Study shows benefits of parenting programmes


NEW RESEARCH shows high-quality parenting programmes result in improved child behaviour and provide major long-term benefits for both families and the State.

Researchers from NUI Maynooth have found that while it costs about €2,200 on average to deliver a programme per family, the health, social and economic benefits are estimated to be worth €315,000 per family.

As well as reducing childhood behavioural problems, the parenting programmes – particularly those delivered in group settings – are shown to have a positive impact on the mental health of parents.

Conduct problems among children are linked to issues ranging from higher rates of school drop-out to anti-social and criminal behaviour, greater unemployment, psychiatric disorders, as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

The lead authors of this review, Mairéad Furlong and Dr Sinéad McGilloway, say the results of the review have particular significance for policy-makers and could help guide decision-making over the implementation of programmes aimed at targeting childhood conduct problems in Ireland and elsewhere.

In Ireland figures show that 5-10 per cent of children between five and 15 years of age present with clinically significant conduct problems. The prevalence rates increase to 20 per cent in poorer areas.

Overall, conduct problems are the most common reason for referral to psychological and psychiatric services in childhood in Ireland.

Parenting programmes have become increasingly common as a way of tackling childhood conduct problems by helping parents develop skills to deal with their children’s difficulties.

The NUI Maynooth team reviewed 16,000 parenting programmes from the US, Europe, Australia and China. However, the data was only rigorous enough to review in the case of 15 parenting programmes from around the world, including two in Ireland.

Overall, 10 of the included 15 studies involved an evaluation of the Incredible Years parenting programme. This parenting programme was developed about 30 years ago in the US by Prof Carolyn Webster-Stratton, and is based on behavioural and social learning principles.

The review provides evidence that these parenting programmes improved childhood behaviour problems and the development of positive parenting skills in the short term, while also reducing parental stress and depression.

The analysis also found that programmes can be successfully implemented within different service settings, and are effective for families from all socioeconomic backgrounds, including those living in the most disadvantaged areas.

Two of the studies were based on an Irish evaluation of the Incredible Years programme.

All of the parenting programmes reviewed were delivered by two trained facilitators and typically consisted of 10-14 weekly two-hour sessions.