Meta-analysis finds parenting interventions work best in helping children with disruptive behaviour problems

A meta-analysis published in the journal Paediatrics has identified the critical role that parents play in interventions aimed at helping children with disruptive behaviour problems and suggests policy makers should take note.

US researchers led by Dr Richard Epstein found that parenting interventions work better either on their own or in combination with other interventions when compared to child-only interventions for children with disruptive problems, the review of previously published studies found.

Results from the meta-analysis also show that all intervention categories were more effective than the treatment as usual/control category.

The authors of Psychosocial Interventions for Child Disruptive Behaviors: A Meta-analysis write:

“Our meta-analytic model suggested that interventions categorized as multi-component interventions and interventions with only a parent component were approximately equivalent in their expected effectiveness (43% probability of being best treatment), whereas interventions with only a child component were estimated to be less effective (14% probability of being best).’’

While existing reviews report positive outcomes for cognitive-behavioral therapy,  behaviour management, and parenting interventions, either alone or in combination with family-based approaches, the authors suggest that evidence for interventions with a child-only component was limited because of the small number of studies and that the estimate for child-only interventions was imprecise. They continue:

“Given recent trends indicating reduced use of behavioural health services and increasing use of psychotropic medications, especially for children with disruptive behaviour disorders, we believe these findings have important policy and practice implications.’’

Triple P founder and director of the University of Queensland’s Parenting and Family Support Centre, Professor Matt Sanders, said the research added to the body of evidence highlighting the importance of parent-focused interventions in treating child disruptive behaviours, including Triple P.

A meta-analysis of more than 100 studies of Triple P has demonstrated positive impacts for child and parent outcomes.

“The current study suggests to parents, practitioners and policy makers that parent interventions may be the most effective means of helping children with disruptive behaviour problems. It points out that these kinds of problems are among the most common child and adolescent psychiatric disorders and are associated with significant impairment,’’ Professor Sanders said.

As the study authors suggest:

“Policymakers may consider incentivising psychosocial interventions that include a parent component to increase the delivery of interventions that have the greatest potential to improve care for these vulnerable children and families.’’