Randomized trial of distance-based treatment for young children with discipline problems seen in primary health care

Fam Pract. 2013 Feb;30(1):14-24. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cms051. Epub 2012 Sep 3.


Objective: Many parents of preschool-age children have concerns about how to discipline their child but few receive help. We examined the effects of a brief treatment along with usual care, compared with receiving usual care alone. Patients. Parents (N = 178) with concerns about their 2- to 5-year olds' discipline were recruited when they visited their family physician at 1 of 24 practices.

Methods: After completing mailed baseline measures, parents were randomly assigned to receive usual care or the Parenting Matters intervention along with usual care. Parenting Matters combined a self-help booklet with two calls from a telephone coach during a 6-week treatment period. Follow-up assessments were completed at 7 weeks post-randomization, and 3 and 6 months later.

Results: Behaviour problems (Eyberg Child Behaviour Inventory) decreased significantly more in the Parenting Matters condition compared with Usual Care alone, based on a significant time by treatment group effect in intent-to-treat, growth curve analyses (P = 0.033). The Parenting Matters group also demonstrated greater and more rapid improvement than in usual care alone in terms of overall psychopathology (Child Behaviour Checklist, P = 0.02), but there were no group differences in parenting. The overall magnitude of group differences was small (d = 0.15 or less).

Conclusion: A brief early intervention combining a self-help booklet and telephone coaching is an effective way to treat mild behaviour problems among young children. This minimal-contact approach addresses the need for interventions in primary health care settings and may be a useful component in step-care models of mental health.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00133055.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Education
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention to Treat Analysis
  • Male
  • Pamphlets
  • Parenting*
  • Parents / education*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Remote Consultation*

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN81511074
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00133055