The Evidence Portal

The Incredible Years Shortened Basic Version

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 Shortened Basic Version is a shortened version designed for children aged between 2 and 8 years with disruptive behavioural problems (Reedtz et al. 2011).

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 Preschool BASIC Parenting Program Enhanced with Home Visits Program Summary in the Reducing Child Harm and Maltreatment Evidence Review.

Who does it work for?

One RCT was conducted with 189 families in Norway, who were self-recruited from the general population (Reedtz et al. 2011). Children were aged between 2 and 8 years, with a mean of less than 4 years of age. Sociodemographic status was mixed. 61% of parents worked full-time, 78% were educated to Bachelor degree level or higher, 80% were two-parent families. Children were excluded from the study if their Eyberg child behavior inventory (ECBI) Intensity scores were above the 90th percentile.

The studies 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: Reedtz et al. (2011) used the self-reported Parent Practices Interview (PPI) parent-rated questionnaire - Harsh Discipline subscale to measure this outcome at baseline, after the intervention, and at the one year follow-up. They reported a reduction in harsh discipline in the intervention group from baseline to post-intervention, and baseline to follow-up (p<0.01), with a moderate to large effect size, as compared to the control group.

Positive parenting: Reedtz et al. (2011) demonstrated a significant positive increase in positive parenting, with moderate to large effect sizes, using the self-reported parent practices interview (PPI) parent-rated questionnaire – positive parenting subscale.

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 Shortened Basic Version reduces the number of sessions from 12 in the full version, to the first six sessions. The six 2-hour sessions run weekly. These sessions involve face-to-face groups of 10-12 parents. The program is delivered in a public health care centre. Group leaders are trained nurses specialising in public healthcare, with experience in clinical work. Group leaders are trained according to certification procedures established by The Incredible Years program, and receive continuous supervision through observations, role play, and video reviews from a certified trainer and two mentors.

Integrity is optimised by facilitators/group leaders completing self-evaluations and checklists after each group meeting to keep records of the activities of each session and to ensure that the key activities and concepts have been covered; ensuring group leaders are supervised; video-recording parent sessions, which the group leader and/or their mentor evaluates; and inviting parents to complete evaluations.

How much does it cost?

Information not available

What else should I consider?

The program is delivered by specifically trained and accredited professionals. There are various adaptations targeted at different groups.

Where does the evidence come from?

  • An RCT conducted in Norway with a sample of 189 families, self-recruited from the general population (Reedtz et al. 2011)

Further resources

  • Reedtz, C., Handegård, B.H., and Mørch, W-T, (2011). Promoting positive parenting practices in primary pare: outcomes and mechanisms of change in a randomized controlled risk reduction trial, Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 52, 131-137.
Last updated:

16 Feb 2023

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