Parenting and Family-Based Intervention:  A Critical Facet of Prevention

By Ron Prinz and Neil Wollman

Numerous parenting and family-based interventions have been empirically tested over the past several decades and found to be effective in ameliorating many of the problems too often experienced by children and adolescents (e.g., social, emotional, and behavioral problems; child maltreatment; difficulties at school entry; strained parent-child relationships, adolescent misconduct, mental health issues, and substance abuse).  Many of these parenting/family-based interventions are applicable at various stages of problem development, from primary prevention to early detection and intervention to treatment of problems that have become more entrenched.  


Below are some key references and resources for evidence-based parenting interventions.

A paper that reviews the tested and effective family focused prevention programs that have been identified as “Model” and “Promising” by Blueprints and advocates for providing such family focused preventive interventions through primary health care to overcome stigma associated with participating in parenting programs.

Leslie, Laurel, et al. (2016)  Primary Health Care: Potential Home for Family-Focused Preventive Interventions.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine


Robert McMahon, Ph.D. has provided an excellent overview regarding this area, the conceptual foundations of effective parenting interventions, and specifically a showcasing of the strong interventions for early childhood.

McMahon, R.J. (2015). Parent management training interventions for preschool-age children (pp. 1-8). Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. Montreal, Quebec:  Center of Excellence for Early Childhood Development.


An overview article explaining the common elements of effective parenting.

Prinz, R.J. (2012). Effective parenting to prevent adverse outcomes and promote child well-being at a population level. In D. Mick, S. Pettigrew, C. Pechmann, & J. Ozanne (Eds.), Transformative consumer research for personal and collective well-being, pp. 285-598. New York: Taylor & Francis.


Parenting interventions can fit with a public health strategy aimed at the prevention of child maltreatment.  Here are a couple of relevant articles on this topic:

Prinz, R.J. (2016). Parenting and family support within a broad child abuse prevention strategy. Child Abuse & Neglect, 51, 400-406.

Prinz et al. (2009 & 2016): Population-wide approach to prevention of child maltreatment (published in Prevention Science).



The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy provides recommendations on tested programs including some parenting/family-based interventions. Even though the CEBP is no longer operating, its website provides some very good leads on programs.


Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development is an excellent source for all kinds of evidence-based prevention and intervention programs including parenting and family-based programs. Blueprints describes many programs and provides useful information about evaluations of each. Some programs have progressed beyond Blueprints updates, but it is nonetheless a valuable starting point for finding programs. It is recommended to concentrate on programs identified as either “model” or “promising.” Here is their website .


Cost-benefit analyses of various programs including most of the evidence-based parenting and family interventions can be found at the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. WSIPP looks at several relevant domains including early childhood, child welfare (including prevention of child maltreatment), delinquency, and other relevant areas. See their website .


Of additional note is that there is work going on in the United States to strengthen the link between parenting programs and primary health care. The National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives is involved in this work and has co-hosted a Congressional briefing  on this topic.


There are also related resources available at the website for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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