Efficacy of the Incredible Years group parent program with families in Head Start who self-reported a history of child maltreatment

Michael S Hurlburt, Katherine Nguyen, Jamila Reid, Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Jinjin Zhang
Child Abuse & Neglect 2013, 37 (8): 531-43

OBJECTIVE: A prevention form of the Incredible Years (IY) parenting program was offered to parents who had children enrolled in Head Start, regardless of whether they reported having a history of child maltreatment. This study compared whether parenting practices and child behavioral outcomes differed in families who self reported a history of child maltreatment relative to families who did not.

METHODS: A site-randomized controlled trial of the IY parenting program was conducted in 64 classrooms in seven Head Start centers in Seattle, Washington. Families of 481 children took part in the study, with 335 in the IY condition and 146 in the control condition. Parenting practices and child behavior were measured by blinded raters through in-home observations and self-report questionnaires prior to the start of the IY program, in the spring after the IY program had concluded, and 12-18 months after study enrollment when children were in kindergarten. Analyses examine the impact of the IY program on parenting practices and children's behavior, exploring whether the program had differential impacts for parents with and without a self-reported history of child maltreatment.

RESULTS: The IY program resulted in improvements along many parenting dimensions and on characteristics of observed child behavior. Program impacts were similar for parents who did and did not report a history of child maltreatment. However, parents with a reported history of prior maltreatment had greater initial room for improvement in areas such as harsh/critical parenting, nurturing/supportive parenting, and discipline competence than parents without such a history.

CONCLUSIONS: The IY parenting program has positive impacts for parents who self-reported a history of child maltreatment. While similar benefits were observed for both groups of parents in this study, results support delivering evidence-based parenting programs of longer duration and higher intensity than often used by agencies serving parents in contact with child welfare.

PRACTICE: Agencies serving parents referred for child maltreatment should carefully examine the characteristics of the parenting programs they deliver. Use of a parenting program that has a sound base of empirical support, such as IY, and sufficient intensity and duration, is likely to make substantial changes in parents' child-rearing practices.

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