The RETHINK Parenting and Anger Management Program: A Follow-Up Validation Study*

Article excerpt


This study is the first follow-up assessment of the RETHINK Parenting and Anger Management Program. Parent participants (N = 168) reduced their anger, violence, and family conflict levels from posttest to follow-up, on average, at 2.5 months on 13 of 15 dependent variables. Current findings are consistent with a small, albeit growing body of literature supporting the efficacy of RETHINK in improving anger management and parenting skills. When mothers and fathers participate in 6 or 7 weekly RETHINK sessions, they appear to learn the verbal reasoning skills they need to lower their anger, conflict, and violence levels and the changes persist for at least 2.5 months.

Key Words: anger management, child maltreatment, parent education, parenting program, RETHINK.

Beginning in the 1970s and accelerating in the 1980s was an increased awareness among American parents about how participating in psychoeducational programs could improve their parenting skills. As a result, parent educators and therapeutic professionals developed a myriad of well-intentioned programs. Yet, despite these efforts, child abuse as a result of parental anger continues to be a problem (Ludwig, 1994; Self-reported frequent mental distress among adults, 2004; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, 2006). One explanation for the continued problem of child abuse is the relative absence of programs with clear empirical evidence of effectiveness at reducing the antecedents of child abuseparental anger, conflict, and violence-which defines the purpose of this study. Our own search for empirical assessments of these programs still confirms Tramontana, Sherrets, and Authier's (1980) admonishment of the parent education community years ago. Despite the quantity and diversity of these programs, the empirically established effectiveness of these programs is lacking. The lack of parent education evaluation is likely because of an array of factors, including the competitive funding atmosphere, which encourages these programs to overstatement to assure sustained funding (Mancini & Marek, 2004). In other words, the obligation to ensure funding can supersede the need to actually demonstrate program effectiveness.

The heart of the therapeutic mantra is exposed when sincere programs earnestly deployed do not do the good their creators, fund providers, and facilitators intend. Instead, programs do no lasting good or they may even cause damage (e.g., Dishion, McCord, & Poulin, 1999). It is therefore advisable that more critical peer review be demanded of such programs. It is with this intent that one such program, the RETHINK Parenting and Anger Management Program (Institute for Mental Health Initiatives [IMHI], 1991a, 1991b, 1991c), is subjected to follow-up validation in this study, which examines self-reported behavioral changes in parents 2.5 months, on average, after participating in the RETHINK Program.

The Context of Parental Skills Training

Studies indicate that stress, emotional problems, and depression have increased among adults in the United States during the past two decades (Healthrelated quality of life surveillance, 2005; Selfreported frequent mental distress among adults, 2004). When national samples (over 1 million adults in all 50 states) were asked if they "experienced frequent mental distress in the last 30 days," 1 in 10 said, yes. This was a 20% increase between 1993 and 2001 (Self-reported frequent mental distress among adults, 2004). This stress surely affects families and, arguably, especially those families with children. Faced with greater role demands (i.e., employee, spouse, and parent), adults with parental responsibilities could be especially stressed, and this stress could contribute to the antecedents of child maltreatment.

The relation between parental stress and child maltreatment led researchers to advocate for comprehensive interventions that go beyond basic parenting skills training programs (Sanders, Turner, & Markie-Dadds, 2002). …