Tu mai te oriori, nau mai te hauora! A Kaupapa Māori Approach to Infant Mental Health: Adapting Mellow Parenting for Māori Mothers in Aotearoa, New Zealand.


In New Zealand the field of infant mental health is relatively new in terms of service development and provision. This paper discusses traditional Māori1 prac­tices with infants and young children and suggests contributions that could inform both theory and practice. Ohomairangi Trust, a Kaupapa Māori2 early intervention service, was approached to culturally adapt and pilot Mellow Parenting, an intensive parenting program designed to focus on relationship difficulties between “hard to engage” mothers and their young children (0–5 years). The qualitative findings are discussed within a Kaupapa Māori theoretical framework.

Parenting programs have been shown to improve children’s relationships with their parents/caregivers, and reduce problem behaviours, but little research has focused on outcomes for Indigenous families. The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the acceptability and effectiveness of Hoki ki te Rito (HKTR)/Mellow Parenting program, for Māori mothers in South Auckland, New Zealand.

Open trial design.

Ohomairangi Trust — one of the few Indigenous Kaupapa Māori providers of early intervention services (across special education, infant mental health, disability, and general health and welfare) in Aotearoa NZ.

Māori mothers from socially disadvan­taged areas, with children aged 0–5 years where relation­ship difficulties were present along with child behaviour difficulties. Some had Child Youth and Family Services involved with their families before commencing the program, while others were at risk of losing custody of their children to the state welfare system.

Mellow Parenting Program — HKTR being culturally adapted for Māori parents.

Mother’s self reported competence, stress, and wellbeing, and coded videos of mother­child interactions on home videos. Children’s behaviour and development was assessed using parents’ self reports and observation of videos.

Māori mothers and grandmothers attending the pilot study of HKTR parenting program reported a significant increase in their own well being, their ability to cope with their parenting role/children’s behaviours, their feelings of self esteem and adequacy, and confidence in their cultural identity, along with a reduction in unwanted problematic behaviours from their children, and an increase in children’s social skills. Qualitative data showed extremely positive responses to the program resources, content, and process. There were a number of requests for a program that fathers could attend. We are reporting solely on focus group feedback in this paper.

This study provides qualitative support for the effectiveness and acceptability of this culturally adapted version of Mellow Parenting — HKTR, delivered by Ohomairangi Trust, in community settings in South Auckland. The outcome of this study may be seen as a significant step in increasing appropriate service provision for Māori and reducing barriers to accessing available services in the community.
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