Additional Resources:

Practice Profile

Early Family/Parent Training Programs

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Multiple juvenile problem/at-risk behaviors

Practice Description

Practice Goals/Target Population
Early family/parent training programs are designed to provide families and parents with training and skills to help promote their children’s physical, mental, and social skills. The goal is to improve child outcomes (such as reducing problem behaviors) by helping parents successfully socialize their children. These types of programs generally target parents and families with children under the age of 5 years.

Practice Theory
Research has shown that chronic problem behaviors that emerge early in life can lead to later disruptive, more serious behaviors (such as delinquency and crime) during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. As such, early prevention programs, such as family/parenting training, may be useful in preventing the onset of later antisocial, delinquent, and criminal behavior, by providing families and parents with services as early as possible (Piquero et al. 2009).

Practice Components
The practice generally includes two types of programs: home visitation and parent training. Home visitation programs usually involve healthcare professionals (e.g., nurses, doctors, or paraprofessionals) who conduct in-home visits with new parents (especially mothers) to teach them how to properly care for their children. Parents are provided with information, support, and/or training in regard to child health, development, and care (Piquart and Teubert 2010). One example of a home visitation program is Nurse-Family Partnership, which provides low-income first-time mothers with home visitation services from public health nurses to improve maternal, prenatal, and early childhood health and well-being (Olds et al. 2004).

Parent training programs involve individual or group-based sessions that can be conducted at clinics, schools, or other community-based settings. These programs focus on strengthening parents’ competencies with regard to monitoring and disciplining their children’s behavior and promoting their children’s social and emotional competencies. These types of programs also try to train parents to use positive, nonviolent techniques when managing children’s behaviors and foster a caring, responsive relationship between parents and children through modeling and role play (Piquero et al. 2016). The Incredible Years is an example of a parent training program targeting high-risk parents and children who are displaying behavior problems. Core topic areas include teaching parents ways to strengthen their relationship with children, using praise and incentives effectively, and using limit-setting and proactive discipline strategies to handle misbehavior (Webster-Stratton, Reid, and Hammond 2004).

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Effective - One Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Multiple juvenile problem/at-risk behaviors
Aggregating results from 78 randomized controlled studies, Piquero and colleagues (2016) found an overall statistically significant mean effect size of 0.37 for child problem behaviors such as conduct problems, delinquency, and antisocial behavior. This indicates that children whose families participated in early family/parent training programs displayed fewer child problem behaviors, compared with control group children whose families did not participate.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11982 - 20147811452

Meta-Analysis 1
Piquero and colleagues (2016) conducted a meta-analysis to examine the effects of early family/parent training programs in on antisocial behavior and delinquency. This review updated the original meta-analysis (Piquero et al. 2009). Only randomized controlled, experimental studies that included pre–post evaluations of family programs were included. Studies had to include families with a child under the age of 5 years or had to have a sample of children with a mean age of approximately 5 years at the beginning of the intervention (programs with physically and/or mentally handicapped children were excluded). Studies had to look at interventions in which family/parent training was a major component and examine outcomes that included child behavior problems such as conduct problems, delinquency, and/or antisocial behavior. There were no timeframe or geographic restrictions, but studies had to be written in English.

The search strategy included keyword searches of online abstract databases such as Criminal Justice Periodical Index, Criminal Justice Abstracts, and National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS); a review of bibliographies of past reviews of early family/parent training programs; forward searches for works cited by seminal studies in the area; hand searches of leading journals in the field such as Criminology and Public Policy, Justice Quarterly, and Journal of Criminal Justice; searches of publications from research and professional agencies such as Vera Institute of Justice and Rand Corporation; and emails and consultations with experts in the field to locate unpublished pieces such as dissertations. The original 2009 meta-analysis identified 23 randomized controlled studies available between 2008 and 2015; the updated 2016 meta-analysis identified an additional 55 studies available from 2008 to 2015, for a total of 78 randomized controlled trials of early family/parent training programs.

The 78 studies included a total sample of 11,452 participants. The majority of the studies (46) were based in the United States, and the remaining 32 were based in other countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Of the total number of studies, 67 were classified as parent training programs, and 11 were classified as home visitation programs. The age of child participants ranged from birth to 11 years. There was no race/ethnicity or gender information provided about either the children or the parents.

Cohen’s d was used to determine the effect size. The standardized mean difference was the primary source for calculating the effect size. The inverse variance weights were used in calculating the effect sizes. The effect size was calculated with a random effects model.
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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Piquero, Alex R., Wesley G. Jennings, Brie Diamond, David P. Farrington, Richard E. Tremblay, Brandon C. Welsh, and Jennifer M. Reingle Gonzalez. 2016. “A Meta-Analysis Update on the Effects of Early Family/Parent Training Programs on Antisocial Behavior and Delinquency.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 12:229–48.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Olds, David L., JoAnn Robinson, Lisa M. Pettitt, Dennis W. Luckey, John R. Holmberg, Rosanna K. Ng, Kathy Isacks, Karen L. Sheff, and Charles R. Henderson Jr. 2004. “Effects of Home Visits by Paraprofessionals and by Nurses: Age 4 Follow-Up Results of a Randomized Trial.” Pediatrics 114(6):1560–68.

Piquart, Martin, and Daniela Teubert. 2010. “Effects of Parenting Education with Expectant and New Parents: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Family Psychology 24(3):316–27.

Piquero, Alex R., David P. Farrington, Brandon C. Welsh, Richard Tremblay, and Wesley G. Jennings. 2009. “Effects of Early Family/Parent Training Programs on Antisocial Behavior and Delinquency.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 5:83–120.

Webster–Stratton, Carolyn, M. Jamila Reid, and Mary A. Hammond. 2004. “Treating Children With Early-Onset Conduct Problems: Intervention Outcomes for Parent, Child, and Teacher Training.” Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychology 33:105–24.
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Related Programs

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Following are programs that are related to this practice:

Triple P – Positive Parenting Program Effective - One study
This is a comprehensive parent-training program designed to enhance parental competence and prevent or alter dysfunctional parenting practices. By enhancing parenting practices, the program seeks to reduce family risk factors for child maltreatment and children’s behavioral and emotional problems. The program is rated Effective. There were statistically significant reductions in substantiated child maltreatment cases, out-of-home placements, and child maltreatment injuries.

Fast Track Promising - One study
A comprehensive, long-term prevention program that aims to prevent chronic and severe conduct problems in high-risk children from 1st through 10th grades. The program is rated Promising. Participants in the treatment group were significantly less likely than control group participants to exhibit evidence of serious conduct problems and had higher social cognition. While parenting behaviors improved there were no differences between the groups in academic progress and child social competence.

Parent–Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) Effective - More than one study
The program teaches parents new interaction and discipline skills to reduce child problem behaviors and child abuse by improving relationships and responses to difficult behavior. The program is rated Effective. Program children were more compliant with less behavior problems than the wait list group. The treatment group parents gave more praise and fewer criticisms and improved negative aspects of their parenting. There were fewer re-reports of physical abuse.

Nurse–Family Partnership Effective - More than one study
This is a home visitation program for low-income, first-time mothers designed to improve family functioning. The program is rated Effective. Treatment families reported statistically significant decreases in child abuse/neglect and domestic violence and improvements in home learning environments, compared with control families. Treatment children reported statistically significant decreases in substance use, compared with control children, but there were no differences in behavior problems.

The Incredible Years Effective - More than one study
A parent, teacher and child social skills training approach to reduce challenging behaviors in children and increase their social and self-control skills. The program is rated Effective. The evaluation reviewed multiple outcomes. Findings revealed that negative parenting practices decreased in the intervention group; there was greater improvement in school readiness measures; classroom atmosphere; child social competence; and stimulation for learning in the treatment group.

Prevention Program for Externalizing Problem Behavior (PEP) Promising - One study
The program is a preventative, group-based training intervention for parents and kindergarten teachers of young children (ages 3–6) with externalizing problem behaviors. The program seeks to reduce externalizing problem behaviors and ultimately prevent delinquency later in life. The program is rated Promising. Evaluation results suggest that the program moderately reduced child externalizing problem behaviors, based on questionnaires completed by mothers and teachers.

Chicago Parent Program No Effects - More than one study
A culturally relevant parent-training intervention for black and Hispanic parents of children ages 2 to 5 years from low- income, urban areas. The program’s goals are to promote parenting skills and competency and prevent or reduce problem behaviors in children. The program is rated No Effects. The evaluations had mixed findings. Overall, the evidence suggests the program did not have a significant impact on parenting skills, parenting competency, or problem behavior in children.

The Incredible Years–Teacher Classroom Management Program Promising - More than one study
This is a preschool-based program designed to strengthen teachers’ classroom-management strategies and develop children’s social and problem-solving skills. The program is rated Promising. Across multiple measures, there was a statistically significant reduction in conduct problems and increase in prosocial behavior among participating children, compared with non-participating children. However, some measures showed no statistically significant effect of the program.

Parenting Intervention to Prevent Early Conduct Problems and Improve Parenting Practices (New York City) Promising - One study
The program is a family-based, group preventive intervention for preschool children who are at high risk for antisocial behavior. The program is rated Promising. The intervention had statistically significant effects on observed child physical aggression, responsive parenting, and stimulation for learning, but had no statistically significant effects on parent-rated child physical aggression or harsh parenting practices.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 0 - 11

Gender: Both

Targeted Population: Families

Settings: Home, Other Community Setting

Practice Type: Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Family Therapy, Group Therapy, Parent Training

Unit of Analysis: Persons

Alex Piquero
Ashbel Smith Professor of Criminology
University of Texas at Dallas
Program in Criminology and Criminal Justice, 800 W. Campbell Rd., GR31
Richardson TX 75080-3021
Phone: 972.883.2482