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April 2008Vol. 9, No. 3What Makes Parent Training Effective?

A recent analysis set out to identify the components of parent training programs that have the greatest impact on parent and child behaviors. Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 77 published evaluations of parent training programs designed to help parents of young children (0-7 years old) acquire parenting skills for managing problem behaviors.

The results confirmed that such training programs can change parent behavior and prevent or improve early childhood behavior problems. Four program components showed large positive effects:

  • Training that helped parents create positive interactions with their children had a significant effect on parent behavior and child externalizing behavior, such as noncompliance and aggression.
  • Training that required parents to practice new skills with their children during the training sessions also had significant effects on parent and child behavior.
  • Programs that included training in emotional communication had a positive impact on parent behavior.
  • Programs that included parent training in using timeout and in responding consistently to children's behavior had a significant impact on child behavior.

Results support theories regarding the impact of the parent-child relationship on child behavior. Training that can help parents acquire positive communication skills—and that reinforces those skills—has the greatest impact on parent and child behaviors. These results have implications for designing or adopting parent training programs that will have the optimum effects on parent and child outcomes.

The full study, "A Meta-Analytic Review of Components Associated With Parent Training Program Effectiveness," by Jennifer Wyatt Kaminski, Linda Anne Valle, Jill H. Filene, and Cynthia L. Boyle, was accepted for publication in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology and is available for purchase online:>