Preferences for Parenting Programs in Head Start: Using Conjoint Analysis to Understand Engagement in Parenting Health Promotion Programs

Frances Wymbs, Greta L. Doctoroff, Anil Chacko, Gillian Sternheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The impact of evidence-based parenting health promotion programs is threatened by limited enrollment and attendance. We used a discrete choice experiment (DCE) to examine how Early Head Start and Head Start parents prioritized key attributes of parenting programs when considering potential participation. Utility values and importance scores indicate that parents placed the highest priority on a program that optimized child academic outcomes, and after that, on a program that offered incentives and logistical supports, and maximized potential effects on friendship skills, behavioral skills, and the parent–child relationship. Next, we used simulations or forecasting tools to estimate parents’ preferences for types of programs. Sixty-five percent of parents preferred Outcome-focused Programs that fostered parents’ understanding and practice of skills, whereas 23% prioritized Enhanced Support Programs offering logistic support, such as incentives, followed by child outcomes. The remaining 12% of parents preferred Format-focused Programs that targeted positive outcomes via one 30-min meeting. Parents preferring Outcome-focused Programs reported higher child prosocial behaviors compared to parents preferring Enhanced Support and Format-focused Programs. Parents preferring Outcome-focused Programs were more likely to be those of 3- and 4-year-old children than of 2-year-olds. Findings challenge the one-size-fits-all approach to offering parenting programs and suggest ways to enhance accessibility and program reach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)866-879
Number of pages14
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Children at-risk for mental health problems
  • Conjoint analysis
  • Head start
  • Preferences
  • Service engagement
  • Social-emotional, behavioral, and academic competence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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