Exploring the Acceptability, Feasibility, and Effectiveness of a Digital Parenting Program To Improve Parental Well-Being After the Christchurch Earthquakes: Cluster-Randomized Trial
Background: Up to 6 years after the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, approximately one-third of parents in the Christchurch region reported difficulties managing the continuously high levels of distress their children were experiencing. In response, an app named Kākano was co-designed with parents to help them better support their children’s mental health.
Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the acceptability, feasibility, and effectiveness of Kākano, a mobile parenting app to increase parental confidence in supporting children struggling with their mental health.
Methods: A cluster-randomized delayed access controlled trial was carried out in the Christchurch region between July 2019 and January 2020. Parents were recruited through schools and block randomized to receive immediate or delayed access to Kākano. Participants were given access to the Kākano app for 4 weeks and encouraged to use it weekly. Web-based pre- and postintervention measurements were undertaken.
Results: A total of 231 participants enrolled in the Kākano trial, with 205 (88.7%) participants completing baseline measures and being randomized (101 in the intervention group and 104 in the delayed access control group). Of these, 41 (20%) provided full outcome data, of which 19 (18.2%) were for delayed access and 21 (20.8%) were for the immediate Kākano intervention. Among those retained in the trial, there was a significant difference in the mean change between groups favoring Kākano in the brief parenting assessment (F1,39=7, P=.012) but not in the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (F1,39=2.9, P=.099), parenting self-efficacy (F1,39=0.1, P=.805), family cohesion (F1,39=0.4, P=.538), or parenting sense of confidence (F1,40=0.6, P=.457). Waitlisted participants who completed the app after the waitlist period showed similar trends for the outcome measures with significant changes in the brief assessment of parenting and the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale. No relationship between the level of app usage and outcome was found. Although the app was designed with parents, the low rate of completion of the trial was disappointing.
Conclusions: Kākano is an app co-designed with parents to help manage their children’s mental health. There was a high rate of attrition, as is often seen in digital health interventions. However, for those who did complete the intervention, there was some indication of improved parental well-being and self-assessed parenting. Preliminary indications from this trial show that Kākano has promising acceptability, feasibility, and effectiveness, but further investigation is warranted.