Promoting self-regulation and cooperation in pre-kindergarten children with conduct problems: a randomized controlled trial

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Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness and mechanisms of Hitkashrut, a "common elements" co-parent training (PT) program for early intervention with preschoolers (3-5 years of age) at risk for conduct problems (CP). Method: A randomized controlled trial with 140 participants in PT and 69 in a minimal intervention control group. The primary outcome (presence of CP) was assessed at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and 1-year follow-up. Callous-unemotional traits, effortful control, parental distress, negative/inconsistent parenting, and couple relationship quality were assessed at pre- and post-intervention, whereas callous-unemotional traits and effortful control were also assessed in the PT group at follow-up. Retention was 87.1% at post-intervention and 60% at follow-up. Hitkashrut incorporated evidence-based components of established PT programs into a culturally adapted protocol. The facilitators were trained and supervised psychologists working in Israel's Educational Psychology Services. Results: Intervention effect (Cohen's d) was large at post-intervention (ES =.76, p <.001), and an additional medium effect was found at follow-up (ES = 0.63, p <.001). Parallel post-intervention and follow-up intervention effects were also found in the degree of clinically significant improvements. Effects of the intervention on callous-unemotional traits (ES = 0.85, p <.001) and effortful control (ES = 0.47, p <.001) were maintained at follow-up. Follow-up improvement in CP was mediated by improvements in parental practices and distress. Conclusions: Hitkashrut's implementation and subsequent dissemination in real-world settings demonstrates the potential effectiveness of common elements programs to promote innovations within service-delivery systems. Improvements in dispositional variables and the mediated follow-up effect support theoretical cascade models that emphasize early developmental malleability and the growing preventive effects of PT's facilitated parental changes on disruptive developmental trajectories. Clinical trial registration information The effect of a "common elements" co-parent training program (called 'Hitkashrut') on conduct in preschoolers at risk for conduct problems;; ACTRN12612000148875.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-422
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Disclosure: Mr. Somech is the recipient of an Azrieli Fellowship from the Azrieli Foundation. Dr. Elizur reports no financial interests or potential conflicts of interest.


  • conduct problems
  • effectiveness
  • mediation
  • parent training
  • randomized controlled trial


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