Sep 12, 2008


The Social Learning Parent Training program is designed for parents who have been referred to child protective services for child abuse or neglect.  The program trains parents in positive parenting techniques like appropriate reinforcement and attempts to prevent negative behaviors such as physical punishment.  A randomized, experimental evaluation of the program found that the program was effective in decreasing parent perceived adjustment problems, child behavior problems, and parent-reported risk for negative behaviors.  Unstructured home observations indicate that the program did not have any impact on observed parenting behavior or on the adaptive abilities of children.


Target population: Young mothers ages 16-25 years with children ages 9-60 months who are at risk for child abuse or neglect

The Social Learning Parent Training program is composed of two behavior interventions that are modified for use with children.  In the first stage, parents and children attend 1-1½ hour long sessions in which parents are taught parenting skills to help them reward positive child behavior, ignore minor child misbehavior, communicate clearly with their child, and use appropriate punishments.  During this stage, parents learn through instruction, modeling, and rehearsal.  The second stage of the program focuses on improving child language and interaction skills.  Therapists work with children on vocalization techniques and parents observe the sessions so that they can repeat the techniques with their children.  Additionally, sessions are videotaped so that mothers can view their interaction with their child.  Also, in addition to the two stages of behavioral training, parents attend informational group meetings provided by the child protection agency and received home visits from caseworkers.


Wolfe, D. A., Edwards, B., Manion, I., & Koverola, C. (1988).  Early intervention for parents at risk of child abuse and neglect: A preliminary investigation.  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56(1), 40-47.

Evaluated population: 30 women ages 16 to 25 and their young children ages 9 to 60 months.  Mothers in the study averaged less than a high school education and were making, on average, less than $8,000 per year.  Mothers had verbal IQ’s of approximately 90 and children in the study were mildly delayed in physical and cognitive development.

Approach: Participants were selected from a pool of parents and children who had been referred to a child protective service agency.  Parents had to be younger than 25 years old and children in the study had to be between 9 and 60 months of age.  Mothers were then assessed using a brief interview, home observation data, and the Child Abuse Potential Inventory.  To be eligible for the study, parents had to have major problems in their parenting style, be at-risk for child abuse potential, and have home observations that suggested the need for parenting training.  Mothers who had severe mental problems, major substance addiction problems, severe intervention priorities, and those who were already receiving treatment services were excluded from the study.  After determining eligibility, parents were randomly assigned to either the intervention or control condition.

The control condition was a standard information group which was provided by the child protection agency.  The treatment condition consisted of two parts, one of which was the same information group which was offered to control participants.  Parents in both groups attended a median of 20 sessions.  These information groups occurred twice per week and each session lasted for 2 hours.  At the sessions, there were social activities like arts and crafts and also discussions of child-rearing topics.  During these sessions, children attended an onsite daycare.  The second part of the intervention was a series of 14 parent training sessions which lasted 1½ hours each.  Parents in the treatment group attended a median of 9 out of the 14 parent training sessions.  At the parent training sessions, in the first phase, parents were given instruction and participated in modeling and rehearsal activities which were intended to help parents appropriately give positive feedback and reduce negative interaction with their children.  Also, parents’ interactions with their children were observed during the second phase of the sessions in which a therapist communicated appropriate behaviors to the parent via an ear bud microphone.  After these observation sessions, parents viewed videotapes of their interactions and were given the chance to critique their behaviors.

At posttest, parents were assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and the Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAPI) to determine changes in parenting risk behavior, and parents in the intervention were also given the Parent’s Consumer Satisfaction Questionnaire to measure satisfaction with the program.  Parents and children were assessed using observational measures; the Dyadic Parent-Child Interaction Coding System and the Home Observation and Measurement of the Environment Scale.  Finally, children were assessed using the Behavior Rating Scale to determine the level of behavior problems that the parent perceived in the child.

Results: At the 3-month follow-up, the treatment decreased the number of problems associated with parenting risk and by the posttest; in fact, parents in the treatment group fell into the “normal” range on the CAPI instrument.  Parents in the intervention condition reported fewer adjustment problems than parents in the control group.  The intervention had no impacts on measures of praise, criticism, and physical negative behavior towards the child.  Parents in the intervention reported fewer child behavior problems and a lower intensity of those problems compared with those in the control group.  The treatment program had no impacts on the adaptive abilities of children.

On a subjective measure of satisfaction with the program approximately 85% of parents indicated that information groups were helpful.  Caseworkers rated parents in the treatment group as better managing their children and as having lower risk for maltreatment compared with those in the control group.

This study is undermined by high attrition (10 from the control group and 13 from the treatment group, of 53 original cases) and a small sample size.



Wolfe, D. A., Edwards, B., Manion, I., & Koverola, C. (1988).  Early intervention for parents at risk of child abuse and neglect: A preliminary investigation.  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56(1), 40-47.

KEYWORDS: Early Childhood (0-5), Young Adults (18-24), Youth (16+),  Clinic/Provider-Based, Child Care, Early Childhood Education, Home Visitation, Social Skills/Life Skills, Mentoring, Social/Emotional Health, Parenting, Adolescent Mothers.


Program information last updated 9/12/08