To systematically review digitally assisted parent training programs (DPTs) targeting the treatment of children and adolescents with disruptive behaviors.
A search was conducted using PubMed, PsycINFO, and EMBASE databases for peer-reviewed studies published between January 1, 2000, and March 1, 2016. Reference lists of included and review articles were searched manually for additional references.
Broad search terms in varying combinations for parent, training, technologies, and disruptive behavior problems were used. We included English-language articles reporting on the effectiveness of DPTs targeting child or adolescent disruptive behaviors (eg, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder). DPTs designed to use digital media or software programs not to be primarily used within a therapy setting (eg, group, face-to-face) were included.
Study design, recruitment and sample characteristics, theoretical background, digital program features, user's engagement, and measures of child behavior were extracted.
Fourteen intervention studies (n = 2, 427, 58% male, 1, 500 in DPT conditions, 12 randomized trials) examining 10 programs met inclusion criteria. Interventions included self-directed noninteractive (eg, podcasts; 3 studies) and interactive (eg, online software; 4 studies) DPTs, remotely administered DPTs combined with professional phone-based coaching (2 studies), and a smartphone enhancement of standard treatment. Interventions were delivered over a mean +/- SD period of 8.7 +/- 4.2 weeks, most (11/14; 78.6%) were remotely administered, and all recruitment procedures included an outreach for parents outside of mental health-care settings. For programs with > 5 sessions, the mean +/- SD completion rate of available sessions was 68.6% +/- 13.1%. In comparison to no treatment control, self-directed programs yielded significant improvements in child behavior for children (age < 9 years, Cohend = 0.47-0.80, 4 studies) and adolescents (d = 0.17, 0.20, 2 studies). Overall, reduced professional support combined with DPT was not inferior to full-contact conditions and showed small improvement in comparison to usual care (d = 0.34). Preliminary indicators also suggested that technology enhancements may increase engagement and outcomes of standard treatment.
The current review indicates the efficacy of DPT across a range of therapy formats applied in real-world settings demonstrating the potential for increased accessibility of evidence-based treatment for youth with disruptive behaviors. Additional studies are needed to extend these findings and to determine moderating effects of different designs.
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