Alex R. Piquero, PhD
University of Texas at Dallas
David P. Farrington, PhD
Cambridge University
Presentation to Campbell Colloqium
Copenhagen, Denmark, May 31, 2012
Early family/parent training programs
Piquero, A. R., Farrington, D. P., Welsh, B. C.,
Tremblay, R. E. and Jennings, W. (2008) Effects of
Early Family/Parent Training Programmes on Antisocial
Behavior and Delinquency. Campbell Systematic
Reviews 2008:11.
Self-control modification programs
Piquero, A. R., Jennings, W. G. and Farrington, D. P.
(2010) Self-Control Interventions for Children Under age
10 for Improving Self-Control and Delinquency and
Problem Behaviors. Campbell Systematic Reviews
Early antisocial behavior is a key risk factor for
continued delinquency and crime throughout the
life course.
Early family/parent training (EFPT) has been
advanced as an important prevention effort.
Relevance of EFPT to the prevention of crime has
been suggested in developmentally-based
criminological and psychological literatures.
1. Home visitation, with/without additional services.
 Work with at-risk mothers to improve their prenatal health
status, reduce birth complications, and provide guidance
and support in caring for the infant and improving the
quality of their own lives.
2. Combine parent training, daycare, and preschool for
parents with preschool children.
 Advance cognitive and social development of the children,
as well as the parenting skills of their caregivers, so that
participants will be better prepared and more successful
when they enter regular school.
Based on the notion that quality of parent-child
relations will facilitate learning of control over
impulsive, oppositional, and aggressive behavior,
thus reducing disruptive behavior and its longterm negative impact on social integration.
Attempt to change the social contingencies in the
family context and provide guidance to parents on
raising their children or general parent education.
Growth in the use of EFPT in many Western nations
as a method to prevent crime.
Canadian province of Quebec has taken on family
prevention as a key social policy.
Expanding into Dublin and Paris.
Research by Nagin, Piquero et al. (2006) indicates that
the public believes in prevention efforts (such as
early-child/nurse-home intervention programs), and
funding such efforts at an increase to taxes.
Focus on effectiveness of early family/parent training
programs implemented in early childhood for
reducing child behavior problems (antisocial
behavior and delinquency).
Assess evidence on the effects of EFPT on child
behavior problems.
Investigate the settings and conditions that make it
most effective.
Focus on programs through age 5 (of the child) in
preventing child behavior problems.
7 strategies were used to search the literature for eligible studies:
Keyword search performed on several abstract databases.
Reviewed the bibliographies of previous reviews of EFPT programs.
Performed forward searches for works that have cited seminal studies in
this area.
Performed hand searches of leading journals.
Searched the publications of several research and professional agencies.
Contacted scholars in various disciplines who are knowledgeable in EFPT.
Consulted with an information specialist at the outset and along the way.
Published/unpublished reports were considered in searches.
Searches were international in scope.
Studies were only included if they had a randomized controlled
evaluation design that provided before-and-after measures of
child behavior problems among experimental and control subjects.
Parent training or support had to be a major component of the
intervention, i.e., parent training was the central component of the
intervention, although not necessarily the only one.
Many different EFPT programs. One example is WebsterStratton’s Incredible Years Parenting Program.
There are a variety of abbreviated and age-appropriate
versions of this program.
Main purpose is to provide parent training to strengthen
the parent’s competencies in monitoring and
appropriately disciplining their child’s behaviors and
increasing the parent’s overall involvement in the child’s
school experiences to promote the child’s social and
emotional competence and reduce their conduct problems.
Typically provided by trained experts and/or through the
use of parent training videotapes.
Intervention sessions are provided in the home, the school,
or at the clinic and can be offered as individual or group
parent training.
Original search yielded over 4,000 hits.
Trimmed after duplicate sources, study did not meet
eligibility criteria, etc., ended in total of 55 studies.
EFPT is an effective intervention for reducing
antisocial problems and delinquency (d=.35).
EFPT is also effective in reducing delinquency and
crime in later adolescence and adulthood.
EFPT effect is robust across various weighting
procedures, and across context, time period, sample
size, outcome source, and based on both published
and unpublished data.
Advanced prior efforts by:
allowing for interventions through age 5.
 separating various types of interventions (parent training vs.
home visitation).
 updating database regarding EFPT programs through 2008.
EFPT should continue to be used to prevent behavior
problems in the first five years of life.
EFPT has few negative effects and clear benefits.
Gottfredson & Hirschi’s general theory of crime
is one of criminology’s most tested theories.
Little attention has been paid to the
malleability of self-control.
Different views on whether self-control is
G&H believe self control is malleable for the
first decade of life, but likely unresponsive to
external intervention after this point.
Meta-analysis is used to answer the following
research questions:
1. What are the effects of self control
improvement programs up to age 10 for
improving self-control among
2. What are the effects of self-control
improvement programs on delinquency?
Studies investigating the effects of self-control
improvement programs on childhood behavior
were included in the meta-analyses.
5 strategies were used to search the literature for
eligible studies:
Keyword search across databases
Checking reference lists from previous articles
Hand searches on scholarly journals
Search publications of research/professional agencies
Contacting recognized experts in the field
Most were group- (67.6%) or school-based (79.4%)
Most could be broadly characterized as social skills
development programs (32.4%), while others focused on
cognitive coping strategies (26.5%), video tape training/role
playing (20.6%), immediate/delayed rewards clinical
interventions (11.8%), and relaxation training (8.8%).
Many different types of programs but all focus on improving
self-control/self-regulation. As one example:
Reid and Borkowski’s (1987) versions of cognitive coping
strategies focuses on using psychoeducational tasks where an
instructor verbalizes correct self-control statements (“find out what
I am supposed to do,” “consider all answers,” “stop and think,”
“mark my answer,” and “check my answer”) while performing
various tasks, and then has the child repeat these steps and
verbalize these statements while performing similar tasks.
Exhaustive search procedure went from over 5,000
hits to 247 potentially relevant studies, to 34
studies used in the review.
Table 1-Descriptive statistics characterizing the 34
included studies (61.8% published).
Table 4- Mean Effect Sizes by outcome type and
Figure 1- Standardized Mean Difference Effect
Sizes for Self Control.
Figure 2- Standardized Mean Difference Effect
Sizes for Delinquency.
Analyses of 34 studies indicate:
1. Self-control improvement programs improve a
child’s/adolescent’s self-control.
2. Interventions reduce delinquency.
3. Positive effects hold across numerous moderator
Reviews indicate that early childhood family/parent
training programs and self-control modification
programs are effective at:
Improving parental socialization efforts and child’s selfcontrol
 Reducing antisocial behavior/delinquency
 Improving outcomes across life domains
These programs are:
Cost-effective (benefits outweigh the cost~~$2:1 - $4:1)
 Evidence-based (almost no ill effects and many more
positive effects across wide range of data/studies)
 Well-supported by wide range of public and political
Expansion of programs and analyses across
wider range of samples—especially higher-risk
Expansion of data analyses to look at long-term
Expansion of outcome criteria to look at adult
life domains, i.e., educational attainment,
employment, inter-personal relationships.
Measure the costs/benefits of interventions
across the life course.

On the malleability of Self Control: Theoretical and Policy