Parents’ differential susceptibility to a “micro” parenting intervention: Rationale and study protocol for a randomized controlled microtrial

Rabia Chhangur, Jay Belsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Given evidence that parenting can influence children’s development, parenting interventions are often the strategy of choice when it comes to treating children’s disruptive behavior problems—or preventing problems from developing in the first place. What remains under appreciated, however, is that some parents appear to be more responsive to interventions to foster skilled parenting than others. Notable in this regard is the ever-increasing observational and, perhaps more importantly, experimental evidence indicating that some children prove more susceptible to parenting interventions than others. So, while the experimental evidence clearly indicates that “susceptibility factors” which children carry seem to affect their likelihood of benefiting from a parenting intervention (and other environmental influences), what remains unclear is why the parenting interventions in question prove more effective in changing the behavior of some parents more than others. Could it be as a result of their own parental characteristics?


The Parfective Microtrial in a randomized controlled microtrial, in which we focus not just on parental (and child) responsiveness but also on an underlying physiological mechanism hypothesized to contribute to heightened susceptibility to parenting interventions.


Participants are 120 families, with children aged 4–5 years, recruited from the community. Of these, 60 are randomly assigned to the “micro” intervention condition (i.e., immediate positive parenting feedback) and 60 families to the care-as-usual control condition. Assessments in both conditions will be conducted at baseline (pretest), after 2 weeks (posttest), and after 4 weeks (follow-up). Primary outcomes are the hypothesized moderating effects of physiology on the anticipated “micro” intervention effect (i.e., decrease in negative parenting behavior and/or increase in positive parenting behavior). Secondary outcomes are the observed (changes in) child behavior in response to the parenting intervention, such that those parents and children—in the same family—who manifest these physiological attributes will prove most susceptible to the beneficial effects of the intervention.

Trial registration

This study protocol is registered at (NCT05539170).
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0282207
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Humans
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting
  • Parents
  • Problem Behavior
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


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