Structured Support for Parents
Expert advice for local authorities, voluntary and community services, and service providers on their parenting programmes.
Effective parenting is vital to tackling behavioural problems in children and young people. A team led by Professor Geoff Lindsay investigated the effectiveness of universal and targeted parenting programmes, and the factors that support their implementation in the community. On the basis of the research, the team worked with community partners to develop the implementation of evidence-based parenting programmes.
This project has directly improved the parenting skills and parent mental well-being of more than 13,500 parents, and the behaviour and well-being of their children.
About 15-20% of under-18s have behavioural difficulties which negatively affect their families. This can lead to long-term mental health problems and delinquency, at a high cost to society.
Most parents develop parenting strategies through informal support from extended families or books, but a significant minority need more structured help and support. Our team first investigated the effectiveness of the main programmes available in the UK, which were developed abroad (Australia and US), to examine their effectiveness and acceptability in the UK. They then worked with local authorities (LAs), the Voluntary and Community Services (VCS) sector and with providers of parenting programmes to implement effective parenting support.
Our team researched the effectiveness of parenting programmes, using several indicators including parental mental well-being, parenting skills (such as laxness and over-reactivity), parenting stress, confidence, and satisfaction with being a parent. Key findings include:
Effectiveness and acceptability of parenting programmes need assessing from small-scale randomised controlled trials to studies of sustained implementation in the community as part of ‘business as usual'
Evidence-based parenting programmes developed abroad can be as effective when implemented in the community the UK, indicating their suitability here
Targeted programmes lead to better outcomes for parents than universal programmes
Effectiveness depends on leadership, management, parental recruitment and the relationships developed with those parents during delivery, as well as the quality of the programme itself
Parents regard parenting programmes positively and not as stigmatising them or their families.
The project had several strands. The team worked with 11 local authorities (LAs) across England, providing evidence that persuaded councils to continue to use their programmes further despite shrinking budgets. This led to lasting improvements in parents’ mental well-being and parenting skills, and far fewer problems in their children’s behaviour.
The team worked with providers to develop the evidence and hence indicate the value of their parenting programmes. This included Triple P, probably the largest provider of parenting programmes worldwide, where our evidence has been used internationally and contributed to increased use of Triple P in many countries. Work with Parent Gym produced evidence of their programme’s effectiveness, which enabled improved marketing and information for parents, thereby increasing parent recruitment to Parent Gym’s free classes.
The project also worked with VCS organisations The team worked with the Early Intervention Foundation to support its initial development as a What Works? Centre. The project also provided strong evidence to support Family Lives’ development of the CANparent Quality Mark for parenting programmes, the only quality standard for universal programmes in the parenting sector. This persuaded providers of the need for stronger evidence of their programmes’ effectiveness and how this could be achieved through research.
In addition, the team continued its work on developing national as well as local policy on the use of evidence-based parenting as an important method for parenting support.