From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Parenting Programmes: A Review

We have conducted a systematic review of evaluations of parenting programmes intended to reduce young people’s sexual risk behaviours. We sought all primary studies and reviews that contain an outcome evaluation of an intervention with some element of parental involvement, sex-related outcomes and an appropriate design. To be included studies had to be experimental or quasi-experimental, and to have baseline and follow-up data. The outcomes could be sexual behaviours, unwanted outcomes (e.g. teenage pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection), proxy indicators such as sexual health knowledge and cognitions, or parent-child communication about sex.

We identified adequately robust evaluations of 44 programmes. These were nearly all delivered in the USA but in diverse settings. In nearly all the parenting component focused on improving parent-child communication about sex. In general, where measured, parent-child interaction and adolescents’ knowledge and attitudes improved, but sexual behaviour outcomes only improved in about half the studies. Three programmes in which the parenting component comprised at least ¼ were found, through RCTs, to modify some aspect of adolescents' sexual behaviour. All involved parents for at least 14 hours, were community-based and encouraged delayed sex.

The review suggests that targeted programmes with intensive parental involvement can modify adolescents’ sexual behaviour, but the review was limited by lack of rigorous evaluations. Few programmes addressed behavioural control, parent-child connectedness or parental modelling, all dimensions of parent-child relationships suggested as important in observational research.



Wight D, Fullerton D. A review of interventions with parents to promote the sexual health of their children. Journal of Adolescent Health 2013;52:4–27

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Project Staff

External Collaborators

  • Deirdre Fullerton