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Wild and Willful Kids: Can We Help Parents? The Effectiveness of a Group Parent Training Program Without a Psychiatric Label.

Many children with a classification of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder exhibit mild-to-moderate problem behavior. For these children, a stepped diagnosis and stepped care approach has been proposed. Although a psychiatric classification may bring support to families, it may also have negative consequences. Therefore, in this preliminary study, the effect of a group parent training program without child-bound classifications (named Wild & Willful, Druk & Dwars in Dutch) was investigated. In 7 sessions, groups of parents (experimental, n=63; waiting list control, n=38) learned strategies to deal with wild and willful behavior in their children. Outcome variables were assessed by questionnaires. Multilevel analyses showed that, compared with the control group, the intervention group had significantly lower scores on parental stress and communication problems (Cohen d=0.47 and 0.52, respectively), but not on attention and hyperactivity problems, oppositional defiant problems, and responsivity. Zooming in on the course of outcome variables over time in the intervention group, improvements on all variables were seen, with small to moderate effect sizes (Cohen d=0.30 to 0.52). Overall, the group parent training program without the need for a classification for children seemed beneficial. The training is low cost, brings together parents who are facing similar problems in rearing their children, and may help to reduce overdiagnosis of mild and moderate problems, without risking undertreatment of severe difficulties.

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