Skip to main content

Engaging Parents in Preventive Interventions for Young Children: Working with Cultural Diversity Within Low-Income, Urban Neighborhoods


A robust literature documents the impact of poverty on child development and lifelong health, well-being and productivity. Racial and ethnic minority children continue to bear the burden of poverty disproportionately. Evidence-based parenting interventions in early childhood have the potential to attenuate risk attributable to poverty and stress. To reduce racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in the USA, parenting interventions must be accessible, engaging, and effective for low-income families of color living in large urban centers. This paper describes the initial development of ParentCorps and ongoing improvements to realize that vision. Initial development focused on creating a parenting intervention that places culture at the center and effectively embedding it in schools. ParentCorps includes core components found in nearly all effective parenting interventions with a culturally informed approach to engaging families and supporting behavior change. As the intervention is implemented at scale in increasingly diverse communities, improvement efforts include augmenting professional development to increase racial consciousness among all staff (evaluators, coaches, and school-based facilitators) and applying an implementation science framework to study and more fully support schools’ use of a package of engagement strategies.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1


  • Abraham, C., & Sheeran, P. (2003). Implications of goal theories for the theories of reasoned action and planned behaviour. Current Psychology, 22(3), 264–280.

  • Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179–211. doi:10.1016/0749-5978(91)90020-T.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baker, C. N., Arnold, D. H., & Meagher, S. (2011). Enrollment and attendance in a parent training prevention program for conduct problems. Prevention Science, 12, 126–139. doi:10.1007/s11121-010-0187-0.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Baumann, A. A., Powell, B. J., Kohl, P. L., Tabak, R. G., Penalba, V., Proctor, E. K., et al. (2015). Cultural adaptation and implementation of evidence-based parent training: A systematic review and critique of guiding evidence. Children and Youth Services Review, 53, 113–120.

  • Benish, S. G., Quintana, S., & Wampold, B. E. (2011). Culturally adapted psychotherapy and the legitimacy of myth: a direct-comparison meta-analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58(3), 279–289.

  • Berkel, C., Mauricio, A. M., Schoenfelder, E., & Sandler, I. N. (2011). Putting the pieces together: An integrated model of program implementation. Prevention Science, 12, 23–33.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bernal, G. E., & Domenech Rodríguez, M. M. (2012). Cultural adaptations: Tools for evidence-base practice with diverse populations. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Bernal, G., Jiménez-Chafey, M. I., & Domenech Rodríguez, M. M. (2009). Cultural adaptation of treatments: a resource for considering culture in evidence-based practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(4), 361–368.

  • Blair, C., & Cybele Raver, C. (2016). Poverty, stress, and brain development: new directions for prevention and intervention. Academic Pediatrics, 16(3), S30–S36.

  • Breitenstein, S. M., Gross, D., Fogg, L., Ridge, A., Garvey, C., Julion, W., & Tucker, S. (2012). The Chicago Parent Program: Comparing 1-year outcomes for African American and Latino parents of young children. Research in Nursing & Health, 35, 475–489. doi:10.1002/nur.21489.

  • Brito, N. H., & Noble, K. G. (2014). Socioeconomic status and structural brain development. Front Neuroscience, 8, 276.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brody, G.H., Murry, V.M., Gerrard, M., Gibbons, F.X., Molgaard, V., McNair, L., …Neubaum-Carlan, E. (2004). The Strong African American Families Program: Translating research into prevention programming. Child Development, 75, 900–917. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00713.x.

  • Brotman, L., Calzada, E.J., Huang, K., Kingston, S., Dawson-McClure, S., Kamboukos, D., …Petkova, E. (2011). Promoting effective parenting practices and preventing child behavior problems in school among ethnically diverse families from underserved, urban communities. Child Development, 82, 258–276.

  • Brotman, L., Dawson-McClure, S., Calzada, E., Huang, K., Kamboukos, D., Palamar, J., & Petkova, E. (2013). Cluster (school) RCT of ParentCorps: Impact on kindergarten academic achievement. Pediatrics, 131, e1521–e1529.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Brotman, L., Dawson-McClure, S., Huang, K., Theise, R., Kamboukos, D., Wang, J., …Ogedegbe, G. (2012). Early childhood family intervention and long-term obesity prevention among high-risk minority youth. Pediatrics, 129, e621–e628.

  • Brotman, L. M., Dawson-McClure, S., Kamboukos, D., Huang, K. Y., Calzada, E. J., Goldfeld, K., & Petkova, E. (2016). Effects of ParentCorps in prekindergarten on child mental health and academic performance: Follow-up of a randomized clinical trial through 8 years of age. JAMA Pediatrics, 170, 1–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bryk, A.S., Gomez, L.M., Grunow, A. & LeMahieu, P.G. (2015). Learning to improve: How America’s schools can get better at getting better. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.

  • Cairney, T. H. (2000). Beyond the classroom walls: The rediscovery of the family and community as partners in education. Educational Review, 52, 163–174.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Caldwell, M., Brotman, L. M., Coard, S. I., Wallace, S., Stellabotte, D., & Calzada, E. (2005). Community involvement in adapting and testing a prevention program for preschoolers living in urban communities: ParentCorps. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 14, 373–386.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Calzada, E. J., Ramirez, D., Covas, M., Huang, K. Y., & Brotman, L. M. (2015). A longitudinal study of cultural adaptation among Dominican and Mexican immigrant mothers. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 35, 469–485. doi:10.1177/0739986313499005.

    Google Scholar 

  • Calzada, E. J., Basil, S., & Fernandez, Y. (2013). What Latina mothers think of evidence-based parenting practices: a qualitative study of treatment acceptability. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 20(3), 362–374.

  • Calzada, E. J., Huang, K.-Y., Anicama, C., Fernandez, Y., & Brotman, L. M. (2012). Test of a cultural framework of parenting with Latino families of young children. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 18(3), 285–296.

  • Castro, F. G., Barrera, M., & Martinez, C. R. (2004). The cultural adaptation of prevention interventions: resolving tensions between fidelity and fit. Prevention Science, 5, 41–45. doi:10.1023/

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2016). Building core capabilities for life: The science behind the skills adults need to succeed in parenting and in the workplace. Accessed 5 June 2016.

  • Civil Rights Project (2014) New York State’s Extreme School Segregation. Accessed December 2015.

  • Coatsworth, J. D., Duncan, L. G., Pantin, H., & Szapocznik, J. (2006). Patterns of retention in a preventive intervention with ethnic minority families. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 27, 171–193. doi:10.1007/s10935-005-0028-2.

  • Dawson-McClure, S., Calzada, E., Huang, K.Y., Kamboukos, D., Rhule, D., Kolawole, B., …Brotman, L.M. (2015). A population-level approach to promoting healthy child development and school success in low-income, urban neighborhoods: Impact on parenting and child conduct problems. Prevention Science, 16, 279–290.

  • Delpit, L.D. (2006). Other people’s children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: The New Press.

  • Dishion, T. J., Shaw, D., Connell, A., Gardner, F., Weaver, C., & Wilson, M. (2008). The Family Check-Up with high risk indigent families: preventing problem behavior by increasing parents’ positive behavior support in early childhood. Child Development, 79, 1395–1414.

  • Fagan, A. A., Koren, H., David Hawkins, J., & Arthur, M. W. (2009). Translational research in action: implementation of the communities that care prevention system in 12 communities. Journal of Community Psychology, 37(7), 809–829.

  • Garcia Coll, C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., Pipes McAdoo, H., Crnic, K., Wasik, B. H., & Vazquez Garcia, H. (1996). Child Development, 67, 1891–1914.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Garvey, C., Julion, W., Fogg, L., Kratovil, A., & Gross, D. (2006). Measuring participation in a prevention trial with parents of young children. Research in Nursing & Health, 29, 212–222. doi:10.1002/nur.20127.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gilliam, W.S., Maupin, A.N., Reyes, C.R., Accavitti, M., & Shin, F. (2016). Do early educators’ implicit biases regarding sex and race relate to behavior expectations and recommendations of preschool expulsions and suspensions?. New Haven: Yale Child Study Center.

  • Gopalan, G., Goldstein, L., Klingenstein, K., Sicher, C., Blake, C., & McKay, M. M. (2010). Engaging families into child mental health treatment: updates and special considerations. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 19, 182–196.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Gross, D., Garvey, C., Julion, W., Fogg, L., Tucker, S., & Mokros, H. (2009). Efficacy of the Chicago Parent Program with low-income African American and Latino parents of young children. Prevention Science, 10, 54–65.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Haine-Schlagel, R., & Walsh, N. (2015). A review of parent participation engagement in child and family mental health treatment. Clinical Child Family Psychology Review, 18, 133–150.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Heinrichs, N., Bertram, H., Kuschel, A., & Hahlweg, K. (2005). Parent recruitment and retention in a universal prevention program for child behavior and emotional problems: Barriers to research and program participation. Prevention Science, 6, 275–286. doi:10.1007/s11121-005-0006-1.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Huey, S. J., & Polo, A. J. (2008). Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for ethnic minority youth. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37(1), 262–301.

  • Ingoldsby, E. M. (2010). Review of interventions to improve family engagement and retention in parent and child mental health programs. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 629–645. doi:10.1007/s10826-009-9350-2.

  • Iruka, I. U., Curenton, S. M., & Eke, W. A. (2014). The CRAF-E 4 Family Engagement Model: Building practitioners’ competence to work with diverse families.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lundahl, B., Risser, H. J., & Lovejoy, M. C. (2006). A meta-analysis of parent training: moderators and follow-up effects. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 86–104. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2005.07.004.

  • McDonald, L., FitzRoy, S., Fuchs, I., Fooken, I., & Klasen, H. (2012). Strategies for high retention rates of low-income families in FAST (Families and Schools Together): an evidence-based parenting programme in the USA, UK, Holland and Germany. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9(1), 75–88.

  • McKenna, M. K., & Millen, J. (2013). Look! Listen! Learn! Parent narratives and grounded theory models of parent voice, presence, and engagement in K-12 education. School Community Journal, 23, 9–48.

    Google Scholar 

  • Metz, A., Naoom, S. F., Halle, T., & Bartley, L. (2015). An integrated stage-based framework for implementation of early childhood programs and systems (OPRE 201548). Washington, DC: US DHHS.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Center for Parent, & Family and Community Engagement. (2015). Compendium of parenting interventions. Washington, DC: Office of Head Start, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nock, M. K., & Kazdin, A. E. (2005). Randomized controlled trial of a brief intervention for increasing participation in parent management training. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 872–879.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Okonofua, J.A. & Eberhardt, J.L. (2015). Two strikes: Race and the disciplining of young students. Psychological Science, 1–8. doi: 10.1177/0956797615570365.

  • Pantin, H., Prado, G., Lopez, B., Huang, S., Tapia, M. I., Schwartz, S., et al. (2009). A randomized controlled trial of Familias Unidas for Hispanic adolescents with behavior problems. Psychosomatic Medicine, 71, 987–995.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Parra-Cardona, J. R., López-Zerón, G., Villa, M., Zamudio, E., Escobar-Chew, A. R., & Domenech Rodríguez, M. M. (2017). Enhancing parenting practices with Latino/a immigrants: integrating evidence-based knowledge and culture according to the voices of Latino/a parents. Clinical Social Work Journal, 45(1), 88–98.

  • Parra Cardona, J.R., Domenech-Rodriguez, M., Forgatch, M., Sullivan, C., Bybee, D., Holtrop, K., …Bernal G. (2012). Culturally adapting an evidence-based parenting intervention for Latino immigrants: The need to integrate fidelity and cultural relevance. Family Process, 51, 56–72.

  • Prinz, R. J., Sanders, M. R., Shapiro, C. J., Whitaker, D. J., & Lutzker, J. R. (2009). Population-based prevention of child maltreatment: the u.s. triple p system population trial. Prevention Science, 10(1), 1–12.

  • Reid, M. J., Webster-Stratton, C., & Beauchaine, T. P. (2001). Parent training in Head Start: a comparison of program response among African American, Asian American, Caucasian, and Hispanic mothers. Prevention Science, 2, 209–227.

  • Shepard, S., Armstrong, L. M., Silver, R. B., Berger, R., & Seifer, R. (2012). Embedding the Family Check Up and evidence-based parenting programs in Head Start to increase parent engagement and reduce conduct problems in young children. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 5, 194–207.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Shonkoff, J. P., Garner, A. S., Siegel, B. S., Dobbins, M. I., Earls, M. F., Garner, A. S., McGuinn, L., Pascoe, J., & Wood, D. L. (2011). The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics, 129(1), e232–e246.

  • Smith, T. B., Rodríguez, M. D., & Bernal, G. (2011). Culture. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(2), 166–175.

  • Suárez-Orozco, C., Suárez-Orozco, M.M., & Todorova, I. (2008). Learning a new land: Immigrant students in American society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  • Super, C. M., & Harkness, S. (2002). Culture structures the environment for development. Human Development, 45, 270–274.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tinkler, B. (2002). A review of literature on Hispanic/Latino parent involvement in K-12 education. Colorado: Assets for Colorado Youth Expect Success Project.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wasik, B. A., Mattera, S. K., Lloyd, C. M., & Boller, K. (2013). Intervention dosage in early childhood care and education (OPRE 2013-15). Washington, DC: US DHHS.

    Google Scholar 

  • Watson, T. N., & Bogotch, I. (2015). Reframing parent involvement: What should urban school leaders do differently? Leadership and Policy in Schools, 14, 257–278.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Webster-Stratton, C. (2011). The incredible years parents, teachers, and children training series: Program content, methods, research and dissemination, 1980–2011. Seattle: Incredible Years, Inc.

  • Winslow, E.B., Poloskov, E., Begay, R., Tein, J. Sandler, I., & Wolchik, S. (2016). A randomized trial of methods to engage Mexican American parents into a school-based parenting intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 84(12), 1094–1107.

  • Wolchik, S. A., Sandler, I. N., Jones, S., Gonzales, N., Doyle, K., Winslow, E., Zhou, Q., & Braver, S. L. (2009). The New Beginnings Program for divorcing and separating families: Moving from efficacy to effectiveness. Family Court Review, 47, 416–435.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Zubrick, S. R., Ward, K. A., Silburn, S. R., Lawrence, D., Williams, A. A., Blair, E., & Sanders, M. R. (2005). Prevention of child behavior problems through universal implementation of a group behavioral family intervention. Prevention Science, 6, 287–304.

Download references


We are deeply grateful for the families, teachers, assistants, social workers, school leaders, and other staff who have partnered with us in this work. We honor the wisdom and skill of ParentCorps Academy co-directors, Dana Rhule and Katherine Rosenblatt, and the team of trainers and coaches. We thank Tony Hudson of Pacific Educational Group for sharing his insights and guiding us toward racial equity transformation.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Spring Dawson-McClure.

Ethics declarations


This work was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (R305F050245, R305A100596), National Institute of Mental Health (1R01MH077331-01), and the New York State Office of Mental Health (C007885).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Electronic Supplementary Material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.


(DOCX 17 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Dawson-McClure, S., Calzada, E.J. & Brotman, L.M. Engaging Parents in Preventive Interventions for Young Children: Working with Cultural Diversity Within Low-Income, Urban Neighborhoods. Prev Sci 18, 660–670 (2017).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Prevention
  • Early childhood
  • Parent engagement
  • Poverty
  • Racial/ethnic minority
  • Cultural diversity