How much do we know about the long-term effectiveness of parenting programmes? Advances, shortcomings, and future directions

Publication Date15 June 2015
Date15 June 2015
AuthorMetin Özdemir
SubjectHealth & social care,Vulnerable groups,Children's services
How much do we know about the
long-term effectiveness of parenting
programmes? Advances, shortcomings,
and future directions
Metin Özdemir
Dr Metin Özdemir is based at
the Center for Developmental
Research, Örebro University,
Örebro, Sweden.
Purpose Parenting programmes are seen as feasible and cost-effective in preventing early behavioural
problems in children and adolescents. A number of studies have concluded that such programmes are
effective in reducing child problem behaviours and improving the skills and well-being of parents.
Nevertheless, less is known about long-term programme effects. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
Design/methodology/approach A non-meta-analytic discussion.
Findings Long-term evaluations of parenting programmes suffer from a number of methodological
weaknesses resulting in an inability to make robust causal inferences about child and parent outcomes in the
longer term. The current evidence is favourable but is likely to be biased by methodological weaknesses.
There is a need for more studies of greater methodological strength to obtain conclusive evidence that would
guide empirical research, practice and policy.
Originality/value The paper discusses weaknesses in long-term evaluations of parenting programmes
and highlights concrete future directions towards improving the quality of study design, evaluation and
data analysis.
Keywords Effectiveness, Parenting, Parenting programmes, Efficacy, Evaluation design,
Long-term evaluation
Paper type Conceptual paper
Decades of research have documented that children with high levels of behavioural problems
are more likely to be involved in delinquent and criminal behaviours and develop antisocial
personality disorders in adulthood (e.g. Satterfield et al., 2007; Moffitt et al., 1996, Fergusson
et al., 2005). The costs of untreated early difficulties are very high (Campbell et al., 2000).
According to recent estimates in England, the annual cost of a single persistent offender may be
as high as 1.8-3 million USD and the annual cost of conduct-disorder-related crimes to the
country may be as much as 37.5 billion USD (Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, 2009). Often,
the burdens on parents, such as high parenting stress, mental health problems and loss of
working days, are not included in these cost estimates. Overall, preventing early behavioural
problems in children is a public health concern. It is assumed that early preventive measures will
decrease delinquency, criminality and antisocial personality problems (Campbell et al., 2000).
One commonly advocated strategy to address these concerns has been to disseminate
evidence-based parenting programmes to help parents handle problematic behaviours in their
Received 28 February 2014
Revised 1 August 2014
4 June 2015
Accepted 11 June 2015
VOL. 10 NO. 2 2015, pp. 120-132, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1746-6660 DOI 10.1108/JCS-02-2014-0016

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