Level 4 Group Triple P (Triple P – Positive Parenting Program®) is a targeted parenting intervention that aims to teach parents 17 different strategies for improving their child’s social, emotional and behavioural well-being. Groups of up to 12 parents attend sessions over eight weeks delivered by a trained and supervised practitioner. The programme includes five two-hour group sessions where parents actively participate in a range of exercises to learn about the causes of child behaviour problems, setting specific goals, and using strategies to promote child development, manage misbehaviour, and plan for high-risk situations. Then there are three (15 to 30 minute) individual telephone consultations to assist parents with independent problem solving while they are practising the skills at home.
As part of the Home Learning Environment Round, the EEF partnered with the Department for Education and Leeds-based education charity SHINE to evaluate programmes that support parents to help improve their children’s learning and development before they start school. In this study staff in early years settings were trained and accredited by Triple P UK to deliver the programme to parents of 3 – 4 year olds.
Level 4 Group Triple P is widely used internationally and has been subjected to numerous evaluations. Two robust evaluations conducted in Hong Kong meet the criteria for the programme’s inclusion in the Early Intervention Foundation’s Guidebook, highlighting it can lead to improvements in children’s behaviour. It is believed that strategies within the programme could lead to improvements in children’s language development. This trial was the first independent large-scale randomised control trial that aimed to test the impact of the programme on children’s language as well as behavioural outcomes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and related disruption to early years settings meant it was unfortunately not possible to collect the planned independent assessments of children’s language nor all the teacher-reported behavioural assessments. Instead, surveys and interviews were rescoped to assess the impact of Covid-19 on families and settings, how it moderated the delivery and impact of Triple P in treatment settings, as well as capture the perceived impacts of the programme on children’s language and behaviour.
Nursery staff and parents perceived a reduction in problem behaviours and a modest improvement in children’s language ability as a result of participation in the programme. In terms of language development, just under half of nursery staff (48.1%, 13 out of 27) reported that they had observed an improvement. On average, parents who had taken part in Triple P reported (using standardised psychometric measures), that their child’s behaviour had improved at the end of the programme compared to the beginning. This was supported to a certain extent by practitioners with 44.4% (12 out of 27) reporting that they strongly agreed or agreed that they themselves had seen changes in children’s behaviour.
While there is a limit to the extent to which data collected as part of the evaluation can be used to draw firm conclusions on the programme’s impact (i.e. lack of the same measures in the comparison group and these measures not being collected independently), findings suggest there is some evidence that Level 4 Group Triple P can improve child social, emotional and behavioural outcomes and parental mental health, and to a lesser extent, children’s expressive language.
The EEF is currently considering if any of the funded projects impacted by the Covid19 pandemic could be re-trialled. We continue to be interested in evaluating projects that support the home learning environment.
Recruitment of parents into Triple P needs to be considered sensitively and requires approaches that avoid stigmatisation. This would need to be considered for future evaluations or successful roll-out.