Parent Training is a proven intervention aimed towards parents and treatment of various behavioral difficulties of their children.

Indeed, numerous international studies have shown the importance of a multifocal intervention. The latter must involve the family and the school in addition to the child (MTA Cooperative Group; 1999; 2004). Especially during the preschool age, intervention on the family context plays a fundamental role. The earliness of the intervention takes on crucial importance. The longer the wait to intervene, the more likely it is that dysfunctional dynamics will consolidate. Within these, in fact, the child can be both the cause and the victim of problematic situations.

The purpose of Parent training intervention is to structure, in a preventive perspective, a program that allows parents to establish positive behavioral and communicative relationships and habits. The Cognitive Behavioral Parent Training (PTCC) intervention has a specific effect in improving the sense of parental competence, partner support and attunement with their own child (Pezzica; Bigozzi; 2015).


During the Parent Training process, much attention is paid to observing the children’s behavior, within the parent-child relationship. It is important to facilitate the arduous task of reporting events as much as possible without interpreting them. The ultimate goal of Parent Training is twofold. On one hand, parents are sensitized and helped to understand how to interact with their child. In fact, they can develop realistic causal attributions in relation to their child’s behavior. Furthermore, they stimulate themselves to establish behavioral and functional communication habits which are the basis for building a peaceful and reassuring relationship. On the other hand, the process of parenting support aims to develop skills in managing relationship problems, in order to develop a sense of security and greater awareness in them.

PTCC courses work to restructure parents’ attributions about the negative behaviors of their children. In addition, a part is dedicated to teaching behavioral strategies (Vio, Marzocchi & offers, 1999).

Treatment based on modification of parental behavior is based on social learning theory, developed for parents of uncooperative, oppositional and aggressive children.

The three phases

The Parent Training intervention is generally structured according to three different “phases” (Vio, Marzocchi & offers; 1999).

  • The first introduction section involves understanding the problem, preparing for change and defining the problem. During the meetings aimed at understanding the problem, correct information is provided about the difficulties of the child. Realistic expectations are created towards the Parent Training intervention.
  • The second phase introduces various educational techniques aimed at managing the child’s behavior. The primary objective of this phase is to provide concrete help to parents to structure their life.
  • The third and final section focuses on the generalization and use of everything that parents learned during the Parent Training course. Attention will be paid to the recognition of “warning” events concerning the problematic behaviors of the child, in order to act in advance. 

The most effective Parent Training programs use a combination of written material and verbal instructions. Parents are taught to give clear instructions, positively reinforce acceptable behaviors, ignore certain problematic behaviors, and use punishment effectively. 

Alongside the teaching of behavioral techniques, the interpretation that parents make of the child’s negative behaviors is a very important step.

In fact, teaching parents to use these strategies is a hallmark of behavioral parent training. In conclusion, this is an intervention that has proven to be extremely effective in reducing both the behavioral problems reported by parents and the stress experienced by the latter (Anastopoulos et al., 1993).

Anastopoulos, A., Barkley, R.A. (1990) ‘Counseling and parent training.’ In Barkley, R.A (Ed.) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: a Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment. New York: Guilford Press, pp. 397-441.
Forehand, R., McMahon, R. (1981) Helping the Noncompliant child: a Clinician’s Guide to Parent Training. New York: Guilford Press
Lifford, K.J., Harold, G.T. & Thapar, A. Parent–Child Relationships and ADHD Symptoms: A Longitudinal Analysis. J Abnorm Child Psychol36, 285–296 (2008).
MTA Cooperative Group. Moderators and mediators of treatment response for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (1999), Archives General Psychiatry, 56: 1088-1096.
Patterson, G.R. (1982) A Social Learning Approach to Family Intervention. Vol. 3. Coercive Family Process. Eugene, OR: Castalia.
Pezzica, Sara & Bigozzi, Lucia. (2015). Un Parent Training cognitivo comportamentale e mentalizzante per bambini con ADHD. Psicologia Clinica dello Sviluppo.
Vio C., Marzocchi G.M. & Offredi F. (1999). Il bambino con deficit di attenzione/iperattività. Erickson, Trento.
Vio C., Offredi F. & Marzocchi G.M. (1999). Il Disturbo da Deficit di Attenzione/Iperattività: sperimentazione di un training metacognitivo. Psicologia Clinica dello Sviluppo, 3, 241-262.