What's Happening During Home Visits? Exploring the Relationship of Home Visiting Content and Dosage to Parenting Outcomes

Matern Child Health J. 2018 Oct;22(Suppl 1):52-61. doi: 10.1007/s10995-018-2547-5.


Introduction Research has documented modest positive impacts of early childhood home visiting programs. However, understanding more about what home visitors do during visits and how much time they spend on specific topics may provide insight into the variability in effectiveness of services. Methods Outcome data were collected via parent survey at program enrollment and 12 months from 123 women in three MIECHV-funded home visiting models. Home visitors completed weekly home visit content and activity logs. Results Families received an average of 28 visits during the study (3.1 visits per month). Of ten content areas, the three most often discussed were early childhood development, physical care of children, and the parent-child-relationship. Multivariate regression models were used to explore the association of home visit dosage, home visit content and cumulative risk factors on parenting outcomes. Women whose visits were focused more on parenting topics reported lower parenting-related stress at follow-up compared to those whose visits had less parenting content. Additionally, higher-risk women who received greater numbers of home visits showed larger reductions in their attitudes about harsh punishment over time, compared to high-risk women with fewer home visits. Discussion Receiving home visits that emphasize parenting content may contribute to reduced parenting-related stress. For high-risk women in particular, receiving more visits overall may be important to achieving positive outcomes. Implications for practice include working to engage and retain high-risk families. Future home visiting research calls for improved methods for collecting data on content/activity during visits, the necessity for long-term follow-up, and testing for the effectiveness of varied and flexible visit schedules/content focus for women and families with trauma exposure.

Keywords: Early childhood home visiting; Family risk factors; Home visiting program content; Home visiting program dosage; Maternal risk factors; Parenting outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Home Care Services / organization & administration*
  • House Calls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Parenting*
  • Postnatal Care / methods*
  • Pregnancy
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Quality of Health Care