Structured social relationships: A review of volunteer home visiting programs for parents of young children

Fiona Byrne*, Rebekah Grace, Jaimie Tredoux, Lynn Kemp

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective The aims of the present paper were to: (1) review the research literature that contributes to an understanding of the role of volunteer home visiting programs in supporting the health and well being of families with young children; and (2) propose a conceptual model outlining service pathways for families in need of additional support. Methods An integrative literature review method was used, with a mix of electronic and manual search methods for the period January 1980-January 2014. Forty-five studies were identified that met the inclusion criteria for review and were coded according to themes developed a priori. Results There is little formal research that has examined the effectiveness of volunteer home visiting programs for supporting family health and well being. The available research suggests that volunteer home visiting programs provide socioemotional support through structured social relationships; however, there is limited empirical evidence to explicate the factors that contribute to these outcomes. Conclusion In recognition of the importance of peer support for new parents, the not-for-profit sector has been involved in providing volunteer home visiting services to families for decades. However, the body of research to support this work is characterised by methodological limitations, and rigorous evidence is limited. What is clear anecdotally and qualitatively from the existing research is that parents who are in need of additional support value engagement with a community volunteer. These structured social relationships appear to fulfil a service need within the community, helping build bridges to support social networks, and thus complementing professional services and relationships. Overall, structured social relationships in the form of volunteer home visiting programs appear to provide an important pathway to support family health and well being. Findings from the existing research are mixed and often characterised by methodological limitations, pointing to a need for further rigorous research. What is known about the topic? Volunteer family support programs have been an important part of the service landscape for vulnerable families, both nationally and internationally, for many years. Anecdotal reports suggest that this is a valued form of support that increases a sense of community connectedness and breaks down barriers for families in accessing other community support services. What does this paper add? This paper proposes a model identifying broad service pathways impacting on family health and well being that takes into account the importance of structured social relationships and social connectedness. What are the implications for practitioners? The proposed model may encourage discussion by practitioners and organisations interested in models of support for families who are socially isolated and/or in need of assistance to access and engage with services within the community. Journal compilation

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)262-269
    Number of pages8
    JournalAustralian Health Review
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


    Dive into the research topics of 'Structured social relationships: A review of volunteer home visiting programs for parents of young children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this