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Helping the Noncompliant Child


Robert J. McMahon, Ph.D.
University of Washington
Department of Psychology, Box 351525
Seattle, WA 98195-1525

(206) 543-5136         Fax: (206) 685-3157

Parent Training Speciality
3-7 years Target
Exemplary I Rating

The "Helping the Noncompliant Child" parent training program by Forehand and McMahon (1981; McMahon & Forehand, in press) is based on a parent training program originally developed by Dr. Constance Hanf. The long-term goals of the parent training program are: secondary prevention of serious conduct problems in preschool and early elementary school-aged children and the primary prevention of subsequent juvenile delinquency. Short-term and intermediate objectives include: a) disruption of coercive styles of parent-child interaction and establishment of positive, prosocial interaction patterns, b) improved parenting skills, c) increased child prosocial behaviors and decreased conduct problem behaviors. The program is designed for parents and their 3-8 year old children with noncompliance and/or other conduct problems. It has also been used with other high risk populations of children and parents.

Sessions are typically conducted with individual families rather than in groups. Parents and children participate in weekly 60-90 minute sessions; average number of sessions is 10. The program consists of a series of parenting skills designed to help the parent break out of the coercive cycle of interaction with the child by increasing positive attention for appropriate child behavior, ignoring minor inappropriate behaviors, providing clear instructions to the child, and providing appropriate consequences for compliance (positive attention) and noncompliance (time out). Skills are taught using extensive demonstration, role plays, and direct practice with the child in the training setting and at home. Progression from one skill to the next is based upon demonstrated proficiency.

Extensive research has demonstrated effectiveness of this program in helping children successfully adapt. Short-term effectiveness and setting generalization from the clinic to the home have been demonstrated for both parent and child behaviors as well as parents' perceptions of their children. Child compliance and inappropriate behavior have been shown to improve to within the "normal" range by the end of training. Long-term follow-ups, some done 11-14 years after training support the effectiveness of the program. High parental satisfaction with the program has been documented.


Implementation Costs:

A single trainer per family is required to conduct the program successfully. However, if resources permit, use of a co-trainer can increase the trainer's flexibility in demonstrating various skills to the parent (e.g., the trainer role-plays the parent while the co-trainer role-plays the child), and can serve as a useful in vivo training experience for new trainers. Ideally, the trainer should have a background in psychology or education, and should be familiar with social learning principles and their application to child behavior. Follow-up supervision/consultation via phone or on-site is recommended. The trainer's manual ("Helping the Noncompliant Child: A Clinician's Guide to Parent Training"; McMahon & Foreman, in press) is available from Guilford Press (800) 365-7006. A videotape that portrays the intervention procedures employed in the program is available from Child Focus (17 Harbor Ridge Road, South Burlington, VT 05403) for $29.95. A supplemental self-help book for parents ("Parenting the Strong-Willed Child"; Forehand & Long, 2002) is available from McGraw Hill (800) 722-4726; ext. 3 for $14.95. Originals of parent hand outs are contained in the trainer's manual, and copying costs would be minimal.

Training Costs:

A minimum of two days training is necessary. The training costs for one trainer are a $3000 fee plus travel expenses (e.g., hotel, airfare/ground travel, per diem). On-site practice and follow-up supervision have been found to be extremely helpful in implementing this program. Additional consultation and technical assistance are available and are usually negotiated on an individual basis. There is no minimum number of training participants; however, there is a ceiling of 16 participants in a training session. The trainer's manual (McMahon & Forehand, in Press), training videotape, and self-help book for parents (Forehand & Long, 2002) must be purchased separately (see above).


Dept. of Health Promotion and Education