A new study, released in time for National Families Week, reports community playgroups have enormous social and economic benefits to families and may impact on not just children, but also parents and carers.
Relationships Matter: the Social and Economic Benefits of Community Playgroups, published today and co-authored by Dr Ian McShane from the Centre for Urban Research, explores the benefits playgroups have for parents across a range of demographics, including age, ethnicity, employment status and household income.
“We know that playgroups have significant developmental benefits for children, yet we found after interviewing parents for this research that this only tells half the story of their value. They are especially valued by new mothers, many of whom indicated they had felt socially isolated prior to their child joining a playgroup,” Dr McShane says.
Commissioned by Playgroup Australia, the peak body for playgroups across Australia, the report identifies that playgroups also help to build communities and strengthen the integration of a community’s early year’s services, which encourages a smooth transition from first-time parent groups to playgroup, kindy and school.
Playgroup Queensland’s CEO, Ian Coombe, says becoming a parent for the first time can be an isolating experience. New parents and carers may become withdrawn from the community and lose contact with friends who don’t have children. He highlights the importance for parents of newborns to get involved in playgroups as early as possible to ease the transition to parenthood and to help establish that important bond – for dads as well as mums.
“Life in general can become a constant psychological struggle for families of newborns; however, researchers found that playgroups act as ‘sociological superglue’ by encouraging life-long friendships between parents and carers, reducing the ‘perfect parent’ stigma and providing resources that encourage children to learn through play …. readying them for kindergarten and school.”
Mr Coombe says playgroups also act as a referral service for members to access other early childhood services available in their local communities. Playgroups are immensely beneficial in quickly establishing community connections for relocating families.
“The study found that playgroups gave some mothers the confidence to get back into employment while raising their children. It also found that playgroups are an important pathway to volunteering in other settings,” he says.
Findings are based on both qualitative interviews with community playgroup coordinators, parents/carers and children, and the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Key findings include:
- Community playgroups provide essential social supports for parents raising young children, especially where a parent does not have other peer support networks
- Community playgroups equip members with parenting skills and connect them the community, this is particularly true for culturally diverse families
- Community playgroups help families to feel less socially isolated and build a sense of community
- Community playgroups adapt to the changing face of caring for young children with grandparent playgroups, dads playgroups and ethic specific playgroups emerging over the last ten years
- Community playgroups were found to be important and trusted sources of advice and support for those looking after very young children.
You can access the full report at: http://playgroupaustralia.org.au/About-Us.aspx
For more information or to arrange an interview with Ian Coombe, please contact:
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