Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Effectiveness of a parental training programme in enhancing the parent–child relationship and reducing harsh parenting practices and parental stress in preparing children for their transition to primary school: a randomised controlled trial

Ho Cheung William Li1*, Sophia SC Chan1, Yim Wah Mak2 and Tai Hing Lam3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing, The University of Hong Kong, 4/F, William M. W. Mong Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

2 School of Nursing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong

3 School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:1079  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-1079

Published: 16 November 2013



Entering primary school is an important childhood milestone, marking the beginning of a child’s formal education. Yet the change creates a time of vulnerability for the child, the parents and the parent–child relationship. Failure to adjust to the transition may place the family in a psychologically devastating position. The aims of this study were to test the effectiveness of a parental training programme in enhancing the parent–child relationship and decreasing parental stress by reducing harsh parenting in preparing children for the transition to primary school.


A randomised controlled trial incorporating a two-group pre-test and repeated post-test was conducted in one of the largest public housing estates in Hong Kong. A total of 142 parents were recruited, with 72 parents randomly assigned to the experimental group and 70 to the control group. Harsh parenting practices, parent–child relationships and parental stress were assessed.


In comparison to parents in the control group, those in the experimental group engaged in less harsh parenting practices and reported better parent–child relationships. However, parental stress scores did not differ significantly between the two groups.


This study addressed a gap in the literature by examining the effectiveness of the training programme for enhancing parent–child relationship and decreasing parental stress at the time of a child’s transition to primary school. The findings from this study provide empirical evidence of the effectiveness of the parental training programme and highlight the significance of parenting in promoting a smooth transition for children from kindergarten to primary 1.

Trial registration NCT01845948.

Children; Harsh parenting practices; Parent–child relationships; Parental stress; Transition