Parenting interventions are designed to strengthen positive parenting strategies, improve parenting skills, and increase knowledge about child-parent interactions. They also focus on decreasing dysfunction within the family unit and providing parents with resources for mental and physical health challenges. For families dealing with anxiety, depression, abuse, or other psychological difficulties, family and parent interventions are a valuable service. The ultimate goal of these types of programs is to educate and empower parents so that they can parent in a way that will most benefit the child and produce positive child developmental outcomes. However, until recently, behavioral family interventions (BFIs) have not been tested with respect to parental diversity, gender, or parental confidence.
Leanne Winter of the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Australia wanted to find out how BFIs benefited parents from varying socioeconomic and educational backgrounds and also how mothers’ and fathers’ engagement levels differed. Using a sample of 91 parent participants and their children ranging in age from 2 to 10 years old, Winter evaluated the levels of parenting skills, confidence, dysfunction, and the children’s externalizing behaviors pre- and post-intervention. The participants were comprised of parents with high and low levels of education.
Winter found that education and socioeconomic status impacted several outcomes for the parents. In particular, the parents with high education exhibited more gains in confidence than the low education parents. But both low and high education parents saw improvements in knowledge and overall confidence. One finding that may explain parenting conflict is that mothers in both groups possessed more parenting knowledge than fathers. They also participated in the interviews and follow-ups more consistently than fathers did. This discrepancy in involvement may lead to disagreements about parenting.
Another positive finding was that the level of dysfunction decreased for all the participants in the BFI, which directly reduced externalizing behavior in the children. Winter also noticed that parenting knowledge was higher at baseline for the more educated parents. This finding suggests that interventions should focus on engaging and attracting parents with low levels of education as they may not have the skills or resources to seek out parenting programs on their own. “These ﬁndings highlight the diversity among parents that should be taken into account when designing engagement strategies,” said Winter. “Successful engagement strategies must recognize that different parents will have differing needs and target these accordingly.”
Winter, Leanne, Alina Morawska, and Matthew Sanders. The effect of behavioral family intervention on knowledge of effective parenting strategies. Journal of Child & Family Studies 21.6 (2012): 881-90. Print.
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