Brief Parenting Interventions for Children at Risk of Externalizing Behavior Problems: A Systematic Review

Research paper by Lucy A. Tully, Caroline Hunt

Indexed on: 21 Sep '15Published on: 21 Sep '15Published in: Journal of child and family studies


We systematically reviewed the evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of brief parenting interventions, defined as <8 sessions in duration, in reducing child externalizing behaviors. While there is significant evidence to support the efficacy of parenting interventions of 8–12 sessions in duration, the public health benefit of these interventions is limited by low participation rates, high attrition rates and the lack of implementation by a wide range of practitioners. Brief parenting interventions have the potential to extend the reach and impact of parenting interventions and steer children away from a trajectory of life course persistent behavior problems. A search of four electronic databases was undertaken to identify RCTs conducted on brief parenting interventions. The primary outcome was child externalizing behaviors and secondary outcomes included parenting skills, parental self-efficacy, parental mental health and partner relationship functioning. The heterogeneity of included studies prevented a meta-analysis but characteristics of the studies were described. Nine papers summarising the results of eight studies with 836 families in five countries met inclusion criteria. All studies found significant improvements in parent-rated child externalizing behaviors, parenting skills and parenting self-efficacy, relative to control or comparison groups, with findings maintained at follow-up. Less consistent findings emerged for parental mental health and partner relationship functioning. This review provides initial evidence that brief parenting interventions may be sufficient to reduce child externalizing behavior problems for some families, however further research is needed.