The Evidence Portal

Parent Training Program

About the program

The Parent Training Program aims to improve the parent–child relationship and decrease parental stress by reducing harsh parenting at the time of transition to primary school. Parents are taught to use more active listening skills, engage less in harsh parenting practices, use more praise and encouragement and set reasonable expectations in the rearing of their children. The program builds on Lazarus and Folkman’s framework of cognitive appraisal, stress and coping. It is also guided by the Health Action Process Approach (HAPA) which explains the psychological mechanisms involved in the gap between intention and actual change in health behaviour.

Who does it work for?

One RCT study was conducted in Hong Kong with a sample of 142 Chinese families in a large public housing estate (final sample 120) (Li et al. 2013). 63.9% of intervention group and 48.6% of control group parents were in the 30-39 years age group. Respectively 44.4% of intervention group and 48.5% of control parents had completed upper secondary school. Children were about to transition to primary school.

The review did not identify any evidence that the program has been evaluated in Australia or with First Nations communities.

What outcomes does it contribute to?

Positive outcomes:

Harsh parenting, Dyadic reciprocity: The program study demonstrated a positive effect on parenting, particularly harsh parenting practices and parent-child interaction (Li et al. 2013). Parents in the intervention group engaged in less harsh parenting practices, measured by the Perceived Parental Aggression subscales of Parental Acceptance Rejection Questionnaire. Based on self-reports, the intervention group had significantly better parent-child relationships than the control group, with a moderate effect size (Li et al. 2013).

No effect:

Parental stress: There were no significant findings on the Parental Stress Scale (Li et al. 2013).

Negative outcomes:


Is the program effective?

Overall, the program had a mixed effect on client outcomes.

How strong is the evidence?

Mixed research evidence (with no adverse effects):

  • At least one high-quality RCT/QED study reports statistically significant positive effects for at least one outcome, AND
  • An equal number or more RCT/QED studies of similar size and quality show no observed effects than show statistically significant positive effects, AND
  • No RCT/QED studies show statistically significant adverse effects

How is it implemented?

The Parent Training Program commences approximately 1 month before the start of primary school. Two trained social workers run the program with groups of 8 to 12 parents in each group. The program runs for 4 consecutive weeks, with one 2-hour session per week. Each session begins with a review of the skills or concepts discussed in the previous sessions. Three approaches are used to facilitate the learning process: metaphor (using the living plant as a symbol of growth and nurturing); peer learning (encouraging parents to learn from each other through group discussion);  role playing; and planning.

How much does it cost?

Information not available

What else should I consider?

Information not available

Where does the evidence come from?

One RCT study was conducted in Hong Kong with 142 Chinese families living in a large public housing estate, with a final sample of 120 families (Li et al. 2013).

Further resources

  • Li, H.C.W., et al. (2013). “Effectiveness of a parental training programme in enhancing the parent-child relationship and reducing harsh parenting practices and parental stress in preparing children for their transition to primary school: a randomised controlled trial.” BMC public health 13(1): 1079-1079.
Last updated:

16 Feb 2023

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