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Nurturing Parenting Program

Ages 0-18

Rating: Level 3


The Nurturing Parenting Program is a family-centered initiative designed to build nurturing skills as alternatives to abusive parenting and child-rearing attitudes and practices. Its long-term goals are to decrease the rate of recidivism in families receiving social services, lower the rate of multiparent teenage pregnancies, reduce the rate of juvenile delinquency and alcohol abuse, and stop the intergenerational cycle of child abuse by teaching positive parenting behaviors. The initiative targets all families at risk for abuse and neglect with children ages 0 to 18. It has been adapted for special populations, including Hmong families, Hispanic families, African-American families, and families in treatment and recovery.

The program features activities to foster positive parenting skills and self-nurturing, home practice exercises, family nurturing time, infant/toddler/preschooler activities, and a family hug. Parents and children attend separate groups that meet concurrently for cognitive activities designed to build self-awareness, positive self-concept/self-esteem, and empathy; teach alternatives to yelling and hitting; enhance family communication and awareness of needs; replace abusive behavior with nurturing; promote healthy physical and emotional development; and teach appropriate role and developmental expectations.

Thirteen different programs address specific age groups (infants, school-age, teens), cultures (Hispanic, Southeast Asian, African-American), and needs (special learning needs, families in alcohol recovery). The group sessions run 2 to 3 hours once a week for 12 to 45 weeks. Programs can be implemented in group or home sites.


The initial ‘Nurturing Parenting Program for Parents and Children 4 to 12 Years’ and each subsequent program were extensively field tested. The initial study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health included 121 abusive adults and 150 abused children. The average age was 30 for adults and 6 for children. The program was field tested in five States: Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Ninety-two percent of the parents and 90 percent of the children were white. The remaining parents and children were African-American (6 percent), American Indian (2 percent), and Hispanic (1 percent). The first field trial and all subsequent studies used the battery of inventories. Each inventory was administered before the program began (pretest), at the end of the program (posttest), and 12 to 18 months after completion of the program. The inventories included the Adult Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI), the Children’s Personality Inventory, the 16 Personality Factor, the Children’s Personality Questionnaire (CPQ), the Early School Personality Questionnaire (ESPQ), the Family Environment Scale (FES), the Nurturing Quiz, the Family Social History Questionnaire, Observational Data Collection Forms, and Program Evaluation Forms.


For parents’ attitudes about parenting practices, pretest and posttest data gathered from administration of the AAPI indicated that significant positive changes occurred in the parenting and childrearing attitudes of the parents. These changes included expectations more appropriate to the development of their children, an increased empathic awareness of children’s needs, a decrease in the use of corporal punishment, and a decrease in parent–child role reversal. Data gathered from parents 1 year after they completed the program indicated a retention of empathic attitudes toward children’s needs and a clear differentiation of appropriate parent–child roles. Approval of alternatives to the use of corporal punishment increased, as did the appropriateness of the parents’ expectations of their children relative to their developmental level, which showed a significant increase.

For children’s attitudes about parenting practices, posttest data indicated significant increases in self-awareness and understanding of appropriate parent–child roles. The follow-up scores of abused children 1 year after their participation in the program indicated a significant increase in self-awareness and a concomitant decrease in their support of corporal punishment.

For personality characteristics of parents, posttest results showed significant increases in intelligence, enthusiasm, social boldness, and self-assuredness and significant decreases in radicalism, anxiety, and tough demeanor.

As for personality characteristics of children, the CPQ and ESPQ were used to develop a personality profile of the abused children who participated in the study. Their pretest responses showed personality traits that fell within the normal range for their age group, with two exceptions: they tended to be more concrete in their thinking and undemonstrative in nature. Posttest results indicated a significant increase in assertiveness, enthusiasm, and tough demeanor.

For family interaction patterns, the FES was used to develop an interaction profile of the families who participated in the study. Posttest results showed significant increases in family cohesion, family expressiveness, and family independence and a concurrent significant decrease in family conflict. When posttest responses were compared with responses gathered 1 year after completion of the program, further significant increases were seen in family cohesion, family expressiveness, family organization, and moral-religious emphasis; a significant decrease was seen in family conflict.

For the Nurturing Quiz, posttest data indicated a significant increase in acquired knowledge related to behavior management concepts and techniques. No significant changes in test scores were found when the Nurturing Quiz was administered 1 year after completion of the program.

Evaluations of subsequently developed Nurturing Parenting Programs have yielded similar results. Program participants showed significant pretest and posttest changes in parenting attitudes and childrearing practices.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence
  • Early sexual involvement
  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Victimization and exposure to violence


  • Child victimization and maltreatment
  • Family management problems/Poor parental supervision and/or monitoring
  • Family violence
  • Parental use of physical punishment/Harsh and/or erratic discipline practices
  • Pattern of high family conflict
  • Poor family attachment/Bonding

Protective Factors


  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Self-efficacy


  • Effective parenting
  • Good relationships with parents / Bonding or attachment to family
  • Having a stable family


  • OJJDP/CSAP: Strengthen Families


Bavolek, Stephen J. 2002. Research and Validation of the Nurturing Parenting Programs. Research Report. Asheville, N.C.: Family Development Resources, Inc.

———. 2005. Nurturing Parenting Program Validation Studies 1983–2005. Research Report. Asheville, N.C.: Family Development Resources, Inc.

Bavolek, Stephen J., J.A. McLaughlin, and Christine M. Comstock. 1983. The Nurturing Parenting Programs: A Validated Approach for Reducing Dysfunctional Family Interactions. Final Report National Institute of Mental Health.

Camp, J.M., and N. Finkelstein. 1997. “Parenting Training for Women in Residential Substance Abuse Treatment: Results of a Demonstration Project.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 14(5):411–22.

Cowen, P.S. “Effectiveness of a Parent Education Intervention for At-Risk Families.” Journal of the Society for Pediatric Nursing 6(2):73–82.

Primer, V. 1991. Long-Term Impact of the Nurturing Parenting Program: A Comparison of Parenting Attitudes of Abuse and Neglectful Parents Preprogram, Postprogram, and at 1-Year Postprogram Follow-Up. Research Report. Asheville, N.C.: Family Development Resources, Inc.


Stephen J. Bavolek, Ph.D.
Family Nurturing Center, Inc.
146 Windover Drive
Asheville, NC 28803
Fax: (828) 776-4440
Web site: