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Helping the Noncompliant Child

Evidence rating
Cost rating
Review: Foundations for Life, July 2016

Helping the Noncompliant Child (HNC) is for parents who are having difficulties managing the behaviour of a child between the ages of three and eight years.

HNC is for parents who are having difficulties managing the behaviour of a child between the ages of three and eight years. The parent and child attend between five and 12 individual sessions where they learn how to manage unwanted child behaviour.

EIF Programme Assessment

Evidence rating

Helping the Noncompliant Child has evidence of a short-term positive impact on child outcomes from at least one rigorous evaluation.

What does the evidence rating mean?

Level 3 indicates evidence of efficacy. This means the programme can be described as evidence-based: it has evidence from at least one rigorously conducted RCT or QED demonstrating a statistically significant positive impact on at least one child outcome.

This programme does not receive a rating of 4 as it has not yet replicated its results in another rigorously conducted study, where at least one study indicates long-term impacts, and at least one uses measures independent of study participants. 

Cost rating

A rating of 3 indicates that a programme has a medium cost to set up and deliver, compared with other interventions reviewed by EIF. This is equivalent to an estimated unit cost of £500–£999.

Child outcomes

According to the best available evidence for this programme's impact, it can achieve the following positive outcomes for children:

Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing

Reduced symptoms of ADHD - based on study 1

Reduced inattention and hyperactivity - based on study 1

Preventing crime, violence and antisocial behaviour

Reduced defiant symptoms - based on study 1

Reduced physical aggression - based on study 1

This programme also has evidence of supporting positive outcomes for couples, parents or families that may be relevant to a commissioning decision. Please see About the evidence for more detail.

Helping the Noncompliant Child

Key programme characteristics

Who is it for?

The best available evidence for this programme relates to the following age-groups:

  • Preschool

How is it delivered?

The best available evidence for this programme relates to implementation through these delivery models:

  • Individual

Where is it delivered?

The best available evidence for this programme relates to its implementation in these settings:

  • Out-patient health setting

The programme may also be delivered in these settings:

  • Home

How is it targeted?

The best available evidence for this programme relates to its implementation as:

  • Targeted indicated

Where has it been implemented?

United Kingdom, United States

UK provision

This programme has been implemented in the UK.

UK evaluation

This programme’s best evidence does not include evaluation conducted in the UK.

Spotlight sets

EIF does not currently include this programme within any Spotlight set.

Helping the Noncompliant Child

About the programme

What happens during delivery?

How is it delivered?
  • HNC is delivered in up to 12 sessions of approximately one hour by a psychologist, counsellor or social worker with a QCF-Level 6 (or higher) qualification. The practitioner works individually with parents and their child.
What happens during the intervention?
  • Sessions take the form of learning specific skills through practice and practitioner feedback.
  • The child participates in all treatment sessions.
  • Parents also complete homework exercises and monitoring sheets to track their progress through the programme.

What are the implementation requirements?

Who can deliver it?
  • The practitioner who delivers this programme is a psychologist, counsellor or social worker with a QCF-level 6 (or higher) qualification and 32 hours of programme training.
What are the training requirements?
  • Practitioners have 32 hours of programme training. Booster training of practitioners is recommended.
How are the practitioners supervised?
  • Supervision is provided by two host-agency supervisors. Both have QCF-7/8 level qualifications and 32 hours of programme training. In addition, it is recommended that practitioners are supervised by one programme developer supervisor also with QCF-7/8 qualifications.
What are the systems for maintaining fidelity?
  • Telephone consultations
  • Onsite supervision
  • Fidelity checklists
  • Ongoing consultations
  • If practitioners are having difficulty delivering programme, an HNC consultant provides onsite booster sessions until proficient
Is there a licensing requirement?

There is no licence required to run this programme.

How does it work? (Theory of Change)

How does it work?
  • HNC assumes that child behavioural problems are the result of coercive interactions between the parent and child that inadvertently reinforce the child’s noncompliant behaviour.
  • HNC provides parents with a repertoire of effective strategies for managing noncompliant child behaviour.
  • In the short term, the child should be able to better regulate his or her behaviour, and the parents should experience less stress.
  • In the longer term, children will get along better with others, do better at school and be less likely to engage in antisocial behaviour.

Contact details

Robert McMahon
Programme Developer (Canada)
Simon Fraser University

Helping the Noncompliant Child

About the evidence

HNC’s best evidence comes from an RCT which was conducted in the USA.

Study 1

Citation: Abikoff et al (2015)
Design: RCT
Country: United States
Sample: 164 children with ADHD symptoms living in New York City
Timing: -
Child outcomes: Reduced symptoms of ADHD
Reduced defiant symptoms
Reduced physical aggression
Reduced inattention and hyperactivity
Other outcomes: Improved parenting
Increased parenting satisfaction

Abikoff, H. B., Thompson, M., Laver-Bradbury, C., Long, N., Forehand, R.L., Miller Brotman, L., Klein, R.G., Reiss, P., Huo, L., & Sonuga-Barke, E., (2015). Parent training for preschool ADHD: a randomized controlled trial of specialized and generic programs. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56, 618-631.

Available at

Other studies

The following studies were identified for this programme but did not count towards the programme's overall evidence rating. A programme receives the same rating as its most robust study or studies.

Wells, K.C. & Egan, J. (1988). Social learning and systems family therapy for childhood oppositional disorder: Comparative treatment outcome. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 29, 138-146.

Forehand, R.L., Merchant, M.J., Parent, J., Long, N., Linnea, K., & Baer, J. (2011). An examination of a group curriculum for parents of young children with disruptive behavior, Behaviour Modification, 35, 235 – 251.

Published March 2017   |   Last updated February 2021