Effects of early family/parent training programs on anti-social behavior and delinquency

Additional Info

  • Authors: Alex R. Piquero, David P. Farrington, Brandon C. Welsh, Richard Tremblay, Wesley G. Jennings
  • Published date: 2008-08-27
  • Coordinating group(s): Crime and Justice
  • Type of document: Title, Protocol, Review, User abstract
  • Volume: 4
  • Issue nr: 11
  • Category Image: Category Image
  • Title: Effects of early family/parent training programs on anti-social behavior and delinquency
Download files:

Early family/parent training programs are intended to serve many purposes, one of them being the prevention of child behavior problems including antisocial behavior and delinquency. While early family/parent training may not often be implemented with the expressed aim of preventing antisocial behavior, delinquency, and crime – sometimes these programs are aimed at more general, non-crime outcomes – its relevance to the prevention of crime has been suggested in developmentally-based criminological and psychological literatures.


The main objective of this review is to assess the available research evidence on the effects of early family/parent training on child behavior problems including antisocial behavior and delinquency. In addition to assessing the overall impact of early family/parent training, this review will also investigate, to the extent possible, in which settings and under what conditions it is most effective.

Search strategy

Seven search strategies were employed to identify studies meeting the criteria for inclusion in this review:

(1) A key word search was performed on an array of online abstract databases;

(2) We reviewed the bibliographies of previous reviews of early family/parent training programs;

(3) We performed forward searches for works that have cited seminal studies in this area;

(4) We performed hand searches of leading journals in the field;

(5) We searched the publications of several research and professional agencies;

(6) After completing the above searches and reviewing previous reviews, we contacted scholars in various disciplines who are knowledgeable in the specific area of early family/parent training; and

(7) We consulted with an information specialist at the outset of our review and at points along the way in order to ensure that we have used appropriate search strategies. Both published and unpublished reports were considered in the searches. Searches were international in scope.

Selection criteria

Studies that investigated the effects of early family/parent training on child behavior problems such as conduct problems, antisocial behavior and delinquency were included. Studies were only included if they had a randomized controlled evaluation design that provided before-and-after measures of child behavior problems among experimental and control subjects.

Data collection and analysis

Narrative findings are reported for the 55 studies included in this review. A meta-analysis of all 55 of these studies was carried out. The means and standard deviations were predominantly used to measure the effect size. Results are reported for the unbiased effect sizes and the weighted effect sizes and, where possible, comparisons across outcome sources (parent reports, teacher reports, and direct observer reports). In the case of studies that measure the impact of early family/parent training on antisocial behavior and delinquency at multiple points in time, similar time periods before and after are compared (as far as possible).

Main results

The studies included in this systematic review indicate that early family/parent training is an effective intervention for reducing child behavior problems including antisocial behavior and delinquency, and that the effect of early family/parent training appears rather robust across various weighting procedures, and across context, time period, outcome source, and based on both published and unpublished data.

Reviewers’ conclusions

We conclude that early family/parent training should continue to be used to prevent child behavior problems such as conduct problems, antisocial behavior, and delinquency among young persons in the first five years of life. Such programs appear to have few negative effects and some clear benefits for its subjects. It is important going forward that more stringent, experimental evaluations of early family/parent training be carried out and its outcomes assessed over the long-term (i.e., include more follow-up periods, especially follow-ups into late adolescence and into adulthood) in order to cast a wide net with respect to the outcomes under investigation to include non-crime life domains as well, and to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses of these programs.

Contact us