Effective Intervention Strategies for Behavior Problems (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Key Features of Effective Parent Programs

Several excellent literature reviews indicate that cognitive-behavioral family interventions are helpful for prevention and treatment of conduct disorders and promotion of social competence (Brestan & Eyberg, 1998; Taylor & Biglan, 1998). These reviews can help schools evaluate the appropriateness of particular parenting programs for their needs. Based on research, schools are advised to use the following guidelines to select an effective parenting/teacher intervention.

Broad-Based Content.  Program content and process must be relevant and sensitive to individual parent needs and circumstances. A focus on problem solving, communication with teachers, personal family issues, and other risk or protective factors in addition to parenting skills is more effective. Moreover, the combination of child and parent training results in better early peer interactions and later reductions in delinquent behavior and drug abuse (Kazdin, Bass, Siegel, & Thomas, 1989; Kazdin, Esveldt, French, & Unis, 1987; Kazdin et al., 1992; Webster-Stratton & Hammond, 1997). Although all these facets of interventions are not required for every family, the ability to integrate them into treatment clearly enhances the effectiveness of parent training, especially when parents are coping with issues such as serious depression, drug abuse, marital discord, or extreme poverty.

Cognitive, Behavioral, and Affective Components.  Programs that emphasize parents' feelings and cognitions and promote self-management as well as teaching behavioral "principles" have higher consumer satisfaction and longer-lasting effects. Programs should include parent–child relationship building through positive parenting practices and child-directed play as well as behavioral strategies such as time-out and loss of privileges (rather than relying on exclusively one focus or the other).

Length Greater than 20 Hours.  Programs that are at least 20 hours (extending to 50 hours) in length have more sustained and significant effects (Kazdin, 1987). Parenting programs offered in schools can be provided across key transition points such as entry to preschool, kindergarten, middle school, and high school. This approach provides a lengthier and more comprehensive approach and also provides parents with periodic "boosts" to keep up their efforts at home and to facilitate relationships with new teachers.

Early Intervention and Developmental Focus.  The earlier intervention begins, the more positive the child's behavioral improvements. This does not mean that programs for parents of antisocial adolescents should be eliminated but that it is far easier to impact behavior problems when children are young. Parenting programs should focus on a particular developmental stage and age. Programs that attempt to address issues for all ages are likely to fail because different parenting strategies are appropriate for children of different ages, and parents may be confused and frustrated by strategies that do not apply their own child's developmental level.

Collaborative Process.  Programs that are collaborative (i.e., parents are given responsibility for identifying their own goals and developing their own solutions with the guidance of the group leader) result in more parental engagement and fewer dropouts and are perceived as more culturally sensitive. When parents are involved in self-management (e.g., determining their priorities for home activities) and a coping or problem-solving model (vs. a mastery model) is used, programs are perceived as more meaningful and relevant to parents' needs and cultural traditions. This will result in greater parental attendance, retention, and behavior change (Webster-Stratton & Herbert, 1994).

Focus on Strengths.  Programs that focus on parents' strengths (as opposed to their deficits), assuming that even highly stressed parents bring knowledge and expertise regarding their child and their needs, result in less dropout, more involvement, and more behavior change.

Building Family and Social Support.  Programs that are offered in group format, encourage partners' involvement, and promote within-group relationships are more cost-effective. They also reduce parents' of isolation, increase their sense of support, reduce dropout rates, and result in lasting effects (Webster-Stratton, 1985).

Performance Training Methods.  Training methods need to be responsive to a variety of parental learning styles and should utilize "performance-based" training methods such as videotape modeling, role playing, and home practice assignments. Direct feedback, instruction, and active practice of skills are more effective than "verbal-based" learning methods such as discussion and written handouts.

"Principles" Training.  There is greater behavior improvement and generalization when parents are taught behavioral principles (not just specific strategies). Parents who understand the rationale behind parenting strategies and their long-term results are more motivated to implement them.

Parent–Teacher Partnerships.  Parenting programs that promote skills in school collaboration and help parents and teachers develop consistent home–school behavior plans are more effective than programs offered in isolation from schools and teachers. Programs that include teacher training result in more generalization and consistency of behavior improvements across settings.

Group Leader Clinical Skills.  Leaders who are warm, collaborative, nonhierarchical, nonblaming, and supportive and demonstrate a coping model are more effective than program leaders who are "expert," distanced, and prescriptive. A collaborative approach (i.e., leader acts as a "coach" to provide support and encouragement) will facilitate active parent participation and interaction. The "expert" model frequently fosters passive resistance on the part of parents. It is important that leaders receive appropriate training and ongoing supervision until they are proficient with intervention implementation. Many empirically validated programs have developed certification procedures for assuring that the program is delivered with integrity and a high level of quality.

Sensitivity to Barriers for Low-Income Families.  Programs should be accessible and realistic about the practical constraints of low-income families. This may mean providing child care, transportation, food, flexible meeting times, and community meeting places (Webster-Stratton, 1998a). Weekly support calls from leaders and group "buddy systems" help engage families and result in lower dropout and higher attendance rates, particularly in highly stressed families. Leaders can also help parents make up missed group sessions in a home-visit format.

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