A single-session, web-based parenting intervention to prevent adolescent depression and anxiety disorders: Randomized controlled trial

Mairead C. Cardamone-Breen, Anthony F Jorm, Katherine A Lawrence, Ronald M Rapee, Andrew J Mackinnon, Marie Bee Hui Yap

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Background: Depression and anxiety disorders are significant contributors to burden of disease in young people, highlighting the need to focus preventive efforts early in life. Despite substantial evidence for the role of parents in the prevention of adolescent depression and anxiety disorders, there remains a need for translation of this evidence into preventive parenting interventions. To address this gap, we developed a single-session, Web-based, tailored psychoeducation intervention that aims to improve parenting practices known to influence the development of adolescent depression and anxiety disorders. Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the short-term effects of the intervention on parenting risk and protective factors and symptoms of depression and anxiety in adolescent participants. Methods: We conducted a single-blind, parallel group, superiority randomized controlled trial comparing the intervention with a 3-month waitlist control. The intervention is fully automated and consists of two components: (1) completion of an online self-assessment of current parenting practices against evidence-based parenting recommendations for the prevention of adolescent depression and anxiety disorders and (2) an individually tailored feedback report highlighting each parent's strengths and areas for improvement based on responses to the self-assessment. A community sample of 349 parents, together with 327 adolescents (aged 12-15 years), were randomized to either the intervention or waitlist control condition. Parents and adolescents completed online self-reported assessments of parenting and adolescent symptoms of depression and anxiety at baseline, 1-month (parent-report of parenting only), and 3-month follow-up. Results: Compared with controls, intervention group parents showed significantly greater improvement in parenting risk and protective factors from baseline to 1-month and 3-month follow-up (F2,331.22=16.36, P<.001), with a small to medium effect size at 3-month follow-up (d=0.33). There were no significant effects of the intervention on adolescent-report of parenting or symptoms of depression or anxiety in the adolescents (all P>.05). Conclusions: Findings suggest that a single-session, individually tailored, Web-based parenting intervention can improve parenting factors that are known to influence the development of depression and anxiety in adolescents. However, our results do not support the effectiveness of the intervention in improving adolescent depression or anxiety symptoms in the short-term. Long-term studies are required to adequately assess the relationship between improving parenting factors and adolescent depression and anxiety outcomes. Nonetheless, this is a promising avenue for the translation of research into a low-cost, sustainable, universal prevention approach. Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12615000247572; https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?ACTRN=12615000247572 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6v1ha19XG).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere148
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Family
  • Internet
  • Mental health
  • Parenting
  • Preventive health services

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