Future Parent Attitude Change: An Outcome of Undergraduate Parenting Education

Article excerpt

Abstract: Future parent attitude change was investigated as an outcome of an undergraduate course in Parenting. The Hereford Parent Attitude Survey and 14 investigator-generated items measuring attitudes toward physical punishment were used as a pre- and post-test with 84 undergraduate students at a small, sectarian college. The results suggest that undergraduate students who are not parents can show evidence of significant change in some of their attitudes toward children and parenting after participating in a semesterlong course.

Family diversity as well as an array of social issues with which families must deal presents numerous challenges for parents today. Parenthood is one of the most rewarding, yet demanding and stressful, relationships assumed by about two-thirds of the American population. Many acknowledge that parenthood, although a role for which preparation is sorely needed, is one of the few important societal roles for which little systematic training exists (Baumrind, 1976; Brooks, 1996; Skolnick, 1991). A multitude of problematic conditions ranging from family violence to poor academic achievement to mental illness have been associated with difficulties in parenting and unrealistic expectations of child behavior (Gelles, 1991; Rutter, Tizard, & Whitmore,1981).

Educators and mental health professionals increasingly have become aware of the need to develop, offer, and evaluate programs that teach parenting skills as well as concepts related to the milestones of child development. Over the past two decades much has been written about parent education, and several studies have been undertaken to evaluate specific parenting education programs (Brems, Baldwin, & Baxter,1993; First & Way, 1995; Fox, Fox, & Anderson, 1991). Comparisons of programs with a variety of theoretical bases have been made (Anchor & Thomason, 1977; Dembo, Sweitzer, & Lauritzen, 1985), and alternate methods of teaching parenting have been evaluated (Kroth,1983).

The majority of existing research efforts assessing parenting education programs has focused on teaching parenting knowledge and skills to practicing parents. Programs designed to teach parents of children at each stage of development from infancy to adolescence have been evaluated (Handforth, 1994; Huhn & Zimpfer, 1989). Other researchers have focused on potentially challenged or atrisk target groups (Goodyear & Rubovits, 1982; Luster, Perlstadt, Sims, & Juang, 1996; Singer, Davilier, Brening, Hawkins, & Yamashita, 1996). Those parenting in diverse family forms, such as single-parent families and blended families, have also been the target of some parenting education programs (Nelson & Levant, 1991; Olson & Banyard, 1993). Comparisons of the effectiveness of programs aimed at parents in various settings from rural to urban have been examined (Spoth, Redmond, Haggerty, & Ward, 1995).

Most parenting program assessments have netted positive outcomes, claiming an array of benefits for parent participants, such as attitude adjustments and increased knowledge (Handforth, 1994; Kagan, 1995) as well as greater involvement in the education of the child (Schaefer, 1991). Several parenting programs have focused on teaching new discipline techniques, and assessments have shown these programs have been successful (Pardeck, 1988; Spoth et al., 1995).

Child-related outcomes for the children of parents who have participated in parenting education programs have also been noted, including increased academic achievement (Pfannenstiel & Seltzer, 1989), improved school performance (Dembo et al., 1985), improved cognitive abilities (Slaughter, 1983), and fewer behavior problems (Eyberg & Ross, 1978; Thompson, Grow, Ruma, Daly, & Burke, 1993).

Even though parent education classes are commonly found in such curricula as Family and Consumer Sciences at the undergraduate level, little has been written assessing the outcomes of such courses. …