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Parenting programmes are at the heart of intervention strategies for parents of children with emotional and behaviour problems. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials have indicated that such programmes can improve many aspects of family life. However, there is currently a dearth of information concerning what it is that makes parenting programmes meaningful and helpful to parents. The aim of this paper was to examine parents' experience and perceptions of parenting programmes using the meta-ethnographic method, in order to sensitize policymakers and practitioners to the key factors that parents perceive to be of value.Systematic searches of a number of electronic databases were undertaken using key search terms. Critical appraisal of included studies was conducted using standardized criteria, and the reports were synthesized using meta-ethnographic methods.Six reports were purposefully selected and critically appraised independently by two reviewers. Two were excluded. Based on the remaining four papers, five key concepts were identified as important when planning and delivering parenting programmes. A lines-of-argument synthesis was developed which suggests that the acquisition of knowledge, skills and understanding, together with feelings of acceptance and support from other parents in the parenting group, enabled parents to regain control and feel more able to cope. This led to a reduction in feelings of guilt and social isolation, increased empathy with their children and confidence in dealing with their behaviour.This evaluation provides an indication of the components that parents perceive to be necessary in the provision of parenting programmes, independent of the particular type of programme being provided. It may therefore aid policymakers in decisions about which programmes to provide.