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CANparent Trial Evaluation: Final Report

The quality of parenting is a key issue for children’s development. It is one of the main predictors of children’s emotional and behavioural development as parents are the single most important influence on a child’s development (O’Connor & Scott, 2007). Poverty is an important factor in limiting many children’s life opportunities (Field, 2010), which is recognised by the Government’s child poverty strategy (DWP, DfE, 2011). However, effective parenting can enable children to achieve positive child outcomes despite social disadvantage and poverty (Kiernan & Mensah, 2011). Positive effects of parenting programmes have been demonstrated up to 10 years later (Webster-Stratton et al., 2011).

Parents may draw on the advice of family and friends, and the media, including research based but accessible books and magazine articles. There is now substantial evidence for the success of parenting programmes, particularly those targeted at parents of children exhibiting or at risk of exhibiting behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, or children with significant learning difficulties, sensory impairments or physical disabilities. The Parenting Early Intervention Programme was shown to be very effective in rolling out targeted parenting programmes across the whole of England (Lindsay et al., 2011, 2013). However, parenting is challenging for all parents. Furthermore, there is an increasing recognition of the benefits of early intervention (Allen, 2011). On the other hand, there is concern that parents may see parenting programmes as stigmatising.

The CANparent trial was a government initiative to examine the development of a universal offer of parenting classes potentially to all parents of children aged 0-5 years. The aim of the trial was to evaluate whether the free provision of parenting classes would provide sufficient incentive to providers to start offering additional parenting classes nationally, including for parents beyond the foundation stage and whether a universal approach could normalise and de-stigmatise parenting classes.