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Completed 2017

Are targeted parent training courses still effective when the trial ends?

Dr Vasiliki Totsika and Prof. Geoff Lindsay

Evidence has shown that training parents to manage their children’s behaviour reduces behaviour problems, increases parents’ mental well-being and improves parenting. Research has shown that gains from reductions in behaviour problems translate into actual societal cost savings by reduced criminality and improved employment and life chances in adulthood. Evidence-based parent training programmes are a significant tool in achieving these outcomes.

But does parent training work equally well when available as part of regular service provision?

When a programme moves from research to practice a very large number of factors change and these factors can also impact on how well the programme delivers its aims. It is important for researchers, commissioners, policy makers and service providers to understand whether the continued delivery of parenting programmes delivers similar outcomes when programmes are offered by services without researcher involvement.

The study aimed to address this question. We pooled together data from an effectiveness trial (Lindsay et al. 2011) and data from services that had been providing and evaluating parenting programmes without researcher involvement. Data from the effectiveness trial phase were compared to data from the implementation phase. Over 4,000 parents who received the same three parenting programmes (Triple P, Incredible Years, STOP) and came from the same Local Authority areas provided data on their own well-being, their parenting practices and their chidlren’s behaviour problems.

We have put together a short video that describes the findings from the study.

Findings from the study provide –for the first time in the UK- evidence that service-led implementation of parenting programmes without any researcher involvement is associated with significant improvements for parents and children; and these are maintained in the longer-term (1 year later). As we carry forward the commissioning and delivery of parenting programmes into the future, we can be more confident that these work as they were initially intended, even when service-led delivery is maintained well beyond researcher involvement in evaluation and despite all the changes we know take place when programme delivery moves from the research groups to the actual service providers.

We would like to thank the British Academy for funding for this study (SRG 2015-16).

In November 2017, we welcomed parent training practitioners and service providers in CEDAR where we held a 1-day conference to present this project, and all our work on families and parenting. The day was well attended with lively conversation and exchange of information. We thank everyone who joined us on the day, and the Institute of Advanced Study (University of Warwick) for funding this conference.