• Dec 2003/Jan 2004
  • Vol. 4, No. 10

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Time Spent in Home Visits Related to Personality Traits of Mothers and Staff

Research indicates home visiting relates to better outcomes for families (see Related Items), but few programs actually provide the prescribed amount of home visiting time. Until now, reasons for the discrepancy between prescribed and actual home visits have been unclear. Now a recent study has found personality traits of both mothers and home visitors may impact the amount of time spent in home visits. These findings may have implications for hiring and training of home visiting staff.

The study of a home visiting program for at-risk families involved in Early Head Start concluded "maternal negative emotionality" (being prone to such traits as anxiety, anger, and pessimism) was related to higher total home visit minutes per month. Conversely, "maternal positive emotionality" was related to lower total home visit minutes per month. Among home visitors, negative emotionality was related to lower total home visit minutes per month.

The authors offered several potential explanations for these findings:

  • Mothers with negative emotionality may be perceived by home visitors as having greater needs, and therefore as requiring more home visiting time.
  • Mothers with positive emotionality may be perceived by home visitors as having fewer needs, and therefore as requiring less home visiting time.
  • Home visitors with negative emotionality (i.e., individuals prone to anxiety and pessimism) may have difficulty coping with the difficult life circumstances of program participants and may therefore interact with program participants less.

Both the mother's and home visitor's negative emotionality were related to the mother's positive perception of her relationship with the home visitor. As mentioned earlier, the mother's negative emotionality may result in more home visiting time, which may in turn have a positive impact on the mother's perception of her relationship with the home visitor. Mothers may interpret a home visitor's negative emotionality as an expression of empathy, which again may positively impact her perception of their relationship. Relationship quality was not found to be related to home visit time.

The study can be found in Volume 31, Issue 6 of the Journal of Community Psychology. It can be accessed online from Wiley Periodicals at www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/32213.

Related Items

The CDC Task Force on Community Preventive Services released a report in October recommending that home visits be considered for families at risk (including families with low birth-weight infants or single, young, or low-income mothers). The recommendation was based on a finding that home visits by trained personnel may reduce the incidence of child maltreatment by as much as 40 percent. More information on this report can be obtained on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5214a1.htm.

For additional information about home visiting programs, see "Home Visiting Programs Help Reduce Child Maltreatment" in the April 2003 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

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