The Evidence Portal

The Incredible Years Preschool BASIC Parenting Program Enhanced with Home Visits

About the program

The Incredible Years is a series of group-based programs for parents of children at different ages, developed by Webster-Stratton and others. The Incredible Years programs aim to teach parents positive disciplinary strategies (e.g., play, praise and rewards).

The basic program is a universal program. The Incredible Years Preschool BASIC Parenting Program Enhanced with Home Visits is an adaptation of the program involving additional sessions and home visits (Karjalainen, et al. 2019). It is intended for children aged between 2 and 8 years with disruptive behavioural problems.

The Incredible Years is premised on social learning theory and a relational framework. It aims to address child behavioural issues by modifying parenting practices. Specifically, parents are supported to improve their parenting skills through practice with their child, paralleled by role play; watching video-recorded program information; and collaborative and interactive group discussion. These activities collectively aim to increase positive parenting strategies (e.g., child-directed play, praise, and incentives; consistent strategies for managing child misbehaviour), and decrease negative parenting strategies (e.g., being critical and inconsistent). The goals of the program are to:

  • Enhance and support parenting skills
  • Increase knowledge of child development
  • Improve children’s positive behaviour and parent-child interaction.

See also Incredible Years Parenting Training Program Summary in the Preventing Child Maltreatment Evidence Review.

See also The Incredible Years Shortened Basic Version Program Summary in the Reducing Child Harm and Maltreatment Evidence Review.

Who does it work for?

One RCT was conducted with families who were currently clients of child protection services or social services in Finland (Karjalainen et al. 2019). The study had an initial sample size of 102 children and 122 parents, and post-intervention data was collected from parents of 98 children. Children were aged between 3 and 7 years old, with a mean of 5.3 years of age. The study sample was 97% Finnish-speaking families. The sociodemographic profile of the sample was mixed, with 14.7% parents describing covering their expenses with their current income as “easy”; 62.7% as moderate; and 20.6% as “difficult”.  Half  of mothers and 79.2% of fathers were employed. Amongst the mothers, 17.3% had no professional training, 57.1% had vocational education, and 25.5% had university education. In the father group, 8.3% had no professional training; 70.8% had vocational education; and 20.8% had university education. Single parents comprised 46.1% of the sample.

The study did not indicate that The Incredible Years had been tested in Australia, nor had the studies explicitly involved participants who identified as Indigenous or from a CALD background.

What outcomes does it contribute to?

Positive outcomes:

Harsh discipline/punishment: Karjalainen et al. (2019) used the self-reported Parent Practices Interview (PPI) parent-rated questionnaire - Harsh Discipline subscale to measure this outcome. They measured this at assessment and 3 months post-intervention.

Karjalainen and colleagues (2019) reported a significant reduction in harsh discipline, with a large effect size (Cohen’s d=0.83, p<0.001.)

No effect:


Negative outcomes:


Is the program effective?

Overall, the program has a positive effect on client outcomes.

How strong is the evidence?

Promising research evidence:

  • At least one high-quality RCT/QED study reports statistically significant positive effects for at least one outcome, AND
  • Fewer 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 Incredible Years Preschool BASIC Parenting Program Enhanced with Home Visits is an adaptation involving extra meetings and home visits, including 19–20 weekly parent group meetings, each 2 hours in duration, plus four additional home visits, monthly, with weekly phone calls. Face-to-face groups consist of 10-12 parents. The estimated duration of the program is 6 months. Dosage in this study included extra sessions and home visits added to the usual intervention for this population. The goal of the home visits is to enhance group learning and provide additional vignettes and practices exercises to complete at home on an individual basis.

How much does it cost?

Information not available

What else should I consider?

The program is delivered by specifically trained and accredited professionals. Preference is for the program to be delivered by accredited group leaders.

There are various adaptations targeted at different groups.

The Incredible Years Preschool BASIC Parenting Program Enhanced with Home Visits (Karjalainen et al. 2019) operated from local family counselling centres; and was delivered by family counselling services or child protection services workers trained in The Incredible Years program. Group leaders in this study were all trained. The program protocol included completion of  process checklists after each session. Group leaders received supervision and consultation. The program was delivered by family counselling services or CPS workers, trained in The Incredible Years program.

Where does the evidence come from?

An RCT conducted in Finland with a sample of 122 parents and 102 children, and a final sample of parents of 98 children (Karjalainen et al.2019)

Further resources

  • Karjalainen, P., Kiviruusu, O., Aronen, E.T., and Santalahti, P. (2019). Group-based parenting program to improve parenting and children’s behavioral problems in families using special services: A randomized controlled trial in a real-life setting, Children and Youth Services Review, 96, 420-429.
Last updated:

16 Feb 2023

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