Group-based parent training programmes for improving parental psychosocial health

Jane Barlow, Nadja Smailagic, Nick Huband, Verena Roloff, Cathy Bennett
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, (5): CD002020

BACKGROUND: Parental psychosocial health can have a significant effect on the parent-child relationship, with consequences for the later psychological health of the child. Parenting programmes have been shown to have an impact on the emotional and behavioural adjustment of children, but there have been no reviews to date of their impact on parental psychosocial wellbeing.

OBJECTIVES: To address whether group-based parenting programmes are effective in improving parental psychosocial wellbeing (for example, anxiety, depression, guilt, confidence).

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the following databases on 5 December 2011: CENTRAL (2011, Issue 4), MEDLINE (1950 to November 2011), EMBASE (1980 to week 48, 2011), BIOSIS (1970 to 2 December 2011), CINAHL (1982 to November 2011), PsycINFO (1970 to November week 5, 2011), ERIC (1966 to November 2011), Sociological Abstracts (1952 to November 2011), Social Science Citation Index (1970 to 2 December 2011), metaRegister of Controlled Trials (5 December 2011), NSPCC Library (5 December 2011). We searched ASSIA (1980 to current) on 10 November 2012 and the National Research Register was last searched in 2005.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included randomised controlled trials that compared a group-based parenting programme with a control condition and used at least one standardised measure of parental psychosocial health. Control conditions could be waiting-list, no treatment, treatment as usual or a placebo.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: At least two review authors extracted data independently and assessed the risk of bias in each study. We examined the studies for any information on adverse effects. We contacted authors where information was missing from trial reports. We standardised the treatment effect for each outcome in each study by dividing the mean difference in post-intervention scores between the intervention and control groups by the pooled standard deviation.

MAIN RESULTS: We included 48 studies that involved 4937 participants and covered three types of programme: behavioural, cognitive-behavioural and multimodal. Overall, we found that group-based parenting programmes led to statistically significant short-term improvements in depression (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.17, 95% confidence interval (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) and satisfaction with the partner relationship (SMD -0.28, 95% CI -0.47 to -0.09). However, only stress and confidence continued to be statistically significant at six month follow-up, and none were significant at one year. There was no evidence of any effect on self-esteem (SMD -0.01, 95% CI -0.45 to 0.42). None of the trials reported on aggression or adverse effects.The limited data that explicitly focused on outcomes for fathers showed a statistically significant short-term improvement in paternal stress (SMD -0.43, 95% CI -0.79 to -0.06). We were unable to combine data for other outcomes and individual study results were inconclusive in terms of any effect on depressive symptoms, confidence or partner satisfaction.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this review support the use of parenting programmes to improve the short-term psychosocial wellbeing of parents. Further input may be required to ensure that these results are maintained. More research is needed that explicitly addresses the benefits for fathers, and that examines the comparative effectiveness of different types of programme along with the mechanisms by which such programmes bring about improvements in parental psychosocial functioning.

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