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What Makes an Effective Early Childhood Parenting Programme: a Systematic Review of Reviews and Meta analyses

Gao, Jie; Brooks, Clare; Xu, Yuwei; Kitto, Eleanor


Jie Gao

Clare Brooks

Eleanor Kitto


The widely acknowledged importance of educating parents in children's early years has led to a substantial number of parenting programmes aimed at various aspects of early childhood care and education (ECEC). A vast amount of research has been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of existing parenting programmes. By synthesising the research evidence, this study seeks to address the questions of whether early childhood parenting programmes are effective in improving parenting and enhancing children's development; and which factors of the programme design and implementation contribute to the successful outcomes of parenting programmes. A systematic search of bibliographic databases for reviews and meta-analyses of existing early childhood parenting programmes in the past ten years (2010-2020) was conducted through ProQuest, Ovid and EBSCOhost. Forty-seven review studies are eligible for inclusion. A thematic approach is adopted to synthesise the findings of reviews and meta-analyses. Overall, short-term positive effects on the various parent outcomes measured by the programmes have been reported with small to medium effect size across reviews. But the positive programme effects on parents do not guarantee improvement in children's development as mixed results are reported regarding the children's outcomes. Evidence of long-term effects has been far from conclusive due to the paucity of empirical research as well as the inconsistent results within the existing literature, suggesting more studies are needed to address this gap. Evidence of programme effectiveness is discussed with reference to theoretical frameworks, programme length/intensity, delivery modes, family-centred approach (incl., father-inclusiveness) and cultural adaptation. Based on the research evidence, a list of practical suggestions is proposed in order to improve the design, implementation and evaluation of early childhood parenting programmes.


Gao, J., Brooks, C., Xu, Y., & Kitto, E. (2020). What Makes an Effective Early Childhood Parenting Programme: a Systematic Review of Reviews and Meta analyses. UCL Institute of Education, Centre for Teacher and Early Years Education

Report Type Technical Report
Online Publication Date Sep 1, 2020
Publication Date Sep 1, 2020
Deposit Date Dec 2, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 8, 2022
ISBN 978 1 9989916 2 4
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