Parent training support for intellectually disabled parents

Parents with intellectual or learning disabilities may need support to provide adequate care for their children and prevent problems that can arise in children's welfare or development. Parent training programmes may help them to learn the parenting skills they need.This review found three randomised controlled trials that met the inclusion criteria. The quality of the evidence in the studies is moderate to low. One study found improvement in mother-child interaction compared with the control group, whilst the second found improvement in safe home practices, recognition of child illness and safe use of medicines. The third study found improvement in child care and safety. More research is needed to assess the effects of these interventions before conclusions can be drawn.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is some risk of bias in the included studies, with limited information available to assess possible bias and to fully assess the findings of one included study. Whilst the evidence presented here does seem promising with regard to the ability of such interventions to improve parenting knowledge and skill in this population, there is a need for larger RCTs of interventions before conclusions can be drawn about the effectiveness of parent training for this group of parents.

Read the full abstract...

Intellectual disability may impact on an individual’s capacity to parent a child effectively. Research suggests that the number of intellectually disabled people with children is increasing. Children of parents with intellectual disabilities may be at increased risk of neglectful care which could lead to health, developmental and behavioural problems, or increased risk of intellectual disability.

However, there is some indication that some parents with intellectual disabilities are able to provide adequate child care if they are given appropriate training and support to do so.


To assess the effectiveness of parent training interventions to support the parenting of parents with intellectual disabilities

Search strategy: 

We searched the following databases: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, ASSIA, Sociological Abstracts, Dissertation Abstracts International, MetaRegister of Controlled Trials, and ZETOC.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials comparing parent training interventions for parents with intellectual disabilities with usual care or with a control group. Outcomes of interest were: the attainment of parenting skills specific to the intervention, safe home practices and the understanding of child health.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently assessed risk of bias and undertook data extraction.

Main results: 

Three trials met the inclusion criteria for this review but no meta-analysis was possible. One study reported improved maternal-child interaction following group parent training compared with the control group. The second study reported some improvements in parents knowledge of life threatening emergencies, ability to recognise dangers and identify precautions and smaller improvements in their ability to implement precautions, use medicines safely and recognise child illness and symptoms. The third study reported improvement in child care and safety skills following the intervention.