Violent behaviour in adolescence and adulthood has been shown to develop when children’s normal expression of aggression, which generally peaks at two-three years, fails to follow the normal trajectory of emotion regulation, as children learn adaptive ways of managing their aggressive impulses. Instead, if child aggression becomes persistent and pervasive by age three-to-four, it is a strong risk factor for later aggressive behaviour, accounting for more than half of all adolescent and adult violent crimes, including gender-based violence against women. This negative developmental pathway to violence is predicted by three early parenting difficulties: unresponsive/insensitive parenting, leading to children’s insecure attachment; harsh/inconsistent parenting, leading to child behaviour problems; and poor cognitive stimulation and support, leading to child cognitive problems and educational failure.
“Dialogic book-sharing” (DBS) is an early positive parenting intervention that stands to make a major contribution to violence prevention. It has been shown in rigorous research to significantly improve the three problematic aspects of parenting with corresponding reductions in early child risk for later violent behaviour. However, DBS programmes have almost exclusively been directed at mothers. As such, this study will adapt the DBS programme for delivery to fathers with the aim of reducing parenting risk factors for the development of violence and increasing child secure attachment, prosocial-behaviour, and cognitive skills.