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BACKGROUND: Specific programs are often implemented for specific child mental health problems, while many children suffer from comorbid problems. Ideally, programs reduce a wider range of mental health problems. The present study tested whether parenting programs for children's conduct problems, and which individual and clusters of program elements, have additional effects on children's emotional problems. METHODS: We updated the search of a previous systematic review in 11 databases (e.g., PsycINFO and MEDLINE) and included studies published until July 2020 with keywords relating to 'parenting', 'program', and 'child behavioral problems'. Also, we searched for recent trials in four trial registries and contacted protocol authors. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they used a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effects of a parenting program for children aged 2-10 years which was based on social learning theory and included a measure of children's emotional problems postintervention. RESULTS: We identified 69 eligible trials (159 effect sizes; 6,240 families). Robust variance estimation showed that parenting programs had small significant parent-reported additional effects on emotional problems immediately postintervention (Cohen's d = -0.14; 95% CI, -0.21, -0.07), but these effects faded over time. Teachers and children did not report significant effects. Additional effects on emotional problems were larger in samples with clinical baseline levels of such problems. No individual program elements predicted larger additional effects. Of the clusters of elements, combining behavior management and relationship enhancement elements was most likely to yield the strongest additional effects. CONCLUSIONS: The additional effects on emotional problems of parenting programs designed to reduce conduct problems are limited, but some clusters of elements predict larger effects. Our findings may contribute to realistic expectations of the benefits of parenting programs for children's conduct problems and inform the development of programs with wider benefits across mental health problems.

Original publication




Journal article


J Child Psychol Psychiatry

Publication Date



Conduct problems, additional effects, children, emotional problems, parenting programs