Parents as Teachers

Scientific Rating:
Promising Research Evidence
See scale of 1-5
Child Welfare System Relevance Level:
See descriptions of 3 levels

About This Program

The information in this program outline is provided by the program representative and edited by the CEBC staff. Parents as Teachers has been rated by the CEBC in the areas of: Home Visiting Programs for Child Well-Being and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Primary) Programs.

Target Population: Families with an expectant mother or parents of children up to kindergarten entry (usually 5 years)

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 5

Brief Description

Parents as Teachers is an early childhood parent education, family support, and school readiness home visiting model based on the premise that "all children will learn, grow, and develop to realize their full potential." Based on theories of human ecology, empowerment, self-efficacy, attribution, and developmental parenting. Parents as Teachers involves the training and certification of parent educators who work with families using a comprehensive curriculum. Parent educators work with parents to strengthen protective factors and ensure that young children are healthy, safe, and ready to learn.

Program Goals:

The four goals of Parents as Teachers are:

  • Increase parent knowledge of early childhood development and improve parenting practices
  • Provide early detection of developmental delays and health issues
  • Prevent child abuse and neglect
  • Increase children's school readiness and school success

Essential Components

The essential components of Parents as Teachers include:

  • Personal Visits: Home visitation is the key component of the Parents as Teachers model, with personal visits of approximately 60 minutes delivered weekly, every 2 weeks, or monthly, depending on family needs. Parent educators share research-based information and use evidence-based practices by partnering, facilitating, and reflecting with families. Parent educators use the Parent as Teachers curriculum in culturally sensitive ways to deliver services that emphasize parent-child interaction, development-centered parenting, and family well-being.
    • Parent-child interaction focuses on promoting positive parenting behaviors and child development through parent-child activities.
    • Development-centered parenting focuses on the link between child development and parenting on the key developmental topics (e.g., attachment, discipline, health, nutrition, safety, sleep, transitions/routines, healthy births).
    • Family well-being includes a focus on family strengths, capabilities, skills, and the building of protective factors.
  • Screenings: Annual child health, hearing, vision, and developmental screenings, beginning within 90 days of enrollment, are a component of the model. Child screenings:
    • Assess developmental progress regarding cognitive, language, social-emotional, and motor skills.
    • Screen for delays or problems in vision/hearing/health.
    • Provide information about child’s health and developmental progress through on-going tracking of developmental milestones.
  • Group Connections: Another component of the Parents as Teachers model is monthly or more frequent group connections, which parents can attend with their child to obtain information and social support and share experiences with their peers. Group connections formats include family activities, presentations, community events, parent cafes, and ongoing groups. There are no set recommendations of the group size.
  • Resource Network: Additionally, Parents as Teachers maintains ongoing relationships with institutions and community organizations that serve families. Parent educators help families identify needs, set goals, connect with appropriate resources, and overcome barriers to accessing services.

Parent/Caregiver Services

Parents as Teachers directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Pregnant or parent of a child five years old or younger in possible high-risk environments (e.g., teen parents, low income, parental low educational attainment, single-parent household, etc.)
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Children in the family are included in the home visits that focus on parent-child interaction. Parents are connected to other agencies in the community as the need arises.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Adoptive Home
  • Birth Family Home
  • Child Care Center
  • Community Agency
  • Foster/Kinship Care
  • Outpatient Clinic
  • School


Parents as Teachers includes a homework component:

There are parent-child follow-up activities in the curriculum for the parent educators to choose from based on parenting behaviors or child development they want to encourage. Parent educators introduce a follow-up activity at the end of their visits, and encourage parents to engage in it before the next personal visit.


Parents as Teachers has materials available in languages other than English:

French, German, Mandarin, Spanish

For information on which materials are available in these languages, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Prior to sending home visitors to attend a training, new organizations must complete an Affiliate Plan that details their implementation plan. Information on how to start and implement a program is available in the Quality Assurance Guidelines posted at

Following approval of the Affiliate Plan, successful completion of the foundational and model implementation trainings and access to the digital curriculum are required for each parent educator. Supervisors must attend the model implementation training and are encouraged to attend the foundational training as well. Parent educators and supervisors also require access to:

  • Office space with a telephone, computer with Internet access, and copier
  • Secure/locked storage for files, books, toys and other materials needed for personal visits and group meetings
  • A meeting space for both staff and families as well as a play area

Minimum Provider Qualifications

Parent educators must successfully complete the Parents as Teachers Foundational and Model Implementation trainings. Supervisors are required to attend the Model Implementation training, and ideally, Foundational training as well.

The intervention requires annual renewal of parent educator certification. For parent educators, 20 hours of continuing education is required their first year, 15 hours in their second year, and 10 hours annually thereafter. Parent educators typically have a bachelor's degree or beyond in early childhood education or a related field with supervised experience working in the early childhood field, although the minimum education level required for a parent educator is a high school diploma or GED and two years' previous supervised work experience with young children and/or parents.

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program, and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
  • Donna Hunt O'Brien, Director, Training and Curriculum Development
    Parents as Teachers National Office
    phone: (866) 728-4968 x276
Training is obtained:

After an Affiliate Plan has been approved, individuals can register online at Foundational and Model Implementation trainings, are offered throughout the United States and on-site by special arrangement. More information about resources for fidelity and quality can be found at under the Fidelity & Quality tab found under the Results tab.

Number of days/hours:

Successful completion of the 5-days of face-to-face training results in model certification and access to the Foundational Curriculum. An additional 2-day training and curriculum are available to support work with families of children 3 years of age to Kindergarten entry. More information can be obtained at under the Training Gateway tab found under the Training tab.

Implementation Information

Since Parents as Teachers is rated on the Scientific Rating Scale, information was requested from the program representative on available pre-implementation assessments, implementation tools, and/or fidelity measures.

Show implementation information...

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Parents as Teachers as listed below:

A Readiness Reflection is available to help organizations measure their readiness to implement the Parents as Teachers model. The Readiness Reflection is comprised of questions related to 3 areas: Community Context, Organizational Capacity, and Staffing. To assist agencies with developing a budget for implementation, a Budgeting Tool is also available, as well as a Logic Model that illustrates the Parents as Teachers theory of change. The next step after the Readiness Reflection is completed and the organization is ready to move forward is the completion of an Affiliate Plan that documents the organization’s plan for implementation of the model. The Affiliate plan must be approved by the national office prior to registering staff for training.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Parents as Teachers as listed below:

The Parents as Teachers national office has a team of technical assistance and program support providers that are available for consultation to all Parents as Teachers affiliates. Additionally, there are currently two regional, Parents as Teachers TA (Technical Assistance) hubs located in the northeast and southeast regions of the U.S. as well as PAT State Offices in 26 states. The TA hubs and State Offices are designated to provide technical assistance/consultation to Parents as Teachers affiliates in their regions/states.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Parents as Teachers as listed below:

A variety of tools, contained in the “Supervisor’s Handbook,” are available for affiliates implementing the model to ensure they are implementing with fidelity, including: the Quality Assurance Blueprint, Personal Visit Observation Tool, Group Connections Observation Tool, File Review Tool and Performance Measures Report. The tools are not available publicly.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Parents as Teachers as listed below:

The Parents as Teachers Quality Standards are comprised of 17 essential requirements and 100 additional standards for high quality implementation. Parents as Teachers also provides the Quality Assurance (QA) Guidelines to assist organizations in understanding the expectations for model implementation. The QA Guidelines incorporate information that supports the implementation the Parents as Teachers quality standards. Finally, staff members attending Model Implementation training are also provided with the Model Implementation Guide which provides additional resources for model implementation.

Research on How to Implement the Program

The program representative did not provide information about research conducted on how to implement Parents as Teachers.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

This program is rated a "3 - Promising Research Evidence" on the Scientific Rating Scale based on the published, peer-reviewed research available. The practice must have at least one study utilizing some form of control (e.g., untreated group, placebo group, matched wait list study) establishing the practice's benefit over the placebo, or found it to be comparable to or better than an appropriate comparison practice. Please see the Scientific Rating Scale for more information.

Child Welfare Outcomes: Safety and Child/Family Well-Being

Show relevant research...

Pfannenstiel, J. C., & Seltzer, D. A. (1989). New Parents as Teachers: Evaluation of an early parent education program.

Type of Study: Non-randomized comparison group
Number of Participants: 75 intervention, 69 comparison


  • Age — 3 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were families volunteering for the New Parents as Teachers (NPAT) program and a comparison group drawn from the surrounding community.

Location/Institution: Missouri

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study compared scores on measures of cognitive and social ability for children whose parents had participated in the New Parents as Teachers (NPAT) demonstration program with a comparison group from the same community. Cognitive and language development was assessed with the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (KABC) and the Preschool Language Scale (PLS). Social development was assessed with the Battelle Developmental Inventory (BDI). The researchers also measured parent knowledge concerning importance of physical stimuli, intellectual development, lack of discipline knowledge, knowledge of child development for children 3 and younger and knowledge of hearing and motor development. Children in the NPAT group scored higher on all measures of development, except for the sequential processing scale of the KABC. Parents in the NPAT group also scored as more knowledgeable, except on measures of knowledge of intellectual development and hearing/motor development. Limitation included self-selection by NPAT parents and significantly older and more educated mothers on average in the NPAT group.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Pfannenstiel, J. C., Seitz, V., & Zigler, E. (2002). Promoting school readiness: The role of the Parents as Teachers program. NHSA Dialog, 6(1), 71-86.

Type of Study: Non-randomized comparison group
Number of Participants: 2,375 children


  • Age — Entering kindergarten
  • Race/Ethnicity — 83% non-minority
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were families with children entering public school.

Location/Institution: Missouri

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
A panel of educators and specialists developed the School Entry Profile to measure which measures symbolic development, communication, working with others, mathematical/physical knowledge, learning to learn, physical development, and conventional knowledge, as rated by teachers. Parents were given the Parent/Guardian Survey, which measures health issues, preschool attendance, and home literacy activities. Families who had received the Parents as Teachers (PAT) program were compared on these measures to a group who had not. Results showed that parents in the PAT program reported reading to their children more often and were more likely to enroll them in a preschool program. Statistical analysis also indicated direct effects of the program on school readiness, suggesting that parenting practices had changed. Finally, impoverished children whose families received PAT and who attended preschool had readiness scores equivalent to those of children from non-impoverished homes.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 2 to 3 years.

Wagner, M., Spiker, D., & Linn, M. I. (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.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 665


  • Age — 0-3 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Mother’s ethnicity: 29.4 % White, 58.2% African American, 12.4% Hispanic/Asian/Other
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were families in Parents as Teachers (PAT).

Location/Institution: Large urban programs serving a large proportion of low-income families

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Sites for the study were chosen by the researchers and PAT National Center staff. Programs were required to be at least 2 years old, serve at least 100 new families annually, serve a high proportion of low-income families and offer home visits at least monthly. Families were recruited through community services and agreed to be randomly assigned to receive the PAT program or to a comparison group. Parents were assessed at children’s first and second birthdays. Children were assessed at their second birthday only. Parents were assessed on their knowledge and attitudes using interview items drawn from the Knowledge of Infant Development Inventory, the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale, and the Child Maltreatment Precursor Scale. Home environment and parenting behaviors during observation were measured with the Home Observation and Measurement of Environment (HOME) Inventory. Study specific questions were also used in parental interviews to assess language, literacy and numeracy promoting behaviors, such as reading to children and counting. Mother-child interactions were observed during the Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training. Parent-rated child social, physical and cognitive development were measured using the Developmental Profile II. Finally, children’s pro-social behavior was measured with the Adaptive Social Behavior Inventory. Lower scores on parent knowledge, attitude toward parenting and parenting behaviors were noted for lower-income families. Few measures were affected by participation in the PAT program. These included higher self-reported happiness when caring for the child, greater acceptance of child behavior (2nd year) among moderate-income parents, and a greater tendency to read aloud or tell stories to the child among low-income parents. There was also a moderate effect on pro-social behavior among low-income children. The authors note that the generally low level of effects for the PAT program may be partly due to the fact that a high drop-out rate for the sample required them to terminate assessment at 2 years, rather than the 3 years for which the program is designed.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Albritton, S., Klotz, J., & Roberson, T. (2004). The effects of participating in a Parents as Teachers Program on parental involvement in the learning process at school and in the home. E-Journal of Teaching & Learning in Diverse Settings, 1(2), 189-208.

Type of Study: Non-randomized comparison group
Number of Participants: 80 families


  • Age — Pre-kindergarten to kindergarten
  • Race/Ethnicity — 96.2% African American, 1.3% Caucasian, and 2.5% No response
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were families with children enrolled in public or private pre-kindergarten or kindergarten classes.

Location/Institution: Mississippi

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Parents of children in the Parents as Teachers (PAT) group and comparison group were given the Parent or Caregiver survey, constructed for this study. The survey had four sections comprised of questions about parental school involvement, level of engagement with learning activities at home, preschool experiences and involvement with programs such as Early Head Start, and a section with demographic questions. Analysis indicated that PAT parents were more involved in school activities and engaged in 6 out of 12 home learning activities more often than the comparison group. These items measures literacy-related activities.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 1 to 3 years.

Zigler, E., Pfannenstiel, J., & Seitz, V. (2008). The Parents as Teachers program and school success: A replication and extension. Journal of Primary Prevention, 29, 103-120.

Type of Study: Non-randomized comparison group
Number of Participants: 5,721 kindergarten children


  • Age — Assessed in third grade
  • Race/Ethnicity — 15% minority
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were public school students.

Location/Institution: Missouri

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Students whose families had undergone the Parents as Teachers (PAT) program were compared to those who had not. Children were assessed on the Student Observation Record, which measures symbolic development, communication, working with others, mathematical/physical knowledge, learning to learn, physical development, and conventional knowledge. Parents filled out a Parent/Guardian Survey, which had questions about health issues, preschool attendance and home literacy activities. Children also received the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) Communication Arts Assessment, a state-mandated test. Parents in the PAT program read to their children more often and were more likely to enroll them in preschool, which are predictors of school readiness. Statistical analysis also showed direct effects of PAT participation on school readiness, through better parenting practices. Length of PAT participation also predicted third grade achievement. Children of low-income families who received PAT and also attended a pre-school program showed achievement levels approaching those of non-impoverished families who did not attend preschool.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 4 to 5 years.

Drotar, D., Robinson, J., Jeavons, I., & Kirchner, H. L. (2009). A randomized, controlled evaluation of early intervention: the Born to Learn curriculum. Child: Care, Health & Development. 35(5), 643-649.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial, with blocks stratified by socio-economic status (SES)
Number of Participants: 459


  • Age — 0 to 9 months of age at recruitment
  • Race/Ethnicity — Child's race/ethnicity: 65.8% White, 28.8% African American, and 5.4% Hispanic/Asian/Other
  • Gender — Not Specified
  • Status — Participants were families recruited by announcements in local papers and outreach in pediatric clinics, day care practices and health fairs.

Location/Institution: Cleveland, Ohio

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
Based on random assignment, 227 families of infants received the Parents as Teachers curriculum conducted in monthly home visits, and 232 families received general child development education only. Children were assessed at 12, 18, 24, and 36 months of age using the following measures: Bayley Scale of Mental Development, Second Edition (BSMD) at 12 and 24 months, the Bayley Behavioural Rating Scale (BBRS) and mastery motivation at 12, 24 and 36 months, the Q-Sort measure of Security of Attachment at 18 months, the Child Behaviour Rating Scale (CBRS) at 24 months, the Kaufman Assessment Battery (KAB), the Bracken Basic Concept Scale - Revised, the Test of Early Reading Ability-2 (TERA-2), and the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS) at 36 months. The Parents as Teachers curriculum resulted in higher mastery motivation (task competence) at 36 months and greater effects for children from low versus high socio-economic status on mastery motivation and cognitive development at 24 months. No effects were found on a wide range of other developmental outcomes. Limitations include suboptimal visit frequency for the Parents as Teachers group and a relatively high level of attrition.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.


Avellar, S., Paulsell, D., Sama-Miller, E., & Del Grosso, P. (2014). Home visiting evidence of effectiveness review: Executive summary. Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington, DC. Retrieved from this link.

Burwick, A., Zaveri, H., Shang, L., Boller, K., Daro, D., & Strong, D. (January, 2014). Costs of early childhood home visiting: An analysis of programs implemented in the supporting evidence-based home visiting to prevent child maltreatment initiative: Final report. Mathmatica Research. Retrieved from this link.

Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. (2014). New directions in child abuse and neglect research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Contact Information

Name: Keri Jupka, MPH
Title: Research Manager
Agency/Affiliation: Parents as Teachers
Phone: (314) 432-4330 x1220
Fax: (314) 432-8963

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: September 2016

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: March 2015

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: May 2008