Parenting interventions that improve disadvantaged children’s life-chances

This project was a follow-up study to compare the progress of 215 children from disadvantaged, inner-city areas whose parents received one of four parenting interventions. The children were originally studied in the Helping Children Achieve Trial, where the children were last seen 9-11 months after intervention. The trial showed that children in all three groups saw a reduction in disruptive behaviour compared to the control group, but only those who received the behaviour intervention saw an improvement in their reading. 

This study measured outcomes of children in the HCA trial two years after the intervention began, when they were aged 7-9 years-old. It found that the effects identified in the original trial were sustained over the longer time period. 

The four parenting interventions are: 

  • the Supporting Parents on Kids Education in Schools literacy programme (SPOKES);
  • the Incredible Years relationship programme (IY);
  • a combination of both (Combi); and
  • signposting information about useful services (Signposting, the control group).

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds have lower levels of literacy and higher rates of difficult behaviour than more advantaged children, contributing to intergenerational cycles of disadvantage. Effective early intervention is key.

While there is good evidence that improving the parent-child relationship leads to better social adjustment and reduces behaviour problems, less is known about whether parent-led reading programmes improve children’s literacy, and if they also improve behaviour. 

Project details



Professor Stephen Scott, Kings College, London

Professor Kathy Sylva, Oxford University

Grant amount and duration


July 2012 - October 2013