Digital-based parent training (DPT) programs for parents of children with disruptive behaviors have been developed and tested in randomized trials. The aim of this study was to quantitatively assess the efficacy of these programs versus a control condition.
We conducted a systematic review and random effects meta-analysis of peer-reviewed randomized studies comparing DPT targeting children with disruptive behaviors versus a control group (wait list or no treatment).
Altogether, seven studies (n = 718) were meta-analyzed. Compared to the control groups, DPT resulted in significantly greater improvement in child behavior (effect size [ES] = 0.44, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.21-0.66, studies = 7), parent behavior (ES = 0.41, 95% CI = 0.25-0.57, studies = 6), and parental confidence (ES = 0.36, 95% CI = 0.12-0.59, studies = 4). The improvement in child behavior was moderated by age group and severity of clinical presentation, which overlapped 100%. While DPT was superior to control conditions in studies of young children (mean age <7 years) with a clinical range of disruptive behaviors (ES = 0.61, 95% CI = 0.40-0.82, studies = 4), results were nonsignificant in studies of older children (mean age >11 years) with a nonclinical range of symptoms (ES = 0.21, 95% CI = -0.01 to 0.42, studies = 3). Analyses yielded similar results of higher ESs favoring studies of young children with clinical range disruptive behaviors for parent behavior and parental confidence, but the differences were not significant. Results further suggested that in studies of younger children, interactive programs (e.g., computerized programs) were more effective in improving child behavior compared to noninteractive programs (e.g., watching video clips) (p < 0.05).
Although additional studies are needed, DPT holds promise as a potentially scalable evidence-based treatment of children with disruptive behaviors that can save human resources.
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