Group-based parenting programs

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 Disorder (). Programs can be for parents of children of all ages, but are most often designed for those with children under 12 years old.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Improved child behavior

  • Improved mental health

  • Improved parenting

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased self-efficacy

  • Improved child development

  • Improved parent-child interaction

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that group-based parenting programs reduce conduct, behavioral (, , Dretzke 2009, ), and emotional problems () among participants’ children. Such programs also improve mental health (, ), increase positive parenting skills, and decrease harsh parenting practices for parents in the short-term (, ). 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 12 (, , ). 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 interactions (). Group-based parenting programs reduce stress, depression, and anxiety for participating parents in the short-term (, , ), increase parental self-efficacy (Wittkowski 2016, ), and improve relationships between participating parents and their spouse ().

Group programs for teenage parents can lead to improvements in parent-child interactions (), and programs culturally adapted for ethnic minorities improve parenting practices (van Mourik 2017). Reviews of one program, Group Triple P, have shown greater effects for mothers than fathers (, ). 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 interventions (). Group parenting programs appear to be less effective for economically disadvantaged families than individual interventions ().  

Overall, parenting programs with a longer duration appear to be more effective than shorter programs (, ). However, effectiveness may decrease when programs exceed 6 months (); 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 problems ().

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

There are many different group-based parenting programs; examples include the Incredible Years (IY), Group Triple P - Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), and Families and Schools Together (FAST). A Group Triple P pilot program uses videoconferencing to deliver the curriculum to parents in rural areas of Kentucky (, Triple P).

Implementation Resources

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

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

Citations - Evidence

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

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

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

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

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.

Date Last Updated

Nov 15, 2017