Parent Management Training is an intervention used specifically to treat children and adolescents with oppositional, aggressive, and antisocial behaviors. Parent Management Training, or PMT, is based upon operant conditioning. PMT involves teaching parents techniques to help their children improve behaviors and learn new skills. PMT, like applied behavior analysis (ABA), is focused on teaching socially significant or socially important behaviors and skills to improve the quality of life of the identified client.

Although PMT is a complex intervention, it is based upon four core ideas:

  1. PMT is based upon a specific conceptual view of how to improve behaviors and skills in the area of social, emotional, and behavioral functioning.
  2. PMT includes a set of principles and strategies (treatment techniques) that are based upon the conceptual views of human functioning.
  3. PMT incorporates active teaching methods to help parents learn specific skills that will help them to improve their childs behaviors and functioning. Strategies incorporate practice, role play, and other active methods.
  4. PMT includes both assessment and evaluation to guide treatment and assist with progress being made on treatment goals.

PMT is based upon the literature and research found in learning theory. This is similar to an ABA approach. ABA is based upon the science of learning and behavior. PMT, like ABA, is based primarily on operant conditioning which addresses antecedents and consequences of behavior. PMT includes many behavioral concepts. There is a heavy focus on positive reinforcement. PMT, like ABA, incorporates data collection and monitoring of progress throughout treatment so that the clinician can make decisions about any changes that may need to be made to the intervention strategies being used as well as to develop new treatment goals once current treatment goals are met.

As mentioned, PMT is based primarily on operant conditioning. Some behaviors and skills that operant conditioning may address include:1

  • Improving academic skills
  • Improving behaviors in a classroom setting
  • Improving social skills
  • Assisting individuals with developmental delays improve skills of daily functioning
  • Preventing delinquent behavior for at-risk youth
  • Improving performance of athletes
  • Assisting with organizational and employment issues
  • Helping men and women in the military to learn new skills

Although the principles of PMT, as they are founded on behavioral learning theory including operant conditioning, apply to a wide variety of populations and issues, the primary focus of PMT has been on treatment for children with oppositional, aggressive, and antisocial behaviors. PMT strategies can also be used for parents who would like guidance on typical parenting issues (even without their child having a clinical diagnosis or atypical behavioral issue).

PMT began in the 1960s. PMT partially came out of the idea that parents, even without professional training, can influence their childs behaviors and help their children to overcome challenges and learn new skills. PMT focused on operant conditioning and how this concept applies to everyday life rather than just treating a child in a clinic setting.

PMT was greatly influenced by the work of Gerald Patterson. He was interested in applied behavior analysis, data collection, and children with aggressive behaviors among other topics. He specifically looked at the concept of coercion.

Coercion refers to a particular style of interaction between a parent and a child. This interaction includes a sequence of behaviors between both individuals (actions and reactions) that increase the frequency and intensity of aggressive behaviors. This was groundbreaking in the area of parent-child interactions and how the dynamic nature of this relationship can be influenced positively and negatively to improve or worsen the quality of the relationship as well as the behaviors displayed. ABA and PMT both consider how negative reinforcement plays a role in the maintenance of aggressive behaviors for some individuals.1

In PMT, clinicians consider the probability that a behavior may or may not occur. Rather than saying one person caused the other person to do something, PMT looks at one behavior as increasing or decreasing the likelihood of another behavior from occurring.

PMT may be an effective approach to use in ABA parent training if a child has aggressive or noncompliant behaviors. Of course, intervention should be individualized to the client but PMT is one approach that may provide some further guidance to clinicians providing ABA parent training.

To learn more about ABA parent training or to get some free ABA parent training lessons, you can visit


1Kazdin, A. E. (2005). Parent Management Training. New York, New York. Oxford University Press.