Primary and secondary effects of parenting and stress management interventions for parents of children with developmental disabilities: a meta-analysis

Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. 2007;13(4):357-69. doi: 10.1002/mrdd.20175.


A meta-analysis of the group intervention research for parents of children with developmental disabilities was conducted in order to characterize the efficacy of treatments in reducing depressive symptoms and other forms of psychological distress associated with stress in parents of children with developmental disabilities. An extensive search led to the identification of 17 studies which were divided into three categories for comparative purposes: parenting education studies usually based on behavioral parent training, coping skills education studies based primarily on cognitive behavioral training, and studies that combined these methods along with other support services. Studies were rated for the quality of the research designs and of the reports. Consistent positive benefits were found in the form of reductions in parents' distress, and these effects were comparable to those reported in other syntheses of parenting interventions for parents of children without disabilities. The studies were evaluated in order to assess whether or not they met standards for established evidence-based practices. On the basis of the quality and number of the randomized trials, we present evidence to support the claim that there are established evidence-based interventions for reducing psychological distress at least in middle-class mothers in the short term. The interventions for fathers are promising as are the data on somewhat longer-term effects. The need for replications with a more diverse group of parents and longer-term follow-up were discussed. Multiple component interventions addressing both parent well-being and behavioral parent training were significantly more effective than either behavioral parent training or cognitive behavioral training along.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Child
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Education*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome