This thesis documents literature on the role of risk factors in the development of conduct problems in children. Conduct problems in children are common, and are associated with significant costs to the family, schools, and society at large. Behavioural Family Intervention (BFI), which targets family interactions, is known to be one of the most effective interventions for the management of child behaviour problems. These interventions have generally been applied with families where children already display signs of conduct problems. Their usefulness as a universal prevention intervention is largely unknown. The effects of BFI on the behaviour of at school is also largely unknown. The school environment is an important aspect of a child's life, and the degree to which parenting interventions impact on the children's classroom behaviour has not been adequately assessed.
The present research aimed to (a) evaluate the effectiveness
of a BFI (Positive Parenting Program - Triple P) on the family risk factors associated with the development of conduct problems when applied at a universal level; (b) evaluate the effectiveness of Triple P in reducing child behaviour problems in the classroom; and (c) investigate the mediating and moderating relationships between the risk factors for the development and modification of child behaviour problems.
Study One evaluated the effectiveness of Triple P in reducing the family risk factors associated with the development of conduct problems in children, and the effect of this intervention on children's classroom behaviour as reported by their teachers. All children entering year one at 25 State Primary Schools in Brisbane were asked to take part in the study, and schools were randomly allocated to either intervention or control conditions. Consistent with the Triple P multilevel model of intervention, parents at intervention schools were able to
participate in parent training groups and/or receive written information on positive parenting. 179 parents completed pre, post and follow-up questionnaires. 79 of these parents received both Triple P groups and newsletters, while 100 received newsletter information alone. The parents at intervention schools were compared to 244 parents of children from control schools. Teachers completed a standardised teacher report measure of child behaviour on all children in their grade one classrooms (n=495 children in control schools, n=490 children at intervention schools). Compared to control schools, parents in the intervention schools showed a significantly greater reduction in targeted risk factors, particularly dysfunctional parenting style. Following the parenting intervention, the levels of teacher reported conduct problems were also significantly lower in the intervention classrooms than in the control classrooms.
Study Two examined the mediating and
moderating relationships between risk factors known to be associated with the development of conduct problems in children and changes in both coercive parenting practices and child conduct problems. The sample of parents used in Study One was combined with a further sample of parents who had participated in Triple P groups run in Community Child Health Centres and analysed to investigate possible mediators and moderators of intervention effects. The results showed that the impact of the parent training intervention on dysfunctional parenting style was moderated by the child's gender, family income, pre-intervention levels of parental satisfaction in the parenting role and parental stress, and partially mediated by changes in parental satisfaction and efficacy. Further, it was found that the impact of the parent training intervention on the children's behaviour problems was partially mediated by dysfunctional parenting style, parental sense of competence and stress, and was moderated
to a small degree by family type.
This research provides important information regarding the usefulness and applicability of universal parent training programs such as Triple P. It shows that when Triple P is applied at a universal level it results in significant reductions in the risk factors associated with the development of conduct problems, and significant improvements in the classroom behaviour of children. A significant implication of this finding is the potential for parenting programs to be offered to the wider community with the aim of reducing the community prevalence of conduct problems in children. In addition, the current study has provided important information regarding the development of conduct problems in children and has provided further evidence to support the hypothesis that the effectiveness of BFI is mediated by changes in dysfunctional parenting style. This finding further validates interventions that aim to reduce child behaviour
problems by targeting parenting style, and suggests that clinical services would wisely be expended in the prevention of this risk factor.