15 May 2015

Where randomized control trials are viewed as a “gold standard” for research, some have called systematic reviews (SRs) a “platinum standard.” Reviews aim to be the go-to source for policymakers interested in a particular topic. So it’s crucial that they give more credit to robust study designs, and less credit to weaker ones. A recent appraisal of SRs suggests that some do – and some don’t.

06 May 2015

Constructing an evidence base for prevention programs takes time and patience. But accumulating results can transform their practical value for service planners – as demonstrated by a new study of KEEP, an established parenting intervention for foster carers.

24 April 2015

Incredible Years Parent Training has been studied time and again for its potential to treat and prevent children’s behavior problems. Many studies have found that it is effective. Some have found that it isn’t. A new meta-analysis draws the evidence together to determine when IY works best.

16 April 2015

Effective parenting skills programs are known to have enduring positive effects on children’s health and wellbeing. Research now shows how the long-term benefits can include better attitudes when it comes to raising their own children.

04 April 2015

Better results happen when therapists stick to the program. So the question follows: what helps therapists adhere to treatment protocols? In a recent Swedish study of Multisystemic Therapy, the more experienced the team as a whole, the better the adherence.

25 March 2015

Most studies of implementation look at whether facilitators cover the material in the program manual. But they tend to neglect the role of competence in delivery. A recent study of a school anti-bullying program found that the teachers who taught with warmth and praise, and who covered the material clearly, were the ones who got the best results.

20 March 2015

Untreated mental health problems in youth can have damaging lifelong consequences. Training staff in schools to identify students with psychiatric disorders, offer support and connect them with specialist help has the potential to prevent the accumulation of long-term negative effects.

12 March 2015

Life Skills Training (LST) is a substance misuse prevention program used by schools in all 50 US States and 35 different countries. What explains its popularity? Thirty years of careful attention to evidence and rigorous evaluation, say the originators.

06 March 2015

Parenting training programs have proved helpful for parents or children and teenagers with behavior problems. But getting parents to come to programs is a challenge. What if the program could come to them? A recent study put a training program online and found promising results.

03 March 2015

Devising new and better interventions is not always the answer to intractable social problems like youth violence and weapon carrying. Sometimes it is important to look more carefully at existing initiatives – as demonstrated by a re-assessment of the Safe Dates program.

25 February 2015

Laws and strategies against underage drinking are unlikely to prove effective by themselves unless actively applied by communities. How far does it help them to have a toolkit for implementation?

19 February 2015

More than three quarters of a million parents receive parent training through child welfare services in the US each year. The good news is that there are a handful of well-tested programs for parents of young children. The bad news is that, given low budgets and a tradition of home-grown programs, it’s not always practical for child welfare agencies to use them. A new review suggests a way forward.

Parliament house, Melbourne. Nils Versemann /

Parliament house, Melbourne. Nils Versemann /

20 July 2015 | Frontpage

In a study of Australian local government, public health decision makers said that they relied more on community views than on research evidence, and more on data produced internally than that published in peer-reviewed journals. What stops them from making decisions informed by more academic evidence?

29 June 2015 | Research

Many parents who believe in corporal punishment are unaware of the psychological as well as physical harm that spanking causes children. Exposing them to the facts provides a quick and easy way of persuading some, at least, to change their minds.

17 June 2015 | Research

Programs usually work better if they are implemented as the designers intended. So which teachers are most likely to do this? A recent study of the Responsive Classroom approach found little direct relationship between fidelity and teachers’ experience, education, or skills. But when they looked at teachers’ engagement with training, they found one tantalizing clue.

11 June 2015 | Research

Complex, multi-faceted problems faced by abused and neglected children demand well-considered, multi-faceted solutions. Recognizing this, the US State of Massachusetts is attempting an ambitious transformation of services for children whose “complex trauma” threatens their life chances through poor mental health.

03 June 2015 | Research

Alcohol and tobacco use are legal for adults in most countries around the world. Preventive interventions with children and young people must realistically focus on delaying first use and promoting responsible use, rather than abstinence, according to the originator of a life skills program in Germany.

27 May 2015 | Research

Recent research suggests that, four years after implementation, the Communities that Care approach improved youth outcomes by encouraging communities to use a science-based approach to prevention.

21 May 2015 | Research

Parents whose babies are born prematurely often come under sudden and lasting stress, with potential implications for their child’s later development, including behavior problems. Norwegian researchers have demonstrated how early intervention can help.

Most popular

10 May 2010 | Comment

Resources may be scarce and policy makers might have to make difficult decisions about what to buy. But a more rational strategy that invests early for later benefits would make sometimes nitpicking and frequently complicated comparisons between the value of one "flagship" prevention program and another irrelevant.

11 May 2010 | What Works

The family systems approach that underpins parenting programs such as Multisystemic Therapy, Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care and Functional Family Therapy may have a value in the treatment of juvenile sex offending, psychologists at the Medical University of South Carolina suggest.

01 May 2007 | What Works

Results of introducing an American parenting program to parts of Wales under the aegis of the well-established UK prevention initiative, Sure Start, have been so encouraging that they pose important challenges to makers of UK policy.

20 April 2011 | What Works

A popular program for helping children with language learning difficulties is found to have no impact and even detrimental effects in some cases.

08 November 2007 | Comment

Nick Axford explains the differences between English and Welsh approaches to implementing and evaluating Sure Start – and considers the lessons for the future.

04 September 2007 | Research

Introduction of year-round schooling with shorter breaks to limit the damage holidays do to the education of poorer children has failed a test in Ohio. "Year-round calendars do not fix the problem of summer learning," the research team reports. "They simply sweep it under the rug of fall, winter, and spring."

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Editor's Picks

There is more to the international transfer of prevention programs than just hitting the “copy and paste” buttons. The introduction of the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program to Ireland offers insights into how to succeed.

Few people working with children will have heard the term “prevention scientist,” let alone know what one is or does. Yet this relatively new breed of researcher is behind the growing list of evidence-based programs being promoted in western developed countries. A new publication puts them under the microscope.

Crime and antisocial behavior prevention efforts have flourished over the last 10 years in the US. This progress can and should be used to help communities improve the life chances of their young people, a recent update urges.

Given the well-known barriers to implementing evidence-based programs, is it better to identify their discrete elements and trust practitioners to combine them in tailored packages depending on the needs of the child and family in question?

The final official review on child protection offers a shakeup of services.