How parents interact with their children and, in particular, their disciplinary styles, can increase or decrease the likelihood of later antisocial and delinquent behavior by their offspring. As Patterson and his colleagues (Patterson, 1976, 1995; Patterson et al., 1984) indicate through their research, parents who nag or use idle threats are likely to generate coercive systems in which children gain control through misbehaving. So important does the family appear to be in terms of the development of youth crime that programs have been designed to help parents cope with their offspring. Kazdin (1997:1351) summarized this line of research by noting that parent management training “has led to marked improvements in child behavior on parent and teacher reports of deviant behavior, direct observation of behavior at home and school, and institutional records (e.g., school truancy, police contacts, arrest rates, institutionalization).” The following section discusses evaluations of programs that were wholly or in part focused on assisting and training parents. These programs are summarized in Table 4-1.
A strong case for interventions with expectant parents can be made because of the nature of human growth. Brain development during the fetal period has lifelong consequences (Carnegie Task Force on Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children, 1994) and can be altered by chemical agents (such as alcohol, nicotine, and drugs), by mothers' behavior and health, and by environmental effects on the mother (Coe, 1999; Wakschlag et al., 1997).
Parents with a history of social adjustment problems are most likely to maintain risky behaviors during pregnancy. From this perspective, a number of preventive interventions have targeted pregnant adolescents. These experiments can often be considered interventions with disruptive adolescents in an effort to prevent the intergenerational continuity of antisocial behavior. Unfortunately, participants in these intervention studies generally have not been followed long enough to document the program's impact on the development of disruptive behavior for either the mother or the child.
The Elmira Home Visitation study (Olds et al., 1997b, 1998) is an exception. Participants in this targeted prevention experiment were pregnant women with no prior live births and were either unmarried, adolescent, or poor. Other pregnant women were included in the study to prevent stigmatization. Three experimental groups were created by ran-