Parenting programmes have proven effectiveness in helping children of all ages. Although how they work remains unclear, particularly their mechanism of action.
This blog highlights an update of the 2003 Cochrane systematic review, which aims to explore whether parenting programmes improve the health of parents.
The reviewers conducted a comprehensive systematic review (following the robust Cochrane methodology) including all randomised controlled trials of group parenting programmes compared with a control.
Data was extracted on a range of primary outcome measures including, depression, anxiety, stress, self-esteem, anger, aggression and guilt. Eight meta-analyses were conducted.
48 studies were included, of 4,937 participants. These studies focused on 3 interventions:
- Behavioural (22 studies)
- Cognitive-behavioural (19 studies)
- Multi-modal or undefinable (8 studies)
The review found evidence for an effect on:
- Depression (SMD -0.17, 95% (CI) -0.28 to -0.07)
- Anxiety (SMD -0.22, 95% CI -0.43 to -0.01)
- Stress (SMD -0.29, 95% CI -0.42 to -0.15)
- Anger (SMD -0.60, 95% CI -1.00 to -0.20)
- Guilt (SMD -0.79, 95% CI -1.18 to -0.41)
- Confidence (SMD -0.34, 95% CI -0.51 to -0.17)
- Satisfaction with the partner relationship (SMD -0.28, 95% CI -0.47 to -0.09)
No impact was found on self-esteem.
Only stress and confidence remained significant at 6 months and none were significant at 12 months.
The reviewers also reported limited data on fathers (only four studies), with some short-term improvement in paternal stress.
The authors conclude:
The findings of this review support the use of parenting programmes to improve the short-term psychosocial wellbeing of parents.
These results do not enable us to address whether parenting programmes bring about improvements in some aspects of parental psychosocial functioning as a consequence of improvements in children’s behaviour and family functioning more generally, or as a result of strategies within the programmes explicitly targeting parental psychosocial functioning.
There was some evidence that parenting programmes lead to improvements in parent’s health as well as the children involved. However, these improvements appear to be short-lived and did not remain significant at one year. It’s disappointing that most of the studies excluded fathers, given that they have an increasing role in parenting.
Parenting programmes are multi-faceted, with numerous psychological theoretical underpinnings: no two the same! This presents difficulties for researchers when trying to make sense of what works.
Barlow J, Smailagic N, Huband N, Roloff V, Bennett C. Group-based parent training programmes for improving parental psychosocial health. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD002020. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002020.pub4.