Evaluation of a Parent Education Program for Divorcing Parents

Article excerpt

Evaluation of a Parent Education Program for Divorcing Parents*

Participants in a parent education program mandated for divorcing parents were compared with a similar sample of individuals who had not participated in such a program. The mail survey consisted of 236 individuals. A series of 2(program) X 2(parental residential status) MANCOVA s and ANCOVA 's, with SES and age as covariates, indicated a program effect in terms of the parentchild relationship for those divorced four years or less. The program participants expressed a high level of satisfaction with the program and believed that it was very beneficial.

Key Words: coparenting, divorce education, parent education.

Divorce rates in the U.S. have resulted in a growing number of children who are being coparented in binuclear families. Various legal reforms in recent years (e.g., no fault divorce legislation, joint legal custody, mediation, etc.) have assumed a high level of cooperative parenting between former spouses, and clinicians and researchers have noted that former spouse relationships are pivotal to overall family functioning (Guisinger, Cowan, & Schuldberg, 1989; Furstenberg, Nord, Peterson, & Zill, 1983; Seltzer & Bianchi, 1988; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). Yet research has indicated that many parents find the coparenting role very difficult (e.g., Ahrons & Rodgers, 1987; Maccoby, Depner, & Mnookin,1990; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).

Parent education or psychoeducational programs for divorcing individuals (sometimes referred to as divorce education programs) have been developed in recent years to facilitate the transition to these co-parental roles. Trad (1991) describes psychoeducation as a form of learning that facilitates the mastery of a major life transition. Similarly, parent education programs for divorcing parents have been referred to as a form of "mental health" education (Kalafat, Underwood, Fiedler, & Neigher, 1990). In general, parent education programs for divorcing parents are brief, time-limited efforts that use directive, didactic approaches to teach parents about the impact of divorce on children as well as to provide parents with positive attitudes and essential coparenting skills to facilitate child adjustment (Braver, Salem, Pearson, & DeLuse, 1996; Zibbell,1992).

Successful psychoeducational interventions can be found in a wide variety of subject areas. In the area of child abuse prevention, Frank and Rowe (1981) reported favorable results utilizing a psychoeducational model with small group meetings of mothers and their children. Brent, Poling, McKain, and Baugher (1993) found that parents of affectively ill adolescents showed improvement in knowledge about depression as well as a modification of dysfunctional beliefs about depression and its treatment after just one psychoeducational session lasting only two hours. In the area of social skills training, Brown (1980) demonstrated that a psychoeducational approach could be used effectively to reduce anxiety and fears in mental health clients. Brown's approach even demonstrated outcomes superior to those of a therapeutic group approach in terms of reducing psychiatric hospitalizations within one year after participation. Research on passive interventions for divorcing couples, i.e., case study and other written materials, has indicated that knowledge alone can reduce disruptive behaviors at least short-term; differences have been found in experimental groups as compared to control groups for up to three months after exposure to the material (Arbuthnot, Poole, & Gordon, 1996; Kurkowski, Gordon, & Arbuthnot,1993; Ogles, Lambert, & Craig, 1991).

Evaluation of Divorce Education Programs

Although there are over 500 parenting programs for divorcing individuals nationwide, few of these programs have been systematically evaluated (Arbuthnot & Gordon, 1996; Braver, Salem, Pearson, & Deluse, 1996). …