To systematically review and quantitatively synthesize the evidence for the impact of parenting interventions for incarcerated parents on parenting knowledge and skills, parent well-being, and quality of the parent-child relationship.
A systematic search of 19 published and unpublished literature sources was conducted between June and July 2015 (with no date, language, document type, or geographical restrictions). Studies were included if they: (a) utilized a sample of parents who completed a parenting intervention in an incarceration setting; (b) measured parenting knowledge and skills, parent well-being, or quality of the parent-child relationship as outcome measures; and (c) employed a randomized controlled trial or quasi-experimental design with no treatment, waitlist control, or treatment-as-usual as the comparison condition.
Two review authors independently determined study eligibility and extracted data from eligible studies, which included rating the risk of bias for each eligible study. Meta-analysis was used to synthesize standardized effect sizes, and subgroup analyses were used to examine the moderating effect of parent gender, level of child involvement, and research design. Twenty-two studies were eligible for inclusion in the review; however, only 16 studies (N = 2292) reported sufficient data for inclusion in the meta-analyses.
Parenting interventions were more effective at post-intervention for improving parenting knowledge and skills than no treatment, waitlist control, or treatment-as-usual [standardized mean difference (SMD) = 0.68, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.28, 1.06] and quality of the parent-child relationship (SMD = 0.27, 95% CI 0.02, 0.51), but not for improving parent well-being (SMD = 0.14, 95% CI -0.03, 0.30). There was significant heterogeneity across effect sizes for both parenting knowledge and skills and quality of the parent-child relationship outcome domains.
There were no statistically significant differences between subgroups, and the effectiveness of parenting interventions was not maintained at follow-up time-points. Existing evidence suggests small to moderate effectiveness for parenting interventions during incarceration at close to intervention completion. Further methodologically robust research is required to more confidently establish the effectiveness of parenting programs both in the short-term and in the post-release period.
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