Group-based parenting programs

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

Group-based parenting programs use standardized curriculums to teach parenting skills in a group setting. Programs are usually based on behavioral or cognitive-behavioral approaches and often target parents whose children display or are at risk for aggressive and disruptive behaviors, possess low self-esteem or poor social skills. In some programs, participants’ children are at risk of, or diagnosed with, Conduct Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder1. Programs can be for parents of children of all ages, but are most often designed for those with children under 12 years old.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Improved child behavior

  • Improved mental health

  • Improved parenting

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Increased self-efficacy

  • Improved child development

  • Improved parent-child interaction

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is strong evidence that group-based parenting programs reduce conduct, behavioral1, 2, 3, 4, and emotional problems2 among participants’ children. Such programs also improve mental health1, 5, increase positive parenting skills, and decrease harsh parenting practices for parents in the short-term1, 6. Additional evidence is needed to determine long-term effects.

Group-based parenting programs using behavioral and cognitive-behavioral interventions have been shown to reduce conduct problems in children under 121, 2, 6. Such programs have also been shown to reduce emotional problems in children under the age of 4 who have or are at risk for these problems, and they may improve parent-child interactions2. Group-based parenting programs reduce stress, depression, and anxiety for participating parents in the short-term1, 5, 7, increase parental self-efficacy6, 8, and improve relationships between participating parents and their spouse6.

Group programs for teenage parents can lead to improvements in parent-child interactions9, and programs culturally adapted for ethnic minorities improve parenting practices10. Reviews of one program, Group Triple P, have shown greater effects for mothers than fathers6, 11. Prenatal and postnatal education programs for new parents appear to improve a range of outcomes including parenting skills, children’s development, and parents’ and children’s mental health, although group interventions often have smaller effects than individual interventions12. Group parenting programs appear to be less effective for economically disadvantaged families than individual interventions4.  

Overall, parenting programs with a longer duration appear to be more effective than shorter programs12, 13. However, effectiveness may decrease when programs exceed 6 months12; additional research is needed to determine long-term effects.

Group-based parenting programs have been shown to be cost-effective in children 3 to 12 years old with clinical levels of conduct problems1.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

There are many different group-based parenting programs; examples include the Incredible Years14, Group Triple P - Positive Parenting Program15, and Families and Schools Together16. A Group Triple P pilot program uses videoconferencing to deliver the curriculum to parents in rural areas of Kentucky15, 17.

Implementation Resources

CEBC - California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC). Information and resources for child welfare professionals: List of programs.

US DHHS-PEP - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U.S. DHHS). Child Welfare Information Gateway. Parent education programs (PEP).


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1 Cochrane-Furlong 2012 - Furlong M, McGilloway S, Bywater T, et al. Behavioural and cognitive-behavioural group-based parenting programmes for early-onset conduct problems in children aged 3 to 12 years. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews. 2012;(2):CD008225.

2 Cochrane-Barlow 2016 - Barlow J, Bergman H, Kornør H, Wei Y, Bennett C. Group-based parent training programmes for improving emotional and behavioural adjustment in young children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016;(8):CD003680.

3 Dretzke 2009 - Dretzke J, Davenport C, Frew E, et al. The clinical effectiveness of different parenting programmes for children with conduct problems: A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Child Adolescent Psychiatry Mental Health. 2009;3(1):7.

4 Lundahl 2006 - Lundahl B, Risser HJ, Lovejoy MC. A meta-analysis of parent training: moderators and follow-up effects. Clinical Psychology Review. 2006;26(1):86–104.

5 Cochrane-Barlow 2014 - Barlow J, Smailagic N, Huband N, Roloff V, Bennett C. Group-based parent training programmes for improving parental psychosocial health. 2014;(5):CD002020.

6 Sanders 2014 - Sanders MR, Kirby JN, Tellegen CL, Day JJ. The Triple P-Positive Parenting Program: A systematic review and meta-analysis of a multi-level system of parenting support. Clinical Psychology Review. 2014;34(4):337-357.

7 Townshend 2016 - Townshend K, Jordan Z, Stephenson M, Tsey K. The effectiveness of mindful parenting programs in promoting parents’ and children’s wellbeing: A systematic review. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports. 2016;14(3):139-180.

8 Wittkowski 2016 - Wittkowski A, Dowling H, Smith DM. Does engaging in a group-based intervention increase parental self-efficacy in parents of preschool children? A systematic review of the current literature. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 2016;25(11):3173-3191.

9 Cochrane-Barlow 2011 - Barlow J, Smailagic N, Bennett C, et al. Individual and group based parenting programmes for improving psychosocial outcomes for teenage parents and their children. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews. 2011;(3):CD002964.

10 van Mourik 2017 - van Mourik K, Crone MR, de Wolff MS, Reis R. Parent training programs for ethnic minorities: A meta-analysis of adaptations and effect. Prevention Science. 2017;18(1):95-105.

11 Fletcher 2011 - Fletcher R, Freeman E, Matthey S. The impact of behavioral parent training of fathers’ parenting: A meta-analysis of the Triple P-Positive Parenting program. Fathering. 2011;9(3):291–312.

12 Pinquart 2010 - Pinquart M, Teubert D. Effects of parenting education with expectant and new parents: A meta-analysis. Journal of Family Psychology. 2010;24(3):316–27.

13 Cochrane-Barlow 2010 - Barlow J, Smailagic N, Ferriter M, Bennett C, Jones H. Group-based parent-training programmes for improving emotional and behavioural adjustment in children from birth to three years old. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews. 2010;(3):CD003680.

14 IY - The Incredible Years (IY). Parents, teachers, and children training series.

15 Triple P - Triple P-Positive Parenting Program (Triple P). Small changes, big differences.

16 FAST - Families and Schools Together Inc (FAST). Protecting hearts and minds.

17 Reese 2015 - Reese RJ, Slone NC, Soares N, Sprang R. Using telepsychology to provide a group parenting program: A preliminary evaluation of effectiveness. Psychological Services. 2015;12(3):274-282.