Empirical evidence indicates that poor parenting and child exposure to marital conflict are powerful predictors of psychological disorders in children. Yet, these two risk factors have been found to be mediated by preventive interventions. Bodenmann et al. (2008) conducted a randomized control trial in Switzerland to determine the effectiveness of a parenting program to improve parenting skills and children’s well-being. The Triple P-Positive Parenting Program is a multi-level program for parents to enhance their knowledge, skills, and confidence as caregivers. Researchers used public advertisements to recruit couples (N=150) with children between the ages of 2 and 12 years old. Couples were randomly assigned to one of three programs: a parenting-oriented program (Triple P), a marriage-oriented couples coping enhancement training (CCET), or a non-treatment control group. Data were gathered using self-report questionnaires measuring marital relationship, parenting, and child behavior. Questionnaires were administered to both parents at four separate times: (1) two weeks prior to intervention, (2) two weeks after completion of intervention, (3) six-months follow-up, and (4) one-year follow-up. The control group completed questionnaires at the same time as the other groups. Results indicated that mothers in the Triple P group showed improvements in parenting and parenting self-esteem, a decrease in parenting stressors, and lower rates of reports of child misbehavior as compared to the other two groups. Fathers in all three groups showed no improvements in parenting behaviors.
The strength of this study is in its randomized control design, allowing researchers to determine the effectiveness of Triple P, while ruling out the plausible competing hypothesis, a marriage-oriented program. Overall, the attrition rate was fairly small and heterogenous across groups, though there was a higher rate of dropout among fathers (13.3%) than mothers (10.7%). Furthermore, the lack of significant results from the fathers was surprising in that both mothers and fathers equally participated in the Triple P program. On the other hand, it was not surprising considering the authors’ hypothesis that mothers would benefit more from Triple P than fathers, because the former are more likely to be directly involved in child rearing, especially in the Swiss context. This raises an interesting question about the importance of paternal involvement in the efficacy of Triple P, which might indicate an area of future research. One limitation of the study is the single source of data relying on parent self-report. For example, the parent’s positive or negative views of their own parenting skills may have impacted how they rate their own child’s behavior. The study could have been strengthened if data included assessments from external sources (e.g., therapist, clinician) or even child self-reports, (although the authors do concede that the mean age of the children was 6.6 years). Overall, this study adds to the growing body of evidence about what programs are effective for improving parenting skills and child behavior.
Bodenmann, G., Cina, A., Ledermann, T., and Sanders, M.R. (2008). The efficacy of the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program in improving parenting and child behavior: a comparison with two other treatment conditions. Behavior Research and Therapy, 46, 411-427.