Costs and savings of parenting interventions: results of a systematic review

K. M. Duncan (Lead / Corresponding author), S. MacGillivray, M. J. Renfrew

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: This systematic review of economic evaluations of universal preventative or targeted treatment parenting interventions that aim to enhance parent-infant interaction is primarily intended to inform decision makers who have to make difficult spending decisions, especially at a time of reduced spending allocations. A synthesis of available costs and savings about parenting interventions that set out to enhance parent-infant interaction is presented. This topic is important specifically in view of the UK Governments' emphasis on the equalities agenda and the early years. The benefits of positive early life experiences, which include good parent-infant interaction, are far reaching and may be positively correlated with improved educational, health and well-being outcomes and reduced criminality.

    Methods: A literature search was undertaken using on-line indexing databases between 2004 and 2014 that included the search terms 'parent', 'infant', 'interaction', 'cost benefit analysis' and their synonyms.

    Results: Despite existing economic studies generally focusing upon targeted short-run outcomes, significant savings were observed in the included studies. Parenting interventions could save the health service around £2.5k per family over 25 years and could save the criminal justice system over £145k per person over the life course. In light of the escalating costs of remedial services, these potential savings may provide the UK and other governments with a robust incentive to invest in early years parenting interventions.

    Conclusions: Parenting interventions can be economically efficient and return savings on investment. Moreover, and one might argue as a moral imperative of democratic societies, population health can be improved and health inequalities reduced. An important debate is needed about early years policy, to include acknowledgement of the differences between UK and international healthcare systems and the potential savings from the synergistic and spin-off effects of early years interventions to inform decision-making to fund and implement appropriate action.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)797-811
    Number of pages15
    JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
    Issue number6
    Early online date30 May 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2017


    • cost-effectiveness anaylsis
    • decision makers
    • health economics
    • parent-infant interaction
    • resource allocation
    • systematic review


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