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Parents as Teachers

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Parents as Teachers (PAT) is an international, early childhood, parent education and family support program serving families from pregnancy until their children enter kindergarten. PAT targets families from all socioeconomic backgrounds and from rural, urban, and suburban communities. The program is designed to enhance child development and school achievement through parent education accessible to all families. It adapts to fit the needs of the community.

Certified parent educators conduct personal visits, using a curriculum with the latest neuroscience research findings to offer practical ideas on ways to enhance parenting knowledge. Parents also meet in groups to discuss such topics as positive discipline, sleep, sibling rivalry, and toilet learning and to promote parent–child interaction through activities such as story reading and play.

The program offers periodic developmental screening and provides links to community resources. It has also been adapted for center-based providers and special populations (teen parents, parents of children with special needs, reservation-based Native Americans, homeless families, military-based families, and incarcerated/probation/paroled parents).


The PAT program has been independently evaluated several times using a randomized control design. One evaluation involved 665 children and families. Of these, 15.5 percent were recruited prenatally, while the remaining children were between 1 and 8 months old. All were asked to participate through the child’s 3rd birthday. The sample was 58.2 percent African-American, 29.4 percent white, and 12.4 percent other ethnicities. The families were randomly assigned to the PAT program (n=275) or the control group (n=390). In addition to being assessed at baseline, parents were assessed at the child’s 1st and 2nd birthdays and children were assessed only at their 2nd birthday. Attrition was high. The first assessment included 53 percent of the treatment group and 50.5 percent of the control group. The second assessment included 39 percent of the treatment group and 41 percent of the control group. The parent assessment involved measures of parental knowledge, attitudes toward parenting, and parenting behaviors. The child assessment measured development and behaviors.

Other evaluations include the PAT Pilot Project, which involved 75 randomly selected first-time parents with 3-year-old children. The comparison group was selected from pilot PAT school district sites that did not participate in PAT. The statewide implementation of PAT in Missouri included 400 randomly selected families in 37 Missouri school districts. The study oversampled children at risk. Finally, SRI International evaluated PAT with 113 predominantly Hispanic families in Salinas, Calif. Of these, 67 were randomly assigned to PAT and 46 to a control group.


Independent evaluations of the PAT program found the following:

  • Children at age 3 were significantly more advanced in language, social development, problem solving, and other cognitive abilities than comparison children. Parents in the program became more involved in their children’s schooling.
  • PAT children performed above national norms on the measures used in the original pilot study sample. Children with developmental delays overcame them by age 3. Parent knowledge of child development and parenting practices significantly increased for all types of families. There were only two documented cases of abuse and neglect among the 400 Binghamton, N.Y., families over a 3-year period. Similar gains were evidenced among the California families.
  • PAT children had significantly higher cognitive, language, social, and motor skills than nonparticipants. PAT participants had substantially reduced welfare dependence and half the number of child abuse and neglect cases.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Cognitive and neurological deficits/Low intelligence quotient/Hyperactivity
  • Mental disorder/Mental health problem/Conduct disorder
  • Victimization and exposure to violence


  • Broken home
  • Child victimization and maltreatment
  • Family history of the problem behavior/Parent criminality
  • Family management problems/Poor parental supervision and/or monitoring
  • Family violence
  • Having a young mother
  • Low parent education level/Illiteracy
  • Parental use of physical punishment/Harsh and/or erratic discipline practices
  • Pattern of high family conflict
  • Poor family attachment/Bonding


  • Economic deprivation/Poverty/Residence in a disadvantaged neighborhood

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • High expectations
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive expectations / Optimism for the future
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Effective parenting
  • Good relationships with parents / Bonding or attachment to family
  • Having a stable family
  • High expectations
  • Opportunities for prosocial family involvement
  • Rewards for prosocial family involvement


  • Above average academic achievement / Reading and math skills


  • OJJDP/CSAP: Strengthen Families


Drazen, Shelley M., and Mary Haust. 1994. Increasing Children’s Readiness for School by a Parental Education Program. Binghamton, N.Y.: Community Resource Center.

Pfannenstiel, J.C.; T. Lambson; and V. Yarnell. 1991. Second Wave Study of the Parents as Teachers Program. Overland, Kan.: Research and Training Associates.

———. 1995. The Effects of the Parents and Children Together Program on School Achievement. Binghamton, N.Y.: Community Resource Center.

———. 1996. Lasting Academic Gains From a Home Visitations Program. Binghamton, N.Y.: Community Resource Center.

Pfannenstiel, J.C., and D.A. Seltzer. 1985. Evaluation Report: New Parents As Teachers Project. Overland, Kan.: Research and Training Associates.

Wagner, M. 1992. Home the First Classroom: A Pilot Evaluation of the Northern California Parents as Teachers Project. Menlo Park, Calif.: SRI International.

———. 1993. Evaluation of the National City Parents as Teachers Programs. Menlo Park, Calif.: SRI International.

Wagner, M.; D. Spiker; and M.I. Linn. 2002. “The Effectiveness of the Parents as Teachers Program With Low-Income Parents and Children.” Topics in Early Childhood Special Education 22(2):67–81.


Attn: Public Information Specialist
Parents as Teachers National Center, Inc.
2228 Ball Drive
St. Louis, MO 63146
Phone: (866) 728-4968
Fax: (314) 432-8963
Web site: