Better oars, more frequent rowing. On the treatment of behavioural problems in children' is the title of the inaugural lecture of Prof. Dr. Barbara van den Hoofdakker on Friday 11 March 2022. Barbara was appointed extraordinary professor in the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences at the University of Groningen in 2019 by Accare, with the teaching assignment 'Treatment of behavioural problems in children'.
The care for children with disruptive behaviour or behavioural problems makes too little use of the available knowledge on effectiveness. Treatment of the child itself is often ineffective, while training the parents and teachers works well. This was stated by Barbara van den Hoofdakker in her inaugural lecture at the University of Groningen.
Children who have difficulty regulating their behaviour and attention run the risk of developing serious long-term problems, such as depression, substance abuse or delinquency. Timely treatment is important for this group, according to Van den Hoofdakker. Training the skills that these children have difficulty with is often ineffective. For example, social skills training, neurofeedback and working memory training.
Training for parents in dealing with their child's behaviour does work, says Van den Hoofdakker. After a training, parents more often show positive parenting behaviour, such as giving compliments and setting clear boundaries. They use negative strategies less often, such as harsh punishments or inconsistent responses. They feel less powerless as a parent and their relationship with their child improves. Training teachers to deal with behavioural problems in the classroom is also effective.
However, many children do not receive the help that is known to be effective, according to Van den Hoofdakker. For example, a file study of children receiving medication for ADHD showed that only half of the parents received support. Many children also received treatments of which it is not known whether they are effective for them, such as play therapy, assertiveness training and therapy with animals. Two other studies showed that many schools did not have treatment and counselling services for children with behavioural problems. And schools that did have such services almost exclusively used methods of which the effectiveness for the target group is unknown.
For the implementation of effective psychological treatments, too little money is available, says Van den Hoofdakker. It does not help either that the various professional groups in the youth field each have their own guidelines for the same problems, and that these sometimes contradict each other in certain respects. She advocates that guideline developers work on joint guidelines for behavioural problems in children.
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