Evaluating the Group Triple P intervention

Business people talking at group meeting, photo by Igor Mojzes/Adobe Stock

Igor Mojzes/Adobe Stock

Triple P, the Positive Parenting Program, offers individual and group interventions in early years settings. Nursery staff and parents perceived a reduction in problem behaviours and a modest improvement in children’s language ability because of parent participation.

What is the issue?

Positive parenting has been identified as a key protective factor for healthy development in childhood and research has shown that parenting programmes are among the most promising strategies for improving child wellbeing.

The Triple P—Positive Parenting Program® is a parenting intervention delivered over eight weeks for parents of children up to 12 years old. It aims to improve outcomes for children and families by enhancing positive parenting through practicing parenting strategies.

While most research on Triple P has so far focused on child behaviour outcomes, the programme is also expected to enhance children’s language development.

How did we help?

RAND Europe was commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation to carry out an evaluation of the Level 4 Group Triple P intervention in early years settings, targeted at parents of children aged 3 to 4 years for whom nursery staff and caregivers had concerns around language and communication or children’s behavioural, emotional, or social 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.

From September 2019 to July 2020, 68 nurseries and 564 children and parents took part in the trial. The original aim was to evaluate the programme using a randomised controlled trial design with outcomes looking at the impact of Level 4 Group Triple P on children’s expressive language development and behaviour compared to ‘business as usual’ practice in control settings. An embedded implementation and process evaluation (IPE) was designed to look at factors involved in implementation, including barriers and facilitators. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, closures of early years settings to most pupils between March and May 2020 and the ongoing impact of social distancing policies in summer 2020, the planned impact evaluation element was not possible.

Instead, the IPE was redesigned with an additional focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on participating families, settings, and delivery of the intervention. Measures included surveys and semi-structured interviews with nursery staff and parents, and three standardised parent questionnaires delivered by nursery staff as part of the Triple P programme training.

What did we find?

  • Nursery staff and parents perceived a reduction in problem behaviours and a modest improvement in children’s language ability because of participation in the programme. In terms of language development, just under half of nursery staff (48 per cent) reported that they had observed an improvement.
  • On average, parents who had taken part in Triple P reported 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 per cent reporting that they strongly agreed or agreed that they themselves had seen changes in children’s behaviour.
  • Parents also reported reductions in anxiety, stress and depression, and increases in positive parenting.
  • 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.

What should be considered?

  • Given the relatively successful implementation during the evaluation and that Triple P was well received, researchers suggest that there is merit in conducting a trial of Triple P.
  • The role of practitioner skill in the delivery of successful parenting programmes seems particularly important, particularly with recruitment. Understanding the role of practitioner skills, how it works in practice, and its impact on outcomes would be most beneficial.
  • Evaluators and delivery teams of any future research involving parenting programmes could carefully consider how parents are recruited into the project to reduce stigma and support recruitment.