This review examines the effectiveness of positive parenting interventions aimed at improving sensitivity, responsiveness, and/or non-harsh discipline on children's early cognitive skills, in four meta-analyses addressing general mental abilities, language, executive functioning, and pre-academics. The objectives are to assess the magnitude of intervention effectiveness and identify moderators of effectiveness. We include randomized controlled trials of interventions targeting positive parenting to improve cognition in children < 6 years. Studies that include children with neurodevelopmental and/or hearing disorders were excluded. MEDLINE, PsycINFO, ERIC, and ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (October 2021) and citation chaining identified relevant records. Five reviewers completed screening/assessments, extraction, and risk of bias. Pooled analysis in Comprehensive Meta-Analysis (Version 3) used random effects modeling, with moderation via Q-statistics and meta-regression. Positive parenting interventions led to significant improvements in mental abilities (g = 0.46, N = 5746; k = 33) and language (g = 0.25, N = 6428; k = 30). Effect sizes were smaller and nonsignificant for executive functioning (g = 0.07, N = 3628; k = 14) and pre-academics (g = 0.16, N = 2365; k = 7). Robust moderators emerged for language and cognition. For cognition, studies with higher risk of bias scores yielded larger intervention effects. For language, studies with younger children had larger effect sizes. Studies mitigated selection and detection bias, though greater transparency of reporting is needed. Interventions that promote parental sensitivity, responsiveness, and non-harsh discipline improve early mental abilities and language. Studies examining executive functioning and pre-academics are needed to examine moderators of intervention effectiveness. Trial registration Systematic review PROSPERO registration. CRD42020222143.
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