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 (Cochrane-Furlong 2012*). 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 (Cochrane-Furlong 2012*, Cochrane-Barlow 2016*, Dretzke 2009, Lundahl 2006*), and emotional problems (Cochrane-Barlow 2016*) among participants’ children. Such programs also improve mental health (Cochrane-Furlong 2012*, Cochrane-Barlow 2014*), increase positive parenting skills, and decrease harsh parenting practices for parents in the short-term (Cochrane-Furlong 2012*, Sanders 2014*). 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 (Cochrane-Furlong 2012*, Cochrane-Barlow 2016*, Sanders 2014*). 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 (Cochrane-Barlow 2016*). Group-based parenting programs reduce stress, depression, and anxiety for participating parents in the short-term (Cochrane-Furlong 2012*, Cochrane-Barlow 2014*, Townshend 2016*), increase parental self-efficacy (Wittkowski 2016, Sanders 2014*), and improve relationships between participating parents and their spouse (Sanders 2014*).

Group programs for teenage parents can lead to improvements in parent-child interactions (Cochrane-Barlow 2011*), 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 (Sanders 2014*, Fletcher 2011*). 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 (Pinquart 2010*). Group parenting programs appear to be less effective for economically disadvantaged families than individual interventions (Lundahl 2006*).  

Overall, parenting programs with a longer duration appear to be more effective than shorter programs (Cochrane-Barlow 2010*, Pinquart 2010*). However, effectiveness may decrease when programs exceed 6 months (Pinquart 2010*); 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 (Cochrane-Furlong 2012*).

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 (Reese 2015*, 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-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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

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

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

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

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.

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