All children misbehave from time to time, but in a small minority behavioural problems become persistent and severe. When a child gets stuck in a pattern of challenging behaviour they often feel unhappy, unsafe and out of control; and so do their parents.

One child in five has behavioural problems that can affect their future life chances, while 5% of children have the most severe behavioural problems, known as conduct disorder. Children with conduct disorder face the following negative outcomes:

The difference that parenting programmes make

Good quality parenting programmes can make a real difference to these children, helping parents pick up simple techniques to more effectively manage behaviour and support their child’s wellbeing.

"You get stuck in a rut for so long that it takes going somewhere and talking to other people to put everything into perspective. From the first session I was looking forward to coming back."

They also potentially contribute to substantial cost savings in the public sector. Despite these opportunities, only a small minority of children and families get the help they need to protect their children’s life chances.

Getting the programmes right

We have been working on conduct disorder since 2009, with funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. And we know that many barriers are hindering the provision of parenting programmes:

  • programmes do not always comply with what works 
  • many fail to target those who need them most
  • take-up rates are low and drop-out rates are high. 

In short, there is a big gap between the promise of the research and the reality of current services.

What you can do - In practice

The key to really effective parenting programmes is to follow what works. That means:

  • targeting the families with the greatest difficulties;
  • ensuring that any services that might refer parents knows about the programmes (includes schols, GPs, health visitors, housing staff etc);
  • supporting parents to enrol on the programmes so that there's a low drop-out rate;
  • ensuring the programmes are easy to access, in time, location, childcare;
  • recruiting and/or training skilled staff to deliver the programmes;
  • delivering the programmes as intended,including using supervision and coaching.

For guidance on how to implement parenting programmes well, read the summary of A Chance to Change (below) and see the full report for the evidence and detail.

Download the summary of A chance_to_change (502 KB)

We have also produced a set of briefings for different professions that might come into contact with parents in need. They describe conduct disorder, how to recognise it and what you can do.

What are parenting programmes like?

This video was made by parents for parents to show them what the programmes feel like and answer some common questions that parents have.