Social Competence Family Relations and Parenting Skills

Social Competence Family Relations and Parenting Skills

Interventions in this group aim to improve youth social competence by improving or enhancing parental or family influences on youth (PDF, 2 pages). Family relations and parenting skills interventions address parent-child relationships, family communication and functioning, promote positive parenting behaviors, teach parents how to support their children’s social skills development, or a combination. There are three types of interventions in this group: those that are oriented toward the family unit, providing services to both parent(s) and children; those focused on parent training, with minimal or no child involvement; and those designed to support children coping with family issues, with minimal or no parental involvement.

Family relations and parenting skills interventions focus on helping parents acquire parenting skills to improve family functioning, strengthen relationships with their children, and support the development of their children’s social competence. The youth components of these interventions tend to focus on building family communication and problem-solving skills, as well as healthy friendship and peer group interaction skills. Some interventions are delivered by therapists or counselors, but many involve a mix of paraprofessionals, specialists, and research staff. Providers deliver the programs through one-on-one, family, or multi-family sessions, often in community settings. These interventions frequently use modeling and role plays to practice skills, and group discussions. Sometimes parents or their children, or both, are given tasks to complete at home between sessions.

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Characteristics of family relations and parenting skills interventions (30 studies contributed evidence):

  • Interventions lasted 16 weeks, on average.
  • Sessions typically took place once per week (73%) or more frequently (23%).
  • Most took place in community settings (70%).
  • Interventions were delivered primarily with groups of parents/ families (40%), groups of children or youth (23%), and one-on-one or self- directed formats (23%).

Intervention examples

  • Children with socialization problems and their parents participated separately in concurrent sessions; the children focused on interpersonal skills while the parents learned how to reinforce what their children were learning. Parents and children participated in 11 sessions, for one hour each. Children’s group sessions included didactic presentation, coaching and rehearsal, play, and homework review segments. During the sessions, they focused on conversational techniques, how to enter a group, persuasion and negotiation, how to handle confrontations with adults, and other relevant socialization topics. The parent sessions focused on how to support positive peer relations through indirect parental involvement, and included a review of parent and child homework performance, parent handouts, and the next homework assignment. Parents and children came together at the end of each session to create contracts for completing their assignments that week.
  • Boys between the ages of six and twelve participated in a family therapy intervention that emphasized the modification of maladaptive family interactions as a means to eliminate the boys’ problematic behaviors. The therapy team (made up of a clinical psychologist and a social worker) fostered collaboration between family members, identified maladaptive family interactions, and modified those interactions and roles of family members. The child and his/her parents typically participated in sessions together and were involved with the program for up to 6 months. Each family met with providers for 60 to 90 minutes per session each week.