American researchers developed an app to support new parents in better identifying their babies' needs. In a related study, the researchers obtained new insights into the impact of apps on how young children are treated.
Apps for parents and expectant parents are becoming increasingly popular, but so far there is little information on whether they have an effective effect on parenting. Professor Elizabeth Meins, a psychologist at the University of York, UK, notes: "There are thousands of apps available for parents, but there is no evidence that they can actually achieve better parenting skills”.
She adds. "Apps have many advantages: they are cheap, easy to use and have become part of everyday life. However, we wanted to find out whether an app could have a noticeable effect on the quality of the parent-baby relationship.”
The study was conducted with mothers who started using the app immediately after the birth of their baby. The study period was six months. The observations focused on how the mothers played with their babies and how empathetic they were with their children.
The parents who used Babymind were compared to a control group of mothers who did not use an app until they were six months old. The researchers found that the Babymind app users were much more responsive to the babies’ needs.
The results were particularly interesting regarding young mothers. Professor Meins explains: "Previous studies have argued that teenage mothers are less sensitive to their babies' thoughts and feelings than mothers who are in their mid-20s. However, our study showed that young mothers who use Babymind showed as much empathy as older app users.”
Meins adds: "Even more amazing was the fact that teen users were more aware of their babies' needs than older mothers who didn't use apps. This suggests that with the help of our app, younger motherhood is no longer a disadvantage."
Fionnuala Larkin, Janine Oostenbroek, Yujin Lee, Emily Hayward, Elizabeth Meins. Proof of concept of a smartphone app to support delivery of an intervention to facilitate mothers’ mind-mindedness. PLOS ONE, 2019; 14 (8): e0220948 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0220948