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When behavioral barriers are too high or low - How timing matters for parenting interventions
Last registered on June 10, 2019


Trial Information
General Information
When behavioral barriers are too high or low - How timing matters for parenting interventions
Initial registration date
June 04, 2019
Last updated
June 10, 2019 10:14 PM EDT
Primary Investigator
Stanford University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Texas A&M University
PI Affiliation
Brown University
Additional Trial Information
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
DOI 10.17605/OSF.IO/J9K7K
The time children spend with their parents affects their development. Parenting programs can help parents use that time more effectively. Text-messaged-based parenting curricula have proven an effective means of supporting positive parenting practices by providing easy and fun activities that reduce informational and behavioral barriers. These programs may be more effective if delivered during times when parents are particularly in need of support, such as after work, or, alternatively when parents have more time to interact with their child, such as on a day off of work. This study compares the effects of an early childhood text-messaging program sent during the weekend to the same program sent on weekdays. We find that sending the text messages on the weekend is, on average, more beneficial to children’s literacy and math development. This effect is particularly strong for initially lower achieving children, while the weekday texts show some benefits for higher achieving children on higher order skills. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the parents of lower achieving students, on average, face such high barriers during weekdays that supports are not enough to overcome these barriers, while for parents of higher achieving students, weekday texts are more effective because weekdays are more challenging, but not so difficult as to be untenable for positive parenting. In sum, the findings suggest that parenting support works best when parents have time, attention, and need.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Fricke, Hans, Cortes Kalena and Susanna Loeb. 2019. "When behavioral barriers are too high or low - How timing matters for parenting interventions." AEA RCT Registry. June 10. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.4205-1.0.
Former Citation
Fricke, Hans et al. 2019. "When behavioral barriers are too high or low - How timing matters for parenting interventions." AEA RCT Registry. June 10. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/4205/history/47879.
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Experimental Details
This study asks whether the effectiveness of text-messaged-based parenting support depends on when the support is provided. Specifically, it compares the effects of an early childhood text-messaging program sent during the weekend to those of the same program sent on weekdays. This texting intervention breaks down the complexities of parenting by providing a combination of general information about important literacy skills and parent-child activities (i.e., “FACT” text messages), actionable advice with specific examples of parent-child literacy activities (i.e., “TIP” text messages), and encouragement/reinforcement (i.e., “GROWTH” text messages). We randomly assign parents of pre-kindergarten children into four groups. The first group of parents receives the original program, that is, a “FACT” message on Monday, a “TIP” message on Wednesday, and a “GROWTH” message on Friday, henceforth the Weekday program. The second group received the “FACT”, “TIP”, and “GROWTH” messages on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, respectively, henceforth Weekend program. The Weekend program differs from the original program (i.e., Weekday program) in that it sends the text messages on different days but also in that these days are consecutive. Therefore, a third group of parents receives the “FACT”, “TIP”, and “GROWTH” message on a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, respectively, to parse out the spacing effect from the weekend effect. This program henceforth will be called MidWeek program. The fourth group just received a "FACT" message on Mondays. This groups was intended as pseudo control group with a lighter touch treatment since the district did not allow a pure control group. Parents received the text messages over eight months from Mid October 2016 to early June 2017. Eventually, we did not use the single "FACT" group in our analysis because our main goal was to understand how the timing matters for these programs. Therefore, it seemed to be more appropriate to use the Weekday program as comparison group which had shown positive effects in several prior experiments than to use the single "FACT" group for which we had no empirical or theoretically prior on how it would affect students.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Literacy scores in Circle Assessment System (Circle)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Math scores in Circle Assessment System (Circle)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We used blocked individual level randomization within pre-school site and preferred texting language
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Parent level
Was the treatment clustered?
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
5908 parents
Sample size: planned number of observations
5908 parents
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Single Fact = 1489
Weekend = 1437
Midweek = 1437
Weekday = 1437
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB Name
Parent Text Messages for School Readiness (Acelero, Miami, SFUSD, Dallas)
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Is the intervention completed?
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)