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Child Development Research
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 728104, 10 pages
Research Article

The Impact on Child Developmental Status at 12 Months of Volunteer Home-Visiting Support

Department of Psychological Science, Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues, Birkbeck University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, UK

Received 17 October 2012; Revised 5 November 2012; Accepted 6 November 2012

Academic Editor: Masha Gartstein

Copyright © 2012 Jacqueline Barnes. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Home-visiting support during pregnancy or soon after the birth of an infant can be advantageous for maternal well-being and infant development. The best results have been identified when home visitors are professionals, especially nurses, and if a theoretically driven curriculum is followed with fidelity. Some suggest that disadvantaged families, who may avoid professional services, respond well to support from community volunteers, but there is less evidence about their impact. This study identified potentially vulnerable mothers during pregnancy in randomly allocated neighbourhoods where local volunteer home-visiting schemes agreed to offer proactive volunteer support and control areas where the local home-visiting schemes did not offer this proactive service. Taking demographic, child, and family factors into account, there were no significant differences in infant cognitive development at 12 months of age between families who had been supported by a volunteer and those who had not. Better cognitive development was predicted by less reported parenting stress when infants were 2 months and a more stimulating and responsive home environment at 12 months. The results suggest that unstructured proactive volunteer support for potentially vulnerable families is not likely to enhance infant development. Limitations of the cluster-randomised design are discussed.