Effective Parenting Through Education

Parenting skills must change and develop as a child grows. When parents face personal problems or challenges, parental skill development is often interrupted. Some obstacles that may hinder continued parental skill development include: loss of a job, divorce, serious or terminal illnesses, custody battles, traumas, loss of a loved one, mental illness diagnosis etc. Through educational experiences new parents, struggling parents and parents with a mission can develop the skills they need to overcome many of the obstacles they face.

Researchers have found that effective parenting is the most powerful way to reduce adolescent problem behaviors. Parent education programs have proven to help in cultivating parenting skills that improve the behavior of pre-adolescent children and teens (1,4). Several studies showed lasting improvement after 6 months and up to 3 years later (1). Programs involving behavior modification techniques as well as relationship building help offer skills that can cover a wide variety of parenting issues.

Overall, behavioral parent education programs produced the biggest changes in children’s behavior (1). One behavior course involved six 90-minute sessions at weekly intervals. Parents were trained in the use of behavioral techniques. The classes involved role-play and skill practice. Following the course there was a reduction in the number and intensity of reported child behavior problems and in depressive symptoms in parents. The results were still evident after six months.

Coren et. al. (2001) concluded that, ‘ … parenting programs utilized prior to parenthood were found to be effective in the infant’s response to the parent, …, and the infant’s ability to understand and respond to language’ (p.31) when realting to teen parents. This is an important finding since having a teenage mother has proven to increase the child’s vulnerability to reduced intellectual abilities (3).

Maternal depression can hinders mothers’ engagement in parental involvement. Parenting programs have been shown to improve maternal psychosocial health (3).

(1) Barlow, J. (1999) What works in parent education programmes. In E.Lloyd (ed) Parenting Matters: What works in parenting education? London: Barnados p.64-84

(2) Barlow, J., and Coren, E., and Steward-Brown, S. (2001) The effectiveness of individual and group based parenting programmes in improving outcomes for teenage mothers and their children. (Oxford: Oxford University Health Service Research Unit)

(3) Barlow, J., and Coren, E. (2002) Parent training programmes for improving maternal psychosocial health. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2, 1-81

(4) Family-strengthening approaches for the prevention of youth problem behaviors. Kumpfer, Karol L.; Alvarado, Rose. American Psychologist, Vol 58(6-7), Jun-Jul 2003, 457-465. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.58.6-7.457

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