enhance communication within relationships . It works by engaging clients actively in a process of change towards realizing their own hopes for a better future in their relationships with others who are important to them. Guiders are themselves guided by the values and beliefs around respect and empowerment.   These include a belief that people in troubled situations do want to change, a respect for what clients are managing to achieve in their current difficulties, and a conviction that the power and responsibility for change resides within clients and their situations

This link gives a short but detailed descriptin of the evidence base for VIG an how it works


The Contented Baby

Suzanne Zeedyk and film maker Jonathon Robertson have produced a fantastic DVD about the early communication of babies and what new scientific understanding tells us about how babies connect with the world around them.  Information about the DVD and how to get a copy can be found at this website

Suzanne’s website is definitely one to add to your favourites list. She is also producing a regular newsletter which is very informative and available to download from the website. The following is a trailer for the DVD


Early years conference

Attended the East Lothian Early Years team annual conference in mid March and it was a truly inspirational event. It was chaired by Susan Deacon national early years champion and had two excellent speakers – Robin Balbernie and Suzanne Zeedyk. The early years team have now posted Robin Balbernies presentation on their edubuzz blog, if you couldn’t make the conference or just want to review the wealth of material that was in the presentation it well worth the time it takes.

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Hopefully, the early years team will also be able to post Suzanne’s presentation – which had a number of video clips of very early baby parent interaction – but Suzanne was such a powerful and charismatic presenter I think you really needed to be there to get the full force of it.

Solihull Training opportunity – The First Five Years

Solihull Approach Foundation Course: ‘The First 5 years’ two-day training

 The Solihull Approach is an integrated psychodynamic and behavioural approach for professionals working with children (0-5) and families who are affected by emotional and behavioural difficulties. It is a highly practical way of working with families within a robust theoretical structure. It has a major contribution to make to the ways in which practitioners in health, education, social work and the voluntary sector can work with families to ensure that children have a good emotional start in life.  The Solihull Approach will help you to address emotional problems in a different way, giving you greater confidence in your own skills and practice.

 The Solihull Approach has been identified as an effective model for working with parents and young children and is part of East Lothian’s Parenting Strategy. 

 It is suitable for: Health Visitors, social workers, nursery nurses, community development workers, midwives, paediatricians, learning disability nurses, children’s nurses, speech therapists, family support workers, behaviour support teachers. 

  Two day training:  9.30am – 4.30pm May 3rd and May 17th.

Participants must attend both days to complete the training. The two training days are separated by a fortnight to allow professionals to use the model in their practice and feedback their experiences on Day 2.

 Venue: Training Department, Administration Building, Edenhall Hospital, Musselburgh

 If you wish to attend the training please contact (

Baby Extra

Baby Extra is an antenatal intervention developed in Holland aimed at enhancing attachment postnatally.

The intervention is time limited, non stigmatising, low cost, builds on existing practise and research and appears to be very successful. Penny Rackett, educational psychologist, gave a very interesting presentation about the programme and described the design and early stages of a pilot in Suffolk aimed at replicating the intervention in a British context.

I couldnt help thinking that if this quality of intervention had a market in the same way as some drug therapies do then investors would be falling over themselves to get the rights to develop and test it further. Instead its left to an intrepid front line professional to lead the way on top of an already busy workload with minimal resource. If there any readers of this blog with capital to invest in a social intervention that has the potential to make a difference then this might be your baby.

Baby Extra

Poster SRIP Baby Extra 2009

Can we support parents ante-natally to improve attachment post birth?

Penny Rackett educational psychologist from Norfolk was invited to talk about her research into interventions before birth that are designed to enhance attachment once the child is born.

Penny gave a presentation to a wide range of practitioners and managers at a twilight  seminar on Thursday 3rd February and the next day met with the members of  a  Support from the Start working group looking at a range of  initiatives and training needs around utilising recent research and development on attachment theory. 

The first presentation below reviews current research on what works in attachment theory and practise. The second presentation reviews research on assessment of attachment behaviours ante-natally.

East Lothian presentation 1



Dadswork the East Lothian charity dedicated to supporting the needs of  Dads as parents has been involved in the development of a national organisation of ‘Fathers’ organisations

Organisations and individual can sign up at this link

The role of Dads  has been receiving a higher profile lately.

I am part way through reading Carol Craig’s book ‘The tears that made the Clyde’,  which makes a powerful case for how Scottish male culture impacts on health and social outcomes in Scotland. She argues that this macho male culture  developed partly as a result of men abandoning family life because of desperately poor housing and overcrowding during the industrialisation of Scotland. She goes on to argue that many of the social ills which have proved so resistant to change in Scotland are fed and nurtured by that culture.

 Similar arguments abut male culture and the need to change it are made by supporters of the white ribbon campaign in relation to Domestic Violence –  that it is a problem all men need to own if it is going to change.

At a presentation I attended this morning on ‘attachment theory & practise’ by an Educational Psychologist and researcher –  Penny Rackett,  the importance of dads in supporting children to have secure attachments in early life was stressed. She reported on studies which showed that Dads who felt that their contribution to rearing children had been valued were also the dads that were most attuned to the communication of their babies / children. So involving Dads is important.

Although most children still live in a home with two adults, it seems from statistics that increasing numbers of  Scottish women are raising children without the involvement of a ‘live in father’.  It also seems that lone parenting is a more prevalent experience for Scottish women than other European women. Why is that happening and what does it say about Scottish men and their attitudes to family life? Are men not coping with the kind of  stress involved in raising children and choosing to escape from it. Do men feel that they don’t have any real role in raising children now that their traditional role of breadwinner has faded? What is the role of a father in Scottish culture?

Big questions – and ones that  need to be part of a national discussion and debate. Perhaps what Dadswork have helped to start will be the start of a discussion between fathers of what it means to be a father in 21st century Scotland and how that role can be supported and valued.

Changing culture is very difficult – and I am sure can only start when lots of people ask the similiar question and talk to each other about the implications of those questions.

I am a father – its a role for which I had no preperation  beyond my own experience of parenting. Prior to becoming a parent I don’t think I ever discuseed what a dad is meant to do with anybody. For our first child I did attend the ante natal classes that were on offer, but like many men felt like a spare part. It may well have changed now but twenty years ago it was all about the mechanics of birth – lots of heavy breathing and discussion of pain control options.

I don’t recall my father ever talking to me about what it meant to be a dad. However, I have no doubt that his parenting style has heavily influenced me (for good and bad) because I occasionally catch myself saying things that make me think, ‘God I sound like my old man’.  In writing this I have asked myself the question – Do I know how to talk to my own sons about what it means to be a father? The answer is probably no,  at least not in any coherent way.  Having asked the question I am going to think about it – because I have a sense that Dads are important and that men ought to value  and celebrate the role of father.  In fact I am going to do more than think about it I am going to talk about it, with my wife! Well,  perhaps I will try talking to some of my male friends who are fathers. They may well think I have lost the plot but it will make a change from fishing and shooting. And who knows if enough Dads in Scotland talk to each other about what it means to be a Dad and how you can be good enough at it, maybe the next generation of Dads will have a better steer than the last.

Steven Wray

‘Are We Securely Attached’

Early Years Conference ‘Are We Securely Attached’

March 17th  2011 Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

 The Early Years and Childcare Team are once again organising an Early Years Conference which aims to raise awareness of the critical importance of Early Years development in improving children’s life chances

 Speakers at the conference are:

Robin Balbernie is currently Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist in Gloucestershire CAMHS. He works with the Children’s Centres in Cheltenham, Gloucester and the Forest of Dean as lead of the Secure Start team, providing an infant mental health service. He has a special interest in early interventions, originally arising from his work with adopted children, and is on the Committee of the Association of Infant Mental Health (UK) and is also a member of the Young Minds’ Policy and Strategy Advisory Group.”

 Suzanne Zeedyk is currently Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology at Dundee University. Suzanne’s work focuses on parent-infant relationships. She works closely with organisations such as the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, HomeStart, Kids Taskforce and a number of city councils. Her key aim is to increase awareness of the extent to which, when making decisions about the care we give to children. We are also making decisions about the kind of society we wish to build.

 The day will be facilitated by Susan Deacon who was MSP for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh from 1999 to 2007 and Scotland’s first cabinet minister for Health and Community Care.  She holds a range of advisor and non executive roles with organisations in the private, public and third sectors.  She has been a consistent advocate for the importance of children’s early years.

 Who should attend?  Anyone working with young children and their families, or who has responsibility for strategic planning for Early Years services

 The Programme and Booking Form are available from Pauline Evans 01620 827141 or  from this link below –