Parenting and child social and emotional wellbeing

During its 2012-15 triennium, NHMRC’s former Prevention and Community Health Committee (PCHC) identified mental health as a key project area, with a particular focus on the effectiveness of parenting practices and their role in promoting social and emotional health and wellbeing in children and later on as adults.

The Office of NHMRC has established the Mental Health and Parenting Working Committee (the Committee) to oversee this work and guide the development of advice aimed at supporting parents of young children as a means of promoting the child’s social and emotional development and wellbeing.

The Committee comprises experts in child health and wellbeing, family and community health, migrant and refugee health, child abuse and neglect, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, public health evidence and members of the former PCHC in its 2012-15 triennium.  Representatives from the Department of Health and Department of Social Services are also part of the committee in an observer capacity.

Anticipated timelines for key milestones for this work are:

  • Evidence evaluation: Late 2015
  • Drafting NHMRC Guidance: Early - Mid 2016
  • Public Consultation on the draft Guidance: Mid 2016
  • Revising NHMRC Guidance post consultation: Mid – Late 2016
  • Release final NHMRC Guidance: Late 2016

Mental Health and Parenting Working Committee – Terms of Reference

The Mental Health and Parenting Working Committee (the Committee) will:

  1. In consultation with a subgroup of the former PCHC (in its 2012-15 triennium), finalise the project scope including the child’s age, target audience, intervention/parenting practices, key outcomes and format of advice;
  2. Consider current Australian and international evidence and initiatives in this area, including gaps, and advise on where NHMRC could best invest its efforts;
  3. Advise on a commissioned evidence evaluation to underpin the NHMRC Guidance;
  4. Consider the findings of the evidence evaluation to inform the development of NHMRC Guidance aimed at supporting parents, and health professionals who work with parents on the effectiveness of interventions and messages for parenting practices and behaviours, delivered at a population level to infants up to 12 months of age, for optimal social and emotional development, including the development of recommendations ;
  5. Advise on consultation activities and how to effectively engage relevant stakeholders (e.g. State/Territory departments of health, general practitioners, Medicare Locals, paediatricians, midwives, obstetricians, maternal, child and family health service/community-based nurses);
  6. Seek feedback from the Council of NHMRC;
  7. Consider comments received through consultation on the draft guidance and subsequent revisions required;
  8. Advise on implementation and promotion strategies/activities to ensure consideration and uptake of the guidance; and
  9. Advise on how to assess/evaluate the effectiveness of the guidance.

This Committee will be effective for the period of 8 May 2014 to 7 May 2017.

Member Information and Declarations of Interest

Prof Jane Fisher (Chair)

Jean Hailes Professor of Women’s Health and Director Jean Hailes Research Unit, School of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Monash University and Consultant Clinical Psychologist Masada Private Hospital Mother Baby Unit

Declaration of Interest

  • Has received research grants from Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, Australian Government Department of Social Services, Victorian Departments of Education & Early Childhood Development and Health, and NHMRC.
  • Has published a number of articles regarding Women’s mental health during pregnancy and after giving birth, including 'Understanding and responding to unsettled infant behaviour'.
  • Has provided presentations that have covered the topic of good parenting and women’s/child health.
  • Is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Masada Private Hospital Mother Baby Unit which uses a structured psycho-educational approach to the treatment of unsettled infant behaviours.

Ms Adele Cox


Declaration of Interest

  • Involved in consultancy work for the National Empowerment Project (University of WA), The Nest (Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Project, ARACY), Healthy Mind’s Suicide Prevention Community Workshop (Yaandina Family Services), Australian Indigenous Psychological Society, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Mental Health Advisory Group (Department of Health), Australian Suicide Prevention Advisory Council, Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association, Masterclass Cultural Competence Children and Young Peoples Working Group, National Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program Conference (Department of Health and Ageing), Harvest Alliance School for Indigenous Health (Monash University).
  • Consultancy roles have included facilitating conferences, developing and implementing programs, community consultation, mentoring, and providing strategic advice.

Dr Carmel Loughland

Senior psychologist, Faculty of Medicine and Population Health, University of Newcastle

Declaration of Interest

  • Has received funding from Tour Des Femmes Cyclists for Postnatal Depression Research.
  • Has published journal articles on infant health and emotion recognition by mothers.
  • Has spoken at conferences/provided speeches and lectures on topics such as parent-infant relationships, infant face processing, parenting with a mental illness, and infant mental health and wellbeing.

Dr Dianne Jackson

Chief Executive Officer: ARACY- Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth

Declaration of Interest

  • Was the previous CEO of Connect Child and Family Services.
  • Has spoken publicly on parenting support issues and parenting practices.
  • Has published journal articles and books on topics such as parenting in the early years, early childhood, parent support, and engaging communities with education.

Prof Graham Vimpani

Head of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Newcastle

Declaration of Interest

  • Involved in the Right at Home project (Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth and Victorian Government).
  • Board Member for NSW Kids and Families and Good Beginnings Australia.
  • Has published journal articles where comments on the importance of good parenting has been emphasised.
  • Provides undergraduate lectures and conference presentations where good parenting is a theme.

A/Prof Harriet Hiscock

Senior research fellow and paediatrician, The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne

Declaration of Interest

  • Involved in the Right at Home project (Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth and Victorian Government) and the Baby Business program (Victorian Government).
  • Holds current NHMRC and ARC research grants.
  • Has published journal articles on parenting programs and preventing mental health problems and behavioural problems in children.
  • Has provided lectures to health professionals on the topic.
  • Has developed material related to the topic as part of Toddlers without Tears Universal Parenting Program.

Prof Helen Herrman

Research Director, Orygen Youth Health Research Centre; Professor of Psychiatry, Centre for Youth Mental Health, The University of Melbourne; Director, WHO Collaborating Centre in Mental Health, Melbourne.

Member of NHMRC’s former Prevention and Community Health Committee in its 2012-15 triennium.

Declaration of Interest

  • Has published journal articles on the status of mental health promotion.

Dr Julie Green

Executive Director, Raising Children Network

Declaration of Interest

  • Is a regular contributor on parenting issues in the media (print, radio, online, television - interviews, articles, blogs) as part of employment at the Raising Children Network (funded by the Department of Social Services).
  • Director of the Raising Children Network Board.

Prof Mark Harris

Foundation Professor of General Practice and Director of the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity at the University of NSW

Member of NHMRC’s former Prevention and Community Health Committee in its 2012-15 triennium.

Declaration of Interest

  • Board Member of inner west Medicare Local.
  • Consultancy for self-management guides for BUPA.
  • Holds NHMRC research grants.

Ms Michal Morris

General Manager, Centre for Cultural, Ethnicity and Health

Declaration of Interest

  • Involved in health translation for families and communities, and Health Directory (online help for parents) for the Victorian Government.
  • Is part of a research project Teeth Tales, funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Dr Shanti Raman

Paediatrician, Sydney South West Area Health Service & South Western Sydney Clinical School

Declaration of Interest

  • Receives support by employer to attend conferences/ meetings on the topic, including allowance for subsistence and accommodation.
  • Supported by International Pediatric Association to attend annual meetings.
  • Runs workshops on cross-cultural issues, child behaviour and development.

Dr Sue Packer

Community Paediatrician, ACT Health

Declaration of Interest

  • Board Member on a number of community organisations concerning the wellbeing of children including: National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect, Kidsafe, Families Australia, Canberra Mothercraft Society (governing QE2), Defence for Children International, Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth Early Years Chapter.
  • Has published articles on child abuse and neglect.
  • Has presented numerous times on the topic, for example at Paediatric and NGO conferences re: Trauma and Early Brain Development.
  • Has provided expert testimony in Child and Family Courts - Closed courts.
  • Member of committees/organisations: Early Brain Development and Trauma; Domestic Violence Prevention Council; International child abuse prevention organisations ISPCAN and BASPCAN; Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Health Care.

Ms Tina Hourigan

Senior Analyst, Child & Family Health, NSW Kids & Families

Declaration of Interest

  • Employed by NSW Kids & Families, working in child and family health policy and program management; A particular role in managing the Sustaining NSW Families program. A program of sustained nurse home visiting; As well responsibility for providing child and family health expertise.
  • Involved in NHMRC’s Centre for Research Excellence – Improving health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
  • Involved in the development of the NT universal well-child health schedule.

Dr Rebecca Armstrong

Associate Director of the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program, University of Melbourne; Editorial and Methods Advisor, Cochrane Public Health Group

Declaration of Interest

  • Employed by Cochrane Public Health Group, who publish systematic reviews of public health interventions.
  • Published journal articles, book chapters, Cochrane reviews, reports and conference presentations on children’s health, including the 2011 Cochrane Review on Interventions for preventing obesity in children.
  • Holds current research grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council, UK Medical Research Council, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Professor Elizabeth Waters was the Chair of the Working Committee until September 2015. NHMRC acknowledges the significant contribution that Professor Waters made to the work of this committee and to public health more broadly.