Using Conjoint Analysis to Inform Engagement in Head Start Parent Programs among Families Who Are Spanish-Speaking

Frances Wymbs, Greta L. Doctoroff, Anil Chacko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parenting interventions for parents and children facing risks associated with poverty have significant effects on children’s social-emotional, behavioral and academic functioning, but they are threatened by low engagement, especially among families from underrepresented groups. The purpose of this study was to understand ways to enhance engagement in parenting programs among families in Head Start who are Spanish-Speaking in the United States. We used a conjoint analysis technique, namely a discrete choice experiment (DCE) (N = 73, 94% mothers, 31% single parents), to examine how Head Start parents who were Spanish-speaking 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 children’s friendship skills, academics, the parent-child relationship and behavioral skills (rather than on incentives and the inclusion of child groups). Next, we used simulations or forecasting tools to estimate parents’ preferences for types of programs. Seventy-three percent of parents preferred Outcome-focused Programs that fostered parents’ understanding and practice of skills, whereas 27% prioritized Enhanced Support Programs offering logistic support, followed by child outcomes. Results from multivariate analyses of variance showed that parents preferring Outcome-focused Programs reported lower levels of children’s mental health problems and higher child prosocial behaviors compared to parents preferring Enhanced Support Programs. MANOVAS and chi square analyses showed that the latter parents were more likely to have dropped out of a previous parenting program, less likely to have completed high school, reported higher levels of children’s mental health problems, and/or reported fewer children’s prosocial behaviors. Findings suggest ways to enhance accessibility and program reach, especially for families living in poverty speaking Spanish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2294-2308
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Behavioral and academic competence
  • Head Start
  • Preferences
  • Service engagement
  • Social-emotional
  • Spanish-speaking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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