Parenting and family interventions in lower and middle-income countries for child and adolescent mental health: A systematic review

Tania Bosqui*, Anas Mayya, Sally Farah, Zahraa Shaito, Mark J.D. Jordans, Gloria Pedersen, Theresa S. Betancourt, Alan Carr, Michael Donnelly, Felicity L. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Given the protective effect of nurturing caregivers and families for child and adolescent mental health, there is a need to review and synthesize research evidence regarding the effectiveness of parenting and family interventions in low and middle-income countries, including humanitarian settings. To advance practice, further understanding of the active ingredients of such interventions and implementation factors that lead to effectiveness are essential. 

Method: This systematic review, an update from a previous review, included studies on any parenting or family intervention for children and adolescents aged 0–24, living in a low- or middle-income country, that quantitatively measured child or adolescent mental health outcomes. We searched Global Health, PubMed, PsychINFO, PILOTS and the Cochrane Library databases on the 9th July 2020, and updated on the 12th August 2022. Risk of bias was assessed using an adapted version of the NIH Quality Assessment Tool. We extracted data on: effectiveness outcomes, practice elements included in effective interventions, and implementation challenges and successes. 

Main findings: We found a total of 80 studies (n = 18,193 participants) representing 64 different family or parenting interventions, 43 of which had evidence of effect for a child or adolescent mental health outcome. Only 3 studies found no effect on child, adolescent or caregiver outcomes. The most common practice elements delivered in effective interventions included caregiver psychoeducation, communication skills, and differential reinforcement. Key implementation strategies and lessons learned included non-specialist delivery, the engagement of fathers, and integrated or multi-sector care to holistically address family needs. 

Preliminary conclusions: Despite a high level of heterogeneity, preliminary findings from the review are promising and support the use of parenting and family interventions to address the wider social ecology of children in low resource and humanitarian contexts. There are remaining gaps in understanding mechanisms of change and the empirical testing of different implementation models. Our findings have implications for better informing task sharing from specialist to non-specialist delivery, and from individual-focused to wider systemic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152483
JournalComprehensive psychiatry
Early online date17 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024


  • Adolescents
  • Child
  • Family
  • Humanitarian crises
  • Low- and middle-income countries
  • Parenting
  • Psychosocial interventions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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