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ABC: Altering Behaviour in Children

Improving understanding of children with behavioural difficulties by assessing brain changes following parenting interventions.

Behavioural difficulties, also known as Conduct Problems (CP), is the commonest childhood mental health condition. Although the underlying cause is complex, there is strong evidence that children with CP have differences in brain anatomy and function. Understanding the causes of CP is important as these children are much more likely to have continued problems in adult life. 

About ABC

  • Led by the IoPPN, ABC brings together world-class experts forming a multidisciplinary team which is widely published and has conducted the largest number of studies in Europe on antisocial behaviour in children and adolescents. 
  • The study focuses on children whose parents are taking part in parenting interventions. These are programmes provided by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and local authorities which help parents to better manage their child's behavioural difficulties (or CP). 
  • Using state-of-the-art imaging techniques, we compare brain differences in children with CP before and after these parenting interventions. In parallel, we are also recruiting children without behavioural difficulties in order compare the data across the two groups. 

Worldclass partnership 

Our research combines expertise from leading research institutions, including the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neurodevelopmental Sciences (IoPPN) - the foremost psychiatric research institute in Europe, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) - the largest scientific organisation in the world dedicated to understanding, treating and preventing mental disorders and University College London (UCL) - a world-leader in psychology and developmental cognitive neuroscience 

Proposed study 

We are conducting a long-term study of 90 boys (aged 5-10 years old), with CP with data being collected at two points: before and after the completion of parenting interventions. Imaging and behavioural measures will take place at both time points. We will also be completing these measures with children without CP and then compare the data across both groups. 

Interested in participating? 

The ABC study uses neuropsychological and brain imaging techniques to analyse the brains of children aged 5-10 years with behavioural difficulties, which we compare to children of the same age without difficulties. 

We are looking for two groups of English-speaking boys aged 5-10 years: 

  • Whose parents are about to undertake a parenting programme because of their child's CP, and
  • Without CP. 

They will be asked to come in and complete some questionnaires, assessments and an MRI scan at two time points: 

  • Before the parenting programme starts, and
  • After the parenting programme has finished. 

Participants will be reimbursed for their travel expenses for each visit made to the IoPPN. 

Ethics and research governance

  • We have been approved by the National Research Ethics Service No. 15/LO/1696, the Health Research Authority and South London and Maudsley NHS Trust. 
  • We obtain informed consent from all participants. 
  • We provide easy to read guidance and information for participants. 
  • Participants can withdraw from the study at any time. 
  • If any medical illness is discovered during the screening, your GP will be contacted immediately for appropriate medical supervision. 

Publication of results 

Alongside publication in peer-reviewed journals, we will share our findings nationally via workshops and seminars aimed at the lay public, users and health professionals, and will present them at national and international conferences.