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June 2009Vol. 10, No. 5Providing the "Evidence" for Evidence-Based Practice in Parent Training

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examines the impact of 14 parent training program components on parenting and child behavior outcomes. By learning more about the effectiveness of individual components, parent training programs may focus on components with the most evidence for improving parent and child outcomes.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 77 articles published from 1990 to 2002 that evaluated training programs for parents of children ages 0 to 7 years old. Programs were deconstructed into their components to determine which worked well consistently across programs. The 14 components addressed either the content of the program or the method of content delivery. The two outcomes studied were (1) the acquisition of parenting skills and behaviors (e.g., use of effective discipline, nurturing behavior) and (2) reduction in children's externalizing behavior (e.g., aggressive, noncompliant, or hyperactive behavior).

According to the results, teaching the following parenting skills had the greatest impact on outcomes:

  • Emotional communication
  • Positive parent-child interaction
  • Consistent responses to child behavior
  • Correct use of timeout

Additionally, requiring parents to practice newly acquired skills with their children during program sessions was the most effective content delivery method, because it allowed teachers to provide immediate reinforcement and corrective feedback to ensure parents' mastery of skills. In contrast, teaching parents how to problem solve about child behaviors and how to promote children's academic, cognitive, and social skills had a smaller impact on outcomes. The report also concluded that offering a wide array of services as part of the parenting program did not lead to improved outcomes, suggesting that offering too many services may divert attention from the program's main objective of skills acquisition.

The full report, Parent Training Programs: Insight for Practitioners, can be downloaded, or copies may be ordered while available, on the CDC website: