Parent Effectiveness Training is the most widely researched parenting program in the world today.
At least seven published Australian studies of Parent Effectiveness Training (PET) have
produced evidence-based positive outcomes over a generation for parents taking the course. In
addition Dr.Christine Wood at the University of Tasmania has recently completed a large investigation
which looks at the outcomes from 26 PET courses run by different instructors in six states of Australia.
Results from this study have been reported to date at national conferences in Australia from 2000-2005.
The work also focuses on the relevance of PET for a radically changed society in which
interpersonal skills, emotional training and problem prevention have all been shown
to be of crucial importance for parents and their families today.
Outcome Studies (listed by date)
Controlled studies have demonstrated positive attitudinal changes in parents taking PET
(Schultz, 1981; Schultz, Nystul & Law, 1980). Schultz (1981) showed that PET had positive effects
on specific family members, including mothers, fathers and children. Fathers were likely to become
less authoritarian, mothers more positive about child-rearing, and children increased their positive
relationships with both parents.
Positive attitudinal change was demonstrated in parents after PET by Schultz, Nystul and
Law, (1980) and matching behavioural changes were shown by Schultz and Nystul (1980). Schultz
and Kahn (1982) reported that following PET mothers demonstrated improved microskills with their
young children in short-term interactions. These included appreciative comments, touching, actively
seeking the child’s opinion and an ability to manage disagreement.
Rob and Norfor (1980) who compared the outcomes of PET participants with population
norms on the same measures found that parents who had completed PET showed greater confidence in
their ability as parents, were more aware of the influence of the environment on their children and had
a more trusting relationship with them. They also found that those who were not very well informed
about child rearing beforehand, improved most after the course, which was taken to indicate that the
course was valuable to parents with a lower socio-economic background.
In the US, Root and Levant (1984) found that a group of parents from a depressed rural area improved
significantly more than controls in attitudes of understanding and trust, and that the improvement was
maintained at a six-month follow-up. A meta-analysis (Cedar, 1985; Cedar & Levant, 1990) found
from the results of 26 separate studies that PET had a positive effect on parents and that it was similarly
maintained after six months.
In an Australian study, Wood and Davidson (1987) showed that parents acquired new
abilities in the communication skills of active listening, non-antagonistic confrontation, problem
solving and conflict resolution with their children after taking and eight-week standard PET course.
These abilities were significantly greater than those of control parents. The same group of parents and
controls was re-assessed seven years later (Wood & Davidson, 1994/95) and remained significantly
above their initial skill levels in comparison with the control group, at about half the level attained at
the posttest. The control group in fact had made very small gains over seven years, still well below
statistical significance. It was suggested that the gains made by the experimental group showed the
worth of the original PET course, and that the intervention was of value both to the families involved
and to the community.
In another study (Wood & Davidson, 1993) it was shown that parents and adolescent children
taking PET and YET (Youth Effectiveness Training) respectively, acquired the ability to make
behavioural changes in their interactions, with both groups demonstrating significant improvement in
conflict resolution skills compared with controls. Compared with the control group, the PET parents
improved significantly in Assertiveness and Conflict Resolution, with a trend for improvement in
Active Listening. The YET teenagers showed a highly significant improvement in Conflict Resolution,
although gains on the separate skills of Assertiveness and Active Listening did not reach significance.
Nevertheless the study showed that habitual patterns of communication can successfully be changed in
a family situation.
Wood and Davidson (2002a) documented qualitative issues regarding problems of child
behaviour, parent-child relationships and parent self-management as identified by
Australian parents. The child behaviour issues were compared with those for normal
children in the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenback & Edelbrock, 1981). The
outcomes reported by PET parents regarding their own objectives and their anecdotal
reports about them illustrate how PET parents have succeeded in making changes
from the traditional role of parent as unilateral decision maker to one which is more
adaptive in the vastly different society in which we now have to live – a changed
stance which encourages emotional competence and self-control in children, together
with collaborative action based on the relationship.
Results are now emerging from the major doctoral study of PET (Wood, 2003) which has investigated
PET outcomes in 232 parents in six Australian states.
Wood (2003) reported the parenting problems cited by Australian parents involved in an
extensive Australian study (see below) and detailed some of the changes in communication, attitudes
and behavioural responses made by those who had taken PET. They concluded that the cognitive and
structural change in the verbal expression of emotion-related socialisation practices shown by these
parents points to the contemporary relevance of PET.
Wood and Davidson (2003) documented linguistic changes made by parents after PET
training and showed how these reflected not only attitudinal shifts towards a more
collaborative style of parenting, but also demonstrated the positive communication
patterns found in strong families.
Davidson and Wood (2004) in an experimental investigation of the Conflict Resolution Model
of Littlefield, Love, Peck and Wertheim (1993) included results from collaborative
research into the model and into PET conflict resolution, which utilises both listening
and assertive skills as part of creative problem solving.
(Theory into Practice is a scholarly journal published quarterly by the Ohio State University
College of Education. Guest edited by David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson, the
articles place the research on national and international conflict resolution and peer
mediation in the context of other factors that influence the program’s success.
Conflict resolution and peer mediation is the theme of the winter issue).
Wood, C. D., & Davidson, J. A. (2004). Factors affecting the acquisition of skills in PET (Parent
Effectiveness Training: Language, gender and education. In T. Bowles (Ed.), Proceedings of
the Australian Psychological Society’s Psychology of Relationships Interest Group 4th Annual
Conference: Relationship transitions (pp.141 – 144). Melbourne: Australian Psychological
Wood, C. D., & Davidson, J. A. (2005). Relationship and control: Theory and practice in PET
and Triple P. Paper presented as part of a symposium on parenting and attachment at the 40th
Annual Conference of the APS. Melbourne: Australian Psychological Society.
Wood, C. D., & Davidson, J. A. (2005, in press). Minding our language: Parent Effectiveness
Training (PET) Australian Style. In T. Bowles (Ed.), Proceedings of the Australian
Psychological Society’s Psychology of Relationships Interest Group 5th Annual Conference: The
good, the bad and the ugly. Melbourne: Australian Psychological Society.Christine Wood, BA (Hons), M. Psych., Ph. D., M.A.P.S.
Christine Wood, BA (Hons), M. Psych., Ph. D., M.A.P.S