Program

ParentCorps

Apr 09, 2015

OVERVIEW

ParentCorps is a culturally-informed, family-based intervention that focuses on issues related to living in high-risk communities and the strengths that families living in these communities possess. Specifically, this program, which is delivered in a school setting by teachers and other school staff, draws on diverse family practices, as well as cultural values, beliefs, and norms, to help parents identify goals for themselves and their children. The goal of the program is to strengthen positive behavior support and behavior management at school and at home in order to enhance children’s self-regulation and early learning.

An experimental evaluation of ParentCorps revealed that the program increased effective parenting practices and decreased child behavior problems, compared with a control group. A subsequent evaluation found that ParentCorps increased academic achievement scores between pre-kindergarten entry and the end of kindergarten, as well as teacher-reported ratings of academic performance over those two years.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Ethnically diverse children in pre-kindergarten and their parents

The ParentCorps program consists of 13 two-hour group sessions for parents and their pre-kindergarten-aged children. The sessions are held in school-settings in the early evening hours and are facilitated by teachers and other school staff, as well as mental health professionals trained to implement the ParentCorps program. An additional component involves group-based and individual professional development activities for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers.

In the parent groups, the curriculum focuses on five effective parenting practices: establishing structure and routine for children; providing opportunities for positive parent-child interactions during child-directed play; using positive reinforcement to encourage compliance and social and behavioral competence; selectively ignoring mild misbehaviors; and providing consistent, non-physical consequences for misbehaviors. These parenting practices are introduced via 5-minute videos that revolve around three families in urban neighborhoods and that feature a well-known black television personality as the video narrator. Following the videos, the participants discuss culture and the cultural norms that surround parenting. The parents are then asked to set goals for their children, to visualize new parenting practices, to participate in group activities and role-playing, and to complete homework assignments that help apply the lessons of each group session. In the child groups, group leaders implement behavior management practices that promote children’s positive behaviors and prevent or reduce problem behaviors, including providing positive reinforcement to the children. The children are also shown some of the techniques that are learned in the parent sessions, so they will be familiarized with these new practices.

EVALUATIONS OF PROGRAM

Brotman, L. M., Calzada, E., Huang, K.-Y., Kingston, S., Dawson-McClure, A., Kamboukos, D., Rosenfelt, A., Schwab, A., & Petkova, E. (2011). Promoting effective parenting practices and preventing child behavior problems in school among ethnically diverse families from underserved, urban communities. Child Development, 82(1), 258-276.

Evaluated population: The evaluated population included 171 4-year-old children in pre-kindergarten in New York City (the average age of the children at baseline was 4.14 years). The sample was roughly equal in gender (56 percent were girls) and was racially and ethnically diverse: 39 percent were black, 24 percent Latino, 13 percent white, 12 percent Asian, and 12 percent mixed race/ethnicity. The population also included the parents or primary caregivers of these children. Among the parents/caregivers, the average age was 33.8, more than half (53 percent) were foreign-born, and one-third (32 percent) represented single-parent households. Most of the parents/caregivers that chose to participate were mothers (88 percent), with fathers representing 11 percent of the evaluated population and maternal grandmothers representing the remaining one percent. Families were eligible if at least one of the parents/caregivers spoke English.

Within the school district, the schools that were included in the evaluation were chosen because they had at least one pre-kindergarten classroom that was federally-subsidized to serve low-income children. Among the schools that were included in the evaluation, three-quarters (75 percent) of the children were ethnic minorities, and two-thirds (64 percent) were from low-income families (as assessed by their eligibility for free lunch, which is determined by being at or below 150 percent of the poverty line).

Approach: Two consecutive cohorts of pre-kindergarten children were recruited from 8 public schools in one school district in New York City. Randomization via a match-pairs procedure assigned schools into either the ParentCorps group (the treatment group) or the control group. Four schools were assigned to the treatment condition, and four were assigned to the control condition. In the second year of the evaluation, one of the control group schools discontinued its federally-subsidized pre-kindergarten program, so enrollment into the evaluation was opened in one of the remaining three control group schools.

Parents or primary caregivers were asked to provide consent based on their group (treatment or control), and were asked at this time to choose one parent or caregiver to participate in the evaluation. Parents/caregivers participated in an in-school interview to provide basic demographic information, then both parents and children participated in two in-home assessments: one in the fall of the child’s pre-kindergarten year (before the intervention began) and one in the spring of the pre-kindergarten year (post-intervention). The assessments included questions about parenting practices (measured by parental report and a parental knowledge test of effective practices) and the behaviors of the child. The assessments were supplemented by a videotaped observation of semi-structured play time in the home (unless the parent objected, in which case the observation took place in school settings). Additionally, the pre-kindergarten teachers filled out questionnaires about the child’s behavioral problems and parental involvement in school. Finally, the child completed an assessment of school-readiness.

The primary outcomes of interest were effective parenting practices (based on the two domains of parental reports of effective disciplinary practices and parental knowledge of effective disciplinary practices) and child behavior problems (based on the three teacher-reported domains of internalizing problems, externalizing problems, and adaptive behaviors). Two secondary outcomes of interest were parental involvement in education (based on teachers’ reports) and child school readiness (based on child assessments). An additional outcome of interest was parenting effectiveness, assessed via the observation of parent-child play.

Parents and children in the treatment group participated in 13 weekly group sessions which were held after school (in the early evening hours in school settings). The two-hour sessions were co-facilitated by a mental health professional and a teacher/school staff member who had been trained in the ParentCorps program. The control group received normal pre-kindergarten services (though teachers and staff in both the treatment and control group were trained in the ParentCorps program). At baseline, there were no significant differences in demographics or in measures of child or parent characteristics, aside from gender (there was a higher proportion of boys in the control group schools than in the treatment group schools).

Results: Compared with the control group, the ParentCorps intervention had significant, positive impacts on both effective parenting practices and child behavior problems at the post-test (meaning that parenting practices improved and child behavioral problems decreased). The impact was seen regardless of which measure of effective parenting practices or child behavior problems was used. The effect sizes (Cohen’s d) of the intervention on effective parenting practices and on child behavior problems, were medium (d=0.50 and d=0.56, respectively).

Additional analyses revealed that these impacts were not moderated by baseline measures of these constructs or by race/ethnicity. However, it was found that cohort status moderated the impact on child behavior problems (with larger impacts on Cohort 2’s behavioral problems than on Cohort 1’s problems).

Examining the other outcomes of interest, there were no significant impacts on parental involvement in education or on child school readiness. On the other hand, there were impacts on parenting effectiveness, and this impact was moderated by the baseline of this measure (the intervention increased parenting effectiveness among those who were low in parental effectiveness, but not among those who were already high on this measure).

Brotman, L. M., Dawson-McClure, S., Calzada, E. J., Huang, K.-Y., Kamboukos, D., Palamar, J. J., & Petkova, E. (2013). Cluster (school) RCT of ParentCorps: Impact on kindergarten academic achievement. Pediatrics, 131(5), e1521-e1529.

Evaluated population: The sample included 1050 children across 10 schools in New York City. To be eligible for the study, schools needed to have a one-year pre-kindergarten program with two or more classrooms as well as a student population that was at least 80 percent Black and at least 70 percent low-income. Additionally, individual students within those schools needed to have an English-speaking caregiver. The students in the sample were 49 percent male and 4.15 years of age on average at pre-kindergarten entry. The families of the children were 61 percent low-income, 85 percent non-Latino Black, and 10 percent Latino.

Approach: The size of the sample of schools was chosen based on New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) data on expected class size as well as the number of participants needed to maintain 80 percent power on a statistical test. Schools were randomly selected for an intervention (ParentCorps) condition or an “education as usual” control condition.

Data were collected on each student from the beginning of the pre-kindergarten year to the end of the kindergarten year via: 1) standardized achievement test scores given to the students at the end of kindergarten; and 2) teachers’ ratings of academic problems and progress over the two school years. To test the primary outcome of academic achievement in reading, writing, and math, students were assessed once, at the end of the kindergarten school year. To test the secondary outcome of developmental trajectories of academic performance, teachers reported a global rating of performance at the beginning and end of each of the two school years, for a total of four times.

Results: Students in ParentCorps schools scored significantly higher on tests of academic achievement (ES = 0.18). Additionally, ratings of teacher-reported academic performance were significantly higher at ParentCorps schools than at control schools (ES = 0.25).

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References:

Brotman, L. M., Calzada, E., Huang, K.-Y., Kingston, S., Dawson-McClure, A., Kamboukos, D., Rosenfelt, A., Schwab, A., & Petkova, E. (2011). Promoting effective parenting practices and preventing child behavior problems in school among ethnically diverse families from underserved, urban communities. Child Development, 82(1), 258-276.

Brotman, L. M., Dawson-McClure, S., Calzada, E. J., Huang, K.-Y., Kamboukos, D., Palamar, J. J., & Petkova, E. (2013). Cluster (school) RCT of ParentCorps: Impact on kindergarten academic achievement. Pediatrics, 131(5), e1521-e1529.

KEYWORDS: Children (3-11); Pre-school; Males and Females (Co-ed); Black/African American; Urban; School-based; Parent or Family Component; Parent Training/Education; Academic Achievement/Grades; Education – Other; Parent-child Relationship; Behavioral Problems – Other;

Program information last updated on 04/09/2015.

Subscribe to Child Trends

Short weekly updates of recent research on children and youth.