Margiad Williams, Bangor University
Child behaviour problems are on the increase with one in five children affected by emotional and behavioural problems in the UK.
Behaviour problems are the main reason for referral to child and adolescent mental health services. Longitudinal studies, which are studies that follow the same subjects repeatedly over a period of time, have found that childhood behaviour problems are a precursor for adverse outcomes in adolescence and adulthood, including criminality, unemployment, substance misuse, mental health problems and teenage pregnancy.
Parent training programmes are the recommended interventions for reducing child behaviour problems. Numerous trials have shown them to be effective but there is contradictory research about effectiveness for different families e.g. parenting programmes do not work for disadvantaged families.
Using Individual Participant Data (IPD) meta-analysis, which collects individual participant data instead of the mean for a particular trial, data was combined from 15 trials carried out across Europe of the ‘Incredible Years’ parent programme. This has allowed for an exploration of the effects of the programme on different factors (e.g. social inequality and age effects).
The study was led by researchers in Oxford University and King’s College London in collaboration with partner institutions including the Centre for Evidence Based Early Intervention, Bangor University.
Overall, there was a significant reduction in child behaviour problems. The programme worked just as well for families living in poverty, lone parents, teen parents, unemployed parents, parents with low levels of education, and those of ethnic minority status. There were also similar effects for younger and older children.
This IPD meta-analysis is a world-first in parenting intervention research. The findings are important for those working with families as they emphasise that the programme is as effective for families of different backgrounds and children of different ages. Read the full research publications here:
Social equality – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2215036619301622