May 08, 2014


The Supporting Parents on Kids Education in Schools (SPOKES) program is intended to increase literacy and decrease problem behaviors among children in their first year of school (kindergarten).  The specific aim of the program is to change four risk factors: ineffective parenting, conduct problems, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, and low reading ability. A number of desirable impacts were found. There was a statistically significant positive impact on parents’ use of particular play, praise, rewards, and time out. There were also  statistically significant positive impacts on parents’ use of harsh discipline and their reading strategies. There was a statistically significant positive impact on children’s conduct problems, oppositional-defiant disorder, ADHD symptoms, and children’s writing and reading ability. However, impacts were not found for behavior as rated by teachers.


Target population: kindergarten children exhibiting antisocial behavior

SPOKES is intended to address the low levels of literacy and high levels of problem behavior that often co-occur with children as they begin school.  The behavioral intervention consisted of the Incredible Years (Webster-Stratton & Hancock, 1998) group parenting program combined with a program designed to train parents to support their children’s reading at home, and change four risk factors: ineffective parenting, conduct problems, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, and low reading ability. The program consisted of weekly in-school group sessions for parents, over the course of twenty-eight weeks, one morning per week for two and one-half hours. The first twelve weeks addressed behavior (the Incredible Years program), the next ten weeks addressed literacy (with both a whole language and a reading component), and the final six weeks were devoted to review. The program cost was $3,800 per child. The literacy part of the program has an unpublished manual.


Evaluated Population: A total of 112 five and six year-old children in kindergarten classes in a London inner city community participated in the study, along with their parents. Children who were free of clinically apparent developmental delays and whose teachers and parents scored them above a cutoff level for antisocial behavior were eligible for participation. Participation was further dependent on the parents’ ability to understand English. The participants represented a disadvantaged group: roughly 50 percent were single parents; 35 percent of the mothers had left school at 16; 34 percent were minority families; and the poverty rate was roughly 35 percent.

Approach: One hundred and twelve families were randomized to the treatment (61) and control (51) groups. There were no statistically significant differences between the groups either on baseline scores or on socio-economic characteristics.  The intervention lasted twenty-eight weeks.  Median attendance was 15 of the 28 sessions offered. The implementing therapists were trained and received weekly supervision. Assessment of conduct problems was by parent interview and by direct observation of parenting, while reading ability was assessed by us of a psychometrically valid test. Data were collected on the children’s developmental outcomes both before the intervention and at the end of the whole program..

Results: There was a statistically significant positive impact on parents’ reported use of particular strategies: play (ES = 0.31), praise (ES = 0.59), rewards (ES = 0.41) and time out (ES = 0.38). There was also a statistically significant positive impact (i.e., reduction in) parents’ reported use of harsh discipline (ES = 0.48).  Parent interviews indicate a  statistically significant positive impacts (reductions) on children’s conduct problems (ES = 0.52), oppositional-defiant disorder, and ADHD symptoms (ES = 0.44); however, teacher interview did not indicate a impacts on child behavior  There was a statistically significant positive impact on children’s reading age (ES = 0.34), which increased by six months.


Web site: The Incredible Years – Parents, Teachers, and Children Training Series.

Unpublished manual: Sylva, K., Price, P., Crook, C., & Roberts, F. (2010). Supporting Parents on Kids’ Education in Schools (SPOKES) Literacy Programme: manual for Group Leaders. University of Oxford/King’s College London.


Scott, S., Sylva, K., Doolan, M., Price, J., Jacobs, B., Crook, C., Landau, S. (2010). Randomized controlled trial of parent groups for child antisocial behavior targeting multiple risk factors: the SPOKES project. Journal of Child Psychology and psychiatry, 51:1, 48-57.

Sylva, K., Scott, S., Totsika, V., Ereky-Stevens, K., Crook, C. (2008). Training parents to help their children read: A randomized control trial. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 434-455.

Webster-Stratton, C., Hancock, L. (1998). Training for parents of young children with conduct disorders: Content, methods, and therapeutic processes. In C. E. Schaefer & J.M. Briesmeister (Eds.), Handbook of parent training (pp. 98-152). New York: Wiley.

KEYWORDS: Children (3-11), Males and Females (Co-ed), Urban, School-based, Parent Training/Education, Reading/Literacy, Conduct/Disruptive Disorders, Parent-Child Relationship, Aggression

Program information last updated 5/8/2014.