Based on evidence that early antisocial behavior is a key risk factor for delinquency and crime throughout the life course, early family/parent training, among its many functions, has been advanced as an important intervention/prevention effort. There are several theories concerning why early family/parent training may cause a reduction in child behavior problems including antisocial behavior and delinquency (and have other ancillary benefits in non-crime domains over the life course). The prevention of behavior problems is one of the many objectives of early family/parent training, and it comprises the main focus of this review. Results indicate that early family/parent training is an effective intervention for reducing behavior problems among young children, and the weighted effect size was 0.35. The results from a series of analog to the analysis of variance (ANOVA) and weighted least squares regression models (with random effects) demonstrated that there were significant differences in the effect sizes of studies conducted in the USA versus those conducted in other countries and that studies that were based on samples smaller than 100 children had larger effect sizes. Sample size was also the strongest predictor of the variation in the effect sizes. Additional evidence indicated that early family/parent training was also effective in reducing delinquency and crime in later adolescence and adulthood. Overall, the findings lend support for the continued use of early family/parent training to prevent behavior problems. Future research should test the main theories of early family/parent training and detail more explicitly the causal mechanisms by which early family/parent training reduces delinquency and crime, and future evaluations should employ high quality designs with long-term follow-ups, including repeated measures of antisocial behavior, delinquency, and crime over the life course.
Alex R. Piquero, David P. Farrington, Brandon C. Welsh, Richard Tremblay, and Wesley G. Jennings
U.S. Department of Justice, 2008