Community Parent Education Program (COPE)

Note: The COPE program was not responsive to the CEBC's inquiry. The following information was obtained from publicly available sources.

About This Program

Target Population: Parents of children with disruptive behavior

Program Overview

COPE is designed to help all parents develop proven skills to strengthen their relationships with their children, increase cooperation, and solve problems. COPE is a cost-effective large group program. Sessions typically include groups of 15 to 25 parents working to together in a combination of small group and large group exercises.

COPE uses a coping modeling problem solving process. Leaders help groups of parents develop solutions to common problems. This helps parents develop skills which are culturally and developmentally relevant, strengthens problems solving skills, and builds parental confidence. COPE is designed to be conducted in convenient community locations such as schools and recreation centers. When possible, child care is provided. This reduces barriers which may prevent parents from participating in parenting programs. COPE uses readings, videotapes, small group problem solving discussions, demonstrations, practice exercises, and homework projects to help parents develop new skills.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

*Cunningham, C. E., Bremner, R., & Boyle M. (1995). Large group community-based parenting programs for families of preschoolers at risk for disruptive behaviour disorders: utilization, cost effectiveness, and outcome. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 36, 1141–1159.

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 150


  • Age — Preschool (approximately 3-5 years)
  • Race/Ethnicity — 84% Canadian-born and 16% Immigrant
  • Gender — 50% Male and 50% Female
  • Status — Participants were families with children at-risk for disruptive behavior disorders.

Location/Institution: Hamilton school district in Ontario, Canada

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study evaluated service utilization of a large group community-based parent training program [now called Community Parent Education Program (COPE)]. Children were enrolled in one of three groups: a clinic-based parenting course for individual families, a large group community-based parenting course, or a waiting list control condition. The two intervention groups consisted of 11 to 12 weekly sessions. Parents completed the Home Situations Questionnaire (HSQ), Weschler Preschool and Primary Intelligence Scale (WPPIS), General Functioning Scale of the Family Assessment Device, Social Provisions Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), and the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale. Results indicated that immigrant families, those using English as a second language, and parents of children with severe behavior problems were significantly more likely to enroll in Community/Groups than Clinic/Individual PT. Parents in Community/Groups reported greater improvements in behavior problems at home and better maintenance of these gains at 6-month follow-up. A cost analysis showed that, with groups of 18 families, Community/Groups are more than six times as cost effective as Clinic/Individual programs. Limitations included participants who completed outcome measures, but did not attend parenting classes, cost-effectiveness analysis using two very different approaches to parent training, and treatment effects were not observed.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 6 months.

Cunningham, C. E., Boyle, M., Offord, D., Racine, Y., Hundert, J., Secord, M., & McDonald, J. (2000). Tri-ministry study: Correlates of school-based parenting course utilization. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 928–933.

Type of Study: One group pretest-posttest design
Number of Participants: 1,498


  • Age — 5-8 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Canadian-born and Immigrant
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were families with children at-risk for disruptive behavior disorders.

Location/Institution: Ontario Ministry of Education

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
This study examined factors associated with the utilization of universally available school-based parent training [now called Community Parent Education Program (COPE)]. The large-group parenting program consisted of two 8-week phases of weekly 2-hour sessions offered twice during an 18-month period. Parents and teachers completed the externalizing scales of the Revised Ontario Child Health Study Scales (OCHS-R). Parent-completed measures included the 12-item General Functioning Scale of the Family Assessment Device, the 20-item Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, and the 13-item index from the Ontario Health Survey. Externalizing problems, first-child status, and a high school education were associated with increased enrollment. Single-parent status, immigrant background, and limited extracurricular child activities were associated with lower enrollment. Economic disadvantage, stress, family dysfunction, and parental depressive symptoms were not associated with participation. Most families attributed nonparticipation to busy personal schedules, inconvenient times, and logistical difficulties. In Year 2, after parenting courses were offered twice, 135 randomly selected parents from one school were interviewed by telephone to determine whether they were aware of parent training, how they learned about the course, whether they enrolled, and their reasons for not participating. Limitations include lack of comparison group and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Tamm, L., Swanson, J. M., Lerner, M. A., Childress, C., Patterson, B., Lakes, K., Nguyen, A. S., . . . Cunningham, C. (2005). Intervention for preschoolers at risk for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Service before diagnosis. Clinical Neuroscience Research, 5, 247-253.

Type of Study: One group pretest-posttest design
Number of Participants: 1,474 families


  • Age — Majority 3-5 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 68% Hispanic, 21% Caucasian, 3% Asian, 1% African American, 2% Multiracial, and 5% Other
  • Gender — 66% Male and 34% Female
  • Status — Participants were Hispanic, Spanish-speaking families with children at risk for ADHD in the CUIDAR program

Location/Institution: Children’s and Families Commission of Orange County

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study evaluated the CHOC-UCI Initiative for the Development of Attention and Readiness (CUIDAR) program during its start-up phase. The program used the Community Parent Education (COPE) program 10-week modified curriculum to evaluate differences in ethnic groups on the basis of important measures of effectiveness, such as parental satisfaction, gains in parenting skills, and reductions in child behavior problems. As a pilot project, parents participating in the COPE program completed a Parenting Strategies Assessment (PSA) questionnaire and the Child Behavior Rating (CBR) questionnaire at the first and last sessions of the COPE group in two quarters of the program. Parents reported finding the intervention helpful, using positive parenting strategies more frequently and physical punishment less frequently after completing COPE, and feeling that the strategies they learned are useful for child management. Participating parents rated their children as having fewer social problems as well impulsive and oppositional behaviors at the end of the group than at the beginning of the group. A follow-up PSA and CBR were mailed to parents more than a year after their participation in the program. Although the return rate was low, those parents who did return questionnaires reported continued utility of parenting skills and maintained gains in terms of child behavior improvements. Limitations included lack of randomization or control and limited response at follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 1 year.

Thorell, L. B. (2009). The Community Parent Education Program (COPE): Treatment effects in a clinical and a community-based sample. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 14(3), 373-387.

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest control group design
Number of Participants: 219 families


  • Age — 3-12 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Swedish
  • Gender — 71.5% Male and 28.5% Female
  • Status — Participants were children who had been referred to the clinic due to severe problems with hyperactivity, inattention and/or conduct problems. All families in the clinical sample had a child who had been diagnosed with either ADHD and/or ODD.

Location/Institution: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic at the Karolinska University Hospital, Huddinge, Sweden

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
The study examined treatment effects of the Community Parent Education (COPE) in families of Swedish children with different levels of externalizing behavior problems. Four different groups were studied: a clinical intervention group, a nonclinical high symptom level group, a nonclinical low-symptom level group, and a nonclinical waiting-list control group. Treatment effects were studied in terms of child behavior problems (ADHD symptoms, ODD symptoms, social competence deficits, and daily problem behaviors), parental stress, and lack of perceived control. In addition, the present study examined parental views of the COPE program with regard to satisfaction and perceived effectiveness of the different strategies using a 4-point scale. Measures used included the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), Barkley’s Home Situation Questionnaire, Swedish Parenthood Stress Questionnaire (SPSQ) – an adapted version of the Parenting Stress Index (PSI), and Parent Locus of Control instrument (PLOC). The main findings were that COPE was found to be effective in reducing conduct problems, hyperactivity/impulsivity, daily problem behaviors, parental stress, and lack of perceived parental control. However, the program was not effective in reducing inattention, social competence deficits, or peer problems. Interestingly, the significant group effects were a result of significant differences between the two nonclinical intervention groups and the waiting-list control group, whereas the clinical intervention group did not differ significantly from the control group with regard to either child or parental variables. Limitations included sole reliance on maternal ratings, lack of measures of maternal psychopathology, and lack of follow-up data.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Cunningham, C. E. (2005). COPE: Large group, community based, family-centered parent training. In: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment, Barkley, R.A., (Ed.); New York: The Guilford Press.

Cunningham, C. E., Bremner, R., Secord, M., & Harrison, R. (2009). COPE, The Community Parent Education Program: Large group community based workshops for parents of 3 to 18 year olds. Hamilton, ON Canada: COPE Works.

Contact Information

Charles E. Cunningham, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: McMaster University
Phone: (905) 521-2100 x77307
Fax: (905) 577-8453

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: June 2017

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: April 2011

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: April 2011