Over Thirty Years of Evidence: Active
Active Parenting parent education programs have been
in use since 1983, with the publication of The Original Active
Parenting Discussion Program (Popkin, 1983). This groundbreaking
program was the first true video-based delivery system applied
to the field of parent education. It targeted parents of 2- to
17-year-olds in a six-session, two-hour format. Field test evidence
for this program (Popkin, 1984) was published in The Second
Handbook of Parent Education (Fine, 1991) and reported significant
positive changes in the behavior of both parents and children.
Of the 274 parents in the study, 97% reported positive changes
in their own behavior, 84% reported positive changes in their
childs behavior, and 97% indicated that they would recommend the
program to friends. All 35 group leaders indicated that they would
recommend the program to colleagues. This positive acceptance
of a new multi-modal delivery system utilizing video technology
as well as traditional methods of group discussion, lecture, role-play
and home practice led the program to become adopted by thousands
of leaders during the next ten years.
In 1990, Active Parenting spun off a new version of the program
for parents of teenagers called Active Parenting of Teens
(Popkin, 1990). Three years later, the original program was revised
and renamed Active Parenting Today (Popkin, 1993). Active
Parenting of Teens was revised in 1998 (Popkin, 1998). An
alternative version of Active Parenting of Teens allowed
teenagers as well as their parents to participate in the training,
and was called Families in Action (Popkin and Hendrickson,
2000). Finally, Active Parenting Today was again revised
into its third edition and renamed Active Parenting Now
(Popkin, 2003). It should be noted that with each revision, an
extensive national survey of Active Parenting leaders
was undertaken to determine which parts of the program were most
effective, which parts needed to be modified, and what new information
should be included in the revised version.
In 1998, both Active Parenting Today and Active
Parenting of Teens were evaluated in an independent national
study that included 42 groups (n=287) for AP Today and
15 groups (n=98) for AP of Teens. Results showed that
parents did, in fact, perceive their childrens behavior as more
favorable following completion of the program, as measured by
two child behavior questionnaires (reliability ratings of .78
and .87 for children and teens respectively). Results were published
in the peer-reviewed Journal of Individual Psychology
An additional positive finding in this study reported that
there were no significant differences attributed to the income
or educational levels of the parents. This evidence that the Active
Parenting model is effective across a broad spectrum of parents
was also found in an earlier Baltimore County Schools study (Brown,
1988). The researcher reported that the Active Parenting Discussion
Program was able to attract and retain Title I parents in
the course to the same degree as other parents. Among the 157
parents who entered 12 separate AP courses in 10 schools, 78%
completed the program. This compared very favorably with their
former completion rate of only 25% to 50% with previous parent
education programs. Said Brown in his report, There was little
doubt that the Office of Chapter I, ECIA, the counselors and resource
teachers who led the groups, and the parents who participated
were well pleased with Active Parenting.
In a separate study, Urban (1991) reported that Spanish-speaking
parents who completed an Active Parenting group showed
improved attitudes towards their childrens behavior and improved
parenting methods as compared to a Spanish-speaking control group
thus providing evidence of effectiveness across cultures. It should
be noted that since the Urban study was completed, the program
has been translated into Spanish under the name Padres Activos
de Hoy, complete with Spanish-speaking actors in the video,
making the program even more accessible to Spanish-speaking parents.
The Spanish program was evaluated by CLAS (Culturally and Linguistically
Appropriate Services), which recommended it because of its cultural
sensitiveness, support and focus on strengths of the child and
parents. The CLAS reviewer added that the program provides a positive
view of what parents, caregivers and other adults can do to maximize
the development of children through a proactive parenting style
Nutrition Research Newsletter (2003) reported on a
study done by the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at
the University of Vermont (Berino, 2003), in which Active
Parenting was used as part of an obesity prevention program
with Native American children in a home visitation intervention
with their parents. Children in the treatment group significantly
reduced their caloric intake and mothers engaged in less restrictive
feeding practices over time. Berino concluded that the home visiting
program, targeted at at-risk families, may help to reduce the
occurrence of obesity in the pediatric population. Finally, Fashimpar
(2000) reported in The Journal of Family Social Work
that parents trained in Active Parenting improved in
their attitudes towards physical punishment and demonstrated a
significant improvement in clinically severe parent-child relationship
problems. He concluded that The Active Parenting video
parent training program is efficient, resulting in important clinical
gains in only seven to eight contact hours for parents trained
The Families in Action version of Active Parenting of
Teens underwent extensive evaluation when AuSable Valley
Community Mental Health Services received a five-year grant from
the Office of Substance Abuse Prevention. The resulting study
focused on rural students in middle or junior high school and
measured outcomes before the course started and then one year
later. The goal of the intervention was to increase resiliency
and protective factors within youth and their parents in order
to reduce the likelihood that youth would use alcohol, tobacco,
and other drugs (ATODs). Results at the one-year follow-up reported
that students who participated in the program, as compared with
a control group, showed greater family cohesion, less family fighting,
greater school attachment, higher self-esteem, and a belief that
alcohol should not be consumed until an older age. Parent participants,
as compared to non-participants, reported stronger opposition
to alcohol use by minors and a belief that alcohol should not
be consumed until an older age. Results of this evaluation were
published in two peer-reviewed journals: The Journal of Primary
Prevention (Pilgrim, Abbey, et al, 1998) and The Journal
of Drug Education (Abbey, Pilgrim, et al, 2000).
A very recent national evaluation of Active Parenting Now
(2003) and the revised Active Parenting of Teens (1998)
programs (Mullis, 2006) add to the growing evidence of the effectiveness
of the model. Using a pre-test/post-test design with a control
group, Mullis found that 170 parents who had completed an Active
Parenting Now group showed significant improvement on scales
measuring Parent Behavior and Parent Attitudes and Beliefs (reliability
of .83 and .85 respectively). Mullis also reported a positive,
though non-significant, change in Parent Observation of Child
Behavior. Using the scores of 60 parents who completed an Active
Parenting of Teens group, Mullis reported a significant positive
change on the Parent Behaviors scale (reliability of .76) and
positive, but non-significant, changes on the Parent Attitudes
and Beliefs and Parent Observation of Child Behavior scales. These
findings led the researcher to conclude that the training was
indeed helpful in teaching parents effective parenting skills.
Because of the similarities among Active Parenting
programsthey are derived from the same original program (The Active
Parenting Discussion Program, Popkin, 1983), use the same
theoretical model, teach similar parenting skills, include specific
ATOD, sexuality, and violence prevention information and training,
and use a six-session video-based delivery systemresearch results
showing evidence of effectiveness with one of the programs lends
support for the other programs as well. Some of the findings from
over twenty studies are cited below and provide evidence that
the literally millions of parents who have gone through these
programs have found them effective in stimulating positive change
in themselves and their children.
Boccella (1998) reported that parents completing an Active
Parenting group showed significantly more confidence in their
parenting skills compared to a control group. In another control
group study, Sprague (1990) reported that parents also significantly
improved on measures of communication skills and role support
following completion of an Active Parenting group. Leonardson
(1991), in evaluating a three-school Active Parenting of Teens
pilot study for the Northeastern Drug and Alcohol Prevention Center
in South Dakota, reported significant improvement in parent knowledge
about effective methods of parenting and information about alcohol
and other drugs as compared to a control group. He also reported
that parents completing the course were also significantly less
likely to yell at [their] children and less likely to act in an
autocratic manner. Qualitatively, he reported that the parents
rated the program quite highly, and concluded his report by recommending,
The project should be expanded to other communities. Redwine (1997),
in a descriptive study of parenting styles of parents of four-year-olds,
reported that the parents unanimously positive perceptions of
the Active Parenting meetings were valuable in strengthening
the connections between home and school. Wiese (1989) reported
that parents who participated in the program developed more tolerant
attitudes towards their children and saw themselves as better
parents than those who did not participate. Fashimpar (1992) compared
Active Parenting with two other popular parenting programs:
Winning and The Nurturing Program. Although
each of the programs was found to have its strengths, he reported
that Active Parenting has the strongest impact upon improving
the functioning of family systems. The fact that parents only
received seven hours of Active Parenting training as
compared to 37-45 hours of training in the Nurturing Program
speaks to the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of Active
While most of the research in parent education utilizes parent
self-reporting surveys, an interesting approach was used by Pindar
(1994), in which she measured the actual behavior of children.
These 110 children were divided into two comparison groups: those
whose parents had completed an Active Parenting Today
group and were in a follow-up group, and a control group of children
whose parents had not yet completed a course. The children were
observed in a playroom setting while their parents took the course.
Behaviors were measured in two categories: negative, such as biting,
hitting, bossing, shoving and arguing; and positive, such as expressing
and owning feelings, problem solving, independence and willingness
to share and take turns. Pindar reports that children whose parents
had completed the Active Parenting course had a lesser
occurrence of negative behavior than the children whose parents
had not completed the course. Specifically, of the 142 recorded
behaviors in the graduates support group, 8% were considered negative
and 92% positive. In contrast, children whose parents had not
yet completed a course had 84% negative behavior and only 16%
positive. Pindar concluded that the effects of the Active
Parenting Today class are quite staggering and that in light
of this finding, one may extrapolate that Michael H. Popkin, Ph.
D.s Active Parenting approach need be considered crucial
in the family education movement in America.
In 1990, a six-session video broadcast version of Active
Parenting was used to expand the program throughout the state
of Washington by the Early Childhood Telecommunications Project
for the purpose of training 10,000 foster parents. In addition
to the video segments, parents also received a free copy of the
Parents Guide. The evaluation conducted by Washington
State University (1991) reported that 96% of all respondents indicated
that the Active Parenting series added to their knowledge
of ways to solve family problems; 89% reported that the series
helped them manage or cope more effectively with a childs behavior.
Other findings included reduction of anger, new recognition for
a childs underlying needs/fears, and increased confidence and
patience to the establishment of family councils and improved
Since the Washington broadcast project took place, many communities
have used the broadcast version of Active Parenting to
reach parents who might otherwise never enroll in a parenting
The Active Parenting program was chosen by the Montana
State University Extension Service as part of its Building Human
Capital initiative. Forty-seven Extension workers were trained
to deliver the programs, which allowed the service to reach 42
of 56 Montana counties with the program. In the final evaluation,
Results from this one-of-a-kind program were positive and led
Extension agents in each county to pursue developing coalitions
with other human service program providers. (Folkwein, 1991).
Of the tens of thousands of leaders who have used Active
Parenting programs to train over one million parents since
1983, many have had professional researchers evaluate their programs
for effectiveness. For example, Utica City Schools of New York
retained Ciurczak & Co. to evaluate Active Parenting
groups provided by the Business Training Institute, Inc. to the
school district. The evaluation reported that The workshop results
can be considered a success by several different measures&parents
overwhelmingly were able to demonstrate their knowledge in each
content area through their responses to specific questions for
each workshop. The parents evaluated the workshop materials, handouts,
and usable information they gained in each workshop very highly,
and also recommended the workshop to other parents at a very high
The evidence provided by these evaluations and studies over
a period of more than twenty years shows a strong, persistent
pattern of success for Active Parenting parent education
programs. Additionally, program participants and researchers alike
have consistently found Active Parenting programs to
be engaging, easy to lead, efficient, cost-effective, and, most
important, effective at bringing about positive changes in parents
Abbey, A., Pilgrim, C., Hendrickson, P., and Buresh, S. (2000).
Evaluation of a family-based substance abuse prevention program
targeted for the middle school years. Journal of Drug Education,
Vol. 30, No.2, 2000.
Abbey, A., Pilgrim, C., Hendrickson, P., Lorenz, S. (1998).
Implementation and impact of a family-based substance abuse prevention
program in rural communities. The Journal of Primary Prevention,
Vol. 18, No. 3, 1998.
Alvy, K. (1994). Active Parenting program studies
in Parent Training Today: A Social Necessity, Los Angeles:
The Center for the Improvement of Child Caring, 1994.
Bernino, J. and Rourke, J. (2003) Obesity prevention in pre-school
Native-American Children: A pilot study using home visiting. Obesity
research, 11:606-611, May, 2003.
Boccella, E. (1987). Effects of the Active Parenting
program on attitudinal change of parents, parent perceived behavioral
change of children, and parent perceived change in family environment.
(Doctoral dissertation, Temple University, 1987).
Brown, D.L. (1988). Implementing the Active Parenting
program in the Baltimore County Public Schools: A final report.
CLAS (Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services) Review
(2001). Padres Activos de Hoy. University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign. CLAS #CL03985.
Ciurczak & Co. (2003). The Business Training Institute,
Inc. Active Parenting Final program evaluation report.
Early Childhood Telecommunication Project (1987). Excerpts
from the evaluation results of the state of Washington broadcast
of the Active Parenting program. University of Washington.
Fashimpar, G. (1992). An evaluation of three parent training
programs. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Arlington,
Fashimpar, G. (2000). Problems of parenting: Solutions of Science.
Journal of Family Social Work, vol. 5(2) 2000.
Folkwein, S. (1991) Reaching our human potential in Montana:
An overview of building human capital through Montana State University
and Active Parenting. Unpublished manuscript.
Leonardson, G. (1991) Draft report on Active Parenting
of Teens project. Northeastern Drug and Alcohol Prevention
Resource Center, Watertown, SD.
Mullis, F. (1999). Active Parenting: An evaluation
of two Adlerian parent education programs. The Journal of
Individual Psychology, Vol. 55, No. 2, summer 1999.
Pindar, C. (1994). Effects of the Active Parenting
program on childrens interpersonal behavior as observed in a playroom
setting. Unpublished manuscript.
Popkin, M. The Original Active Parenting Discussion Program.
Atlanta: Active Parenting Publishers, 1983.
Popkin, M. Active Parenting Today. Atlanta: Active
Parenting Publishers, 1993.
Popkin, M. Active Parenting Now. Atlanta: Active Parenting
Popkin, M. Active Parenting of Teens. Atlanta: Active
Parenting Publishers, 1988.
Popkin, M. Active Parenting of Teens Revised. Atlanta:
Active Parenting Publishers, 1998.
Popkin, M., Hendrickson, P. Families in Action. Atlanta:
Active Parenting Publishers, 2000.
Popkin, M. (1984) Active Parenting: A video-based
program, chapter in Fine, M. (1991) The Second Handbook of
Parent education. San Diego: Academic Press, 1991.
Redwine, S. M. (1997). A descriptive study of parenting styles
and behaviors of 4-year-old children when parents participate
in a parenting education program. (Doctoral dissertation, University
of North Texas, 1997).
Sprague, J. (1990). The impact of the Active Parenting
program on the moral development and parenting skills of parents.
(Doctoral dissertation, North Carolina State University, 1990).
Urban, T. A. (1991) A case study on the effects of an Adlerian
parent education program on parental attitudes and child rearing
techniques. (Doctoral dissertation, University of North Texas,
1991). Dissertation Abstracts International, 52, A4218.
Wiese, M.J. (1989). Evaluation of an Adlerian parent training
program with multiple outcome measures. (Doctoral dissertation,
University of Nebraska, 1989). Dissertation Abstracts International,