In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Parent Training

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Theory and Conceptual Framework
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • The Incredible Years Program
  • Triple P (Positive Parenting Program)
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy
  • Promising Programs
  • Self-Help
  • Parents with Intellectual Disabilities
  • Parents with Mental Health Problems
  • Effects of Parental Incarceration
  • Child Maltreatment
  • Father Involvement
  • Foster Parents

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Social Work Parent Training
Geraldine Macdonald
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 February 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 06 February 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0015


Children, particularly infants and young children, depend on their primary caregivers to meet many of their developmental needs, including adequate physical care, safety, and emotional well-being. Parents, and others in a primary caring role, also play a pivotal role in the socialization of children, helping them to learn basic life skills (dressing, eating, personal hygiene) and how to relate and interact with others. Many of the skills required of parents are learned on the basis of their own experience as children, from observing others, or from secondary sources, such as books or videos/DVDs. For a variety of reasons, some parents have fewer opportunities than others to acquire the skills necessary for adequate parenting. Parent training programs are designed to address gaps in knowledge and skills that parents need for the tasks they face. Many are also designed to address some of the social circumstances that exacerbate poor parenting, such as social isolation, and group formats are common. This article identifies resources relevant to (1) the major types of parent training programs designed to help parents become effective parents, (2) the development and use of parenting programs for groups such as those who maltreat their children, and (3) the development and use of programs for those caring for children with complex needs. It explores the rationales underpinning these programs and what is known about their effectiveness. The majority of parent training programs are based mainly on the behavior management principles that derive from social learning theory. These are used as the basis for structured programs that facilitate their reliable application, usually by trained professionals, but sometimes by trained and supervised lay people. One of the key underpinning principles is that the essential skills of parenting can be learned and practiced. Many clinical interventions target parents. This article does not cover interventions such as attachment interventions that seek to improve early bonding between parents and infants.

General Overviews

There are a number of excellent introductions to the role of parenting in child development, most—but not all—drawn from the field of psychology. Luster and Okagaki 2005 provides an introduction to Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model, which helps to locate the influences on parenting that occur at many levels (social, community, family, and individual). Hoghughi and Long 2004 is a collection of papers that together provides a comprehensive introduction to research and theory about parenting, and Richardson and Joughin 2002 provides a very practical, down-to-earth introduction to conduct disorder, and the role that parenting programs can have in preventing or addressing both this condition and child behavior problems more generally. Kazdin 2005 is a more scholarly text directed mainly at mental health professionals. These texts highlight the importance of attachment for good parenting, as well as the importance of good parenting (or caregiving) for all aspects of development, including brain development. The Cochrane Library is a key source of systematic reviews of interventions, including parenting interventions. The evidence base in relation to the latter is less well developed than it is, say, for socialization, but it is growing fast.

  • The Cochrane Library.

    Cochrane Reviews are a good source of rigorous evidence about the effectiveness and appropriateness of interventions in specific circumstances. Reviews are available online via the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, available through the main website. A complete Spanish version of each issue is published three months after its English publication date in La Biblioteca Cochrane Plus. Covers parent-training interventions.

  • Hoghughi Masud, and Nicholas Long, eds. 2004. Handbook of parenting: Theory and research for practice. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    An accessible introduction to theory and research about parenting. Its strength lies in its attention to the impact of parenting on intellectual development and well-being, and to parenting in particular circumstances, such as reconstituted families.

  • Kazdin, Alan E. 2005. Parent management training: Treatment for oppositional, aggressive, and antisocial behavior in children and adolescents. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This book is aimed primarily at clinicians in child mental health, but it is useful for those who want a reliable introduction to the background, principles, and concepts that underpin parent training.

  • Luster, Tom, and Lynn Okagaki, eds. 2005. Parenting: An ecological perspective. 2d ed. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Uses Bronfenbrenner’s ecological framework to explore the range of factors that shape parenting. Includes chapters on fathers, diversity, and children with special needs.

  • Richardson, Joanna, and Carol Joughin. 2002. Parent-training programmes for the management of young children with conduct disorders: Findings from research. London; RCP/Gaskell.

    This short volume explains what conduct disorder is, then briefly scopes the intervention field before focusing on parenting programs, with an emphasis on the Incredible Years and Triple-P programs. Particularly useful for newcomers to the field.

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