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.