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Study: Online Parent Training May Deliver the Same Results as In-Person Therapy

A small study of young children with ADHD suggests that families participating in online therapy enjoyed the same improvements in impulsiveness, self-control, and mood regulation as did families attending traditional in-person sessions.




October 11, 2017

Behavioral parent training (BPT) is an effective — and expert-recommended — treatment for ADHD symptoms in children, but barriers like cost, access, and time place the service out of reach for many families. Now, a new study finds that brief online parent training sessions are just as effective as more traditional in-person therapy, making BPT a more feasible solution for more families.

The small study, conducted by George DuPaul and Lee Kern of Lehigh University, focused on 47 young children with ADHD, all between the ages of 3 and 5; the AAP recommends all children under 6 receive behavior therapy as the first-line treatment for ADHD. Each child was randomly assigned to receive face-to-face behavioral therapy or online therapy, or be placed on a “waitlist” that served as a control group. Each program met once a week, and ran for 10 weeks.

Children in both the online and face-to-face groups showed similar improvements in impulsiveness, self-control, and mood regulation compared to the control group, and parents from each group reported developing a better understanding of their child’s behavior and appropriate interventions at the study’s conclusion. Both programs had similar adherence rates, too, with children in each group attending approximately 80 percent of their sessions.

“Parents learned effective ways to anticipate and prevent child behavior problems, teach their children better ways to communicate their needs, and how to best reinforce positive behaviors with about 15 hours of parent education that can be delivered equally successfully in a typical face-to-face format or online,” DuPaul summarized. “The fact that parents can learn these strategies on their own schedule via an online platform has the potential to significantly improve current practice and present savings in terms of time and cost to families for whom access is an issue.” He hopes that the research will encourage the development of more online interventions for families dealing with ADHD.

The research1 was funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, a sub-section of the U.S. Department of Education. It was published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology in July of this year.


1 Dupaul, George J., et al. “Face-to-Face Versus Online Behavioral Parent Training for Young Children at Risk for ADHD: Treatment Engagement and Outcomes.” Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 2017, pp. 1–15., doi:10.1080/15374416.2017.1342544.

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