The Psychology of Parenting Project (PoPP)

An update on progress three years on


In Scotland, approximately 10% of pre-school children show significantly elevated behavioural difficulties, which place their short and long term mental health and well-being at risk. Effective interventions exist for the majority of these children, but are not routinely available.

The Psychology of Parenting Project, PoPP, led by NHS Education for Scotland (NES), aims to help multi-agency Early Years' Services deliver improved outcomes for these children and their families. It does this by equipping the workforce to deliver evidence-based parenting programmes with fidelity, and ensuring that this workforce capacity is translated into service delivery.

After a rigorous examination of the evidence base looking at the efficacy and cost effectiveness of interventions for early onset conduct disorder, two parenting programmes, the Incredible Years Preschool programme and Level 4 Group Triple P, were selected for national dissemination.

An Implementation Science framework was used to guide the development of the PoPP Implementation Plan. A dedicated team from the Psychology Directorate within NHS Education for Scotland provided technical expertise and leadership of the initiative, funded mainly by the Mental Health Division of Scottish Government.

Progress and outcomes

PoPP has now been running for three years. Over 400 multi-agency Early Years' practitioners, in 14 Community Planning Partnerships, have now completed training events relating to one of the programmes. By January 2016, approximately 274 groups had been delivered to parents of at least 1,368 children.

Practitioners have been using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire with families.  Outcome data is now available for 778 children whose parents have completed this questionnaire when they joined a group and when the group came to an end. An independent analysis of this data confirms that the programmes have produced statistically meaningful levels of improvement for children. Almost 60% of those children whose scores placed them in the clinical range when their parents started a group, had moved out of this high risk range by the end of the group. In addition, when parents were asked about their experiences, 98% of them said that they had seen an improvement in relationships with their child and an improvement in family life.

Long term follow-up studies of these parenting programmes indicate that changes of this magnitude should lead to meaningful changes in the life chances of these children. These changes may also translate into public sector cost-savings.

What next?

The PoPP is now funded until March 2018. The next phase of the PoPP Implementation will work with existing sites, who are able to continue their commitment to PoPP across three key areas; consolidation, improvement and sustainability.

For further information, please contact or see a short animation on PoPP using the following link: