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Soutenir la Transition et l'Engagement dans la Parentalité
Introduction to Project STEP

We offer a developmental perspective of adaptation following exposure to difficult life events. This means that we believe that the difficulties developed following these experiences can equally be considered as adaptation strategies to deal with them, or as direct or indirect consequences of these events. This perspective led us to develop a program of research and clinical innovation named the STEP program (Supporting the Transition to and Engagement in Parenthood). This program includes a scientific axis (STEP research component) and a clinical axis (STEP clinical component).

Within the STEP research component, we focus first on the experience of adults who have experienced difficult events during their childhood, as they are becoming parents. The main objective of this component is to better understand the mechanisms fostering the adaptation of these adults in the transition to parenthood.

Second, since the exposure to adverse life experiences is known for its potential intergenerational consequences (i.e., impact on the child), we are interested in the development of children born from parents exposed to adverse life experiences, in order to identify factors supporting the continuity and interruption of at-risk trajectories associated with these experiences. These research data support the second axis of our program, namely the clinical axis.  

The STEP clinical component aims at designing, offering and evaluating a program of support meetings for adults who have experienced adverse life events and who are expecting a child. This program aims essentially at supporting the adaptation of adults during this significantly stressful period and to support their child’s development. The conception of these support meetings rests not only on the team’s researchers and clinicians’ expertise, but also on the perspective of the parents involved and the experience of workers and practitioners in the field.

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Find out more about the STEP support meetings

The support program consists of nine (8) meetings of 2 hours. These meetings are developed to be offered in clinical care settings and community organizations and administered by professionals from various disciplines (i.e., social workers, educators, nurses, psychologists). The STEP program targets all women and men expecting a child and who have experienced adverse life events during their childhood, such as abuse or adverse family context. Mothers and fathers to be, presenting or not psychological distress or psychosocial difficulties linked to their life history, are invited to participate in the meetings.

The proposed activities are different for mothers and fathers, and are held separately with both groups. The program is intended for adults who are already parents, as well as for those expecting their first child. The second and third trimester of pregnancy is presently targeted for the meetings. 

The STEP program is elaborated by researchers and clinical practitioners working with individuals who have experienced adverse life events (Nicolas Berthelot, Roxanne Lemieux, Christine Drouin-Maziade and Carl Lacharité). Nevertheless, they have make a point of listening to what parents who have lived such events had to say regarding their needs during the prenatal period. 

The STEP program is elaborated by researchers and clinical practitioners working with individuals who have experienced adverse life events (Nicolas Berthelot, Roxanne Lemieux, Christine Drouin-Maziade and Carl Lacharité). Nevertheless, they have make a point of listening to what parents who have lived such events had to say regarding their needs during the prenatal period.

Furthermore, fifteen experts from the fields of public health, maltreatment and parenthood have participated in a consultation activity on clinical work for parents exposed to adverse life events during childhood. This consultation activity, held in February 2017, aimed at identifying the most relevant interventions to be implemented in the STEP Program, to ensure optimal support to participating adults.