Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 8, pp 2367–2383 | Cite as

Facilitated Parent-child Groups as Family Support: A Systematic Literature Review of Supported Playgroup Studies

  • Kate E. WilliamsEmail author
  • Donna Berthelsen
  • Maria Viviani
  • Jan M. Nicholson
Review Paper


Supported playgroups are community-based services that provide low intensity family support, through regular group sessions for parents and their young children. Led by a playgroup facilitator, the program aims to enrich children’s early learning, enhance positive parenting behaviors, provide social connections for parents, and enable access to other community services. Despite high community acceptance and government investment, little is known about the extent to which such services are effective. This paper reports findings from a systematic review of research on supported playgroups and their effectiveness to improve child, parent, and community outcomes. Thirty-four studies were included, of which 28 were conducted in Australia. Programs targeted a diverse range of families who were considered socially disadvantaged. Seven studies employed experimental or quasi-experimental designs from which reliable evidence for effectiveness could be established. A high proportion of studies were qualitative and included action research, case studies, or ethnographies. A range of qualitative and quantitative measures were used to assess child, parent, and community outcomes. While findings suggested that supported playgroup programs were highly valued by parents and other stakeholders, rigorous evidence of effectiveness for achieving desired improvements in child outcomes or parenting behavior was rare and limited by low quality study designs. More explicit theories of change about how different types of supported playgroup programs can meet diverse family needs are required. Such theories of change would provide directions for specific content and delivery approaches that could address and improve different child and parent outcomes targeted to specific populations of attending families.


Supported playgroups Literature review Family support 


Author Contributions

K.W.: co-designed the study, conducted study selection, data extraction and analysis, led writing of final report. D.B.: co-designed the study, conducted study selection and data extraction, and co-wrote the final report. M.V.: conducted search and led study selection process, data extraction. J.N.: co-design of study and final report writing.


This study was funded by the Queensland Government Department of Education as part of a competitively awarded tender (Supported Playgroup Evaluation).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This study is a systematic literature review of published and grey literature. No new data collection or human research participants were involved. All aspects of ethical methodological approaches aligned with the systematic review methodology have been adhered to.

Conflict of Interest

K.W., D.B., and J.N. declare a potential perceived conflict of interest in that four of the final 34 research papers included in this review are authored by one of more of these authors. However, these papers were found through the search strategies identified and met the review inclusion criteria as specified in the article.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary TableS5
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Supplementary Materials


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Early Childhood and Inclusive EducationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.School of Early Childhood and Inclusive EducationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Universidad de los AndesSantiagoChile
  4. 4.Judith Lumley CentreLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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