Effective interventions and practices for parents experiencing complex and multiple needs

Effective interventions and practices for parents experiencing complex and multiple needs


This protocol summarises plans for a systematic review of interventions, practices and programmes aimed at improving outcomes for vulnerable children and their parents.

Who, what, why and how?

There is strong evidence showing the potential benefits of parenting interventions for the wellbeing of children supported by early help and children’s social care (CSC) services. However, there is a need to identify the interventions and practice elements that are effective in working with families experiencing complex and multiple problems, and to find out what works in different contexts and for different groups of families.

As such, we have commissioned the Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI) to conduct a systematic review which aims to identify and describe:

  • Parenting interventions which have been shown to be effective in improving child and parent outcomes within a context relevant to the UK’s early help and CSC practice
  • Practice elements that are shared by effective interventions and observed to contribute to intervention effectiveness, covering both content and delivery characteristics
  • Evidence about for whom, and in which contexts, circumstances, and combinations the identified interventions and practices have the highest likelihood of being effective
  • Information relevant for the successful implementation of interventions, practices and programmes within the UK context.

Research Questions

The research questions for this review are:

  1. Which parenting interventions have strong evidence of their effectiveness in reducing child maltreatment and/or improving child outcomes when delivered to families experiencing multiple and complex needs, within a context relevant to UK early help and CSC practice? What are their pooled effects?
  2. What are the key moderators of effectiveness in parenting interventions for this group, focusing on:
    • Contextual characteristics including family complexity
    • Structural elements of programmes
    • Practice elements: to what extent do programme components contribute to or detract from the effectiveness of interventions? Have any been observed to be superfluous or contraindicated, including for specific subgroups?
  3. What is known about the implementation requirements and feasibility of effective interventions and practice elements, relevant to social care contexts in the UK?

How will we go about it

The review questions will be answered by a meta-analysis.

The review will include studies which focus on parents or carers of children with a mean age of up to 10 years, defined as having more complex and multiple needs. All included studies will be either randomised controlled trials or cluster-randomised controlled trials, and must deliver an intervention where at least 50% of sessions or content is directed at parents aimed at improving knowledge, skills or behaviours. The outcomes of interest are broad but, in summary, focus on child safety, well-being and improving later-life outcomes.

Included literature is not restricted by country, however, the review will place importance on the applicability of findings to the UK context, particularly in relation to an intervention’s ability to be implemented within the UK context.

There is no qualitative component to this review.

Delivery Partners

Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI), University of Oxford, Monash University, University of Amsterdam

Evaluation partners

Due Date

This project is due to be completed by July 2024.

Effective interventions and practices for parents experiencing complex and multiple needs Research Protocol


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