Building happy families: IRC research brief


The Happy Families Program is a parenting and family skills intervention
implemented with displaced Burmese families living on the Thai–Burmese
border. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and research partners
from the Harvard School of Public Health and Duke University found
that the intervention had a significant impact on parenting practices,
family functioning, and child behavior. Results showed some effects
on harsh punishment and child psychosocial wellbeing, as reported
by caregivers or children.


The impact evaluation used a randomized waitlist controlled trial design to examine
the impact of the intervention on: 1) parenting practices; 2) harsh punishment; 3) family
functioning; and 4) children’s psychosocial wellbeing and resilience. A total of 479 families
were randomized into receiving the intervention immediately (treatment group) or in a few
months (waitlist control group), thereby allowing the impact of the program to be determined by
comparing outcomes of both groups. Maintenance of treatment effects was assessed through a six-month follow up conducted with treatment group participants only. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 25 families to explore changes they experienced through the program. 


1. The intervention was feasible and acceptable to program participants.

2. The intervention increased positive caregiver–child interaction and parenting practices.

3. The intervention decreased harsh parenting practices, including some forms of harsh punishment.

4. The intervention improved family functioning.

5. The intervention decreased children’s behavioral problems, and improved children’s attention and resilience according to either caregiver and child report.

6. Qualitative findings suggest potential unanticipated improvements in caregiver mental health and relationships with other family and community members.


randomized waitlist controlled trial

Research Brief Author:

Amanda Sim,
Research Evaluation & Learning Unit, IRC

Based on evaluation by:

Puffer. E., Annan,
J., Sim, A., Salhi, C. & Betancourt, T.

Year: 2014

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