Academic journal article Family Relations

A Framework for Developing Family Life Education Programs

Academic journal article Family Relations

A Framework for Developing Family Life Education Programs

Article excerpt

Family life education is becoming an increasingly important part of the work of human service providers. Although there have been many important advancements in family life education in the last decade, there is still limited articulation of the criteria needed to develop and implement effective family life programs, especially those designed for community-based prevention efforts. This paper begins to outline the relevant methodological issues that need to be considered for the creation of effective family life education programs.

Family life education is becoming an increasingly important part of the prevention efforts of human service providers. In recent years, family life education has been championed as an important factor in dealing with such issues as adolescent pregnancy (Roosa, 1991), substance abuse (Alvy, 1988) and family violence (Lloyd & Emery, 1993). Although there is a growing body of data demonstrating that some programs are effective, there continues to be the need to improve the performance of family life programs (Guerney & Maxson, 1990).

During the past decade, there have been a number of important advancements in the practice of family life education. A significant step has been the development of standards by the National Council of Family Relations in regards to the minimum qualifications needed for family life educators (NCFR, 1984). This has resulted in greater specification of the knowledge base for family life education.

Coupled with this is a growing literature on the theoretical basis for family life education. Thomas and Arcus (1992) analyzed the definition of family life education to clarify the purpose and content. To this end they concluded that the general purpose of family life education is "to strengthen and enrich individual and family well-being" (Thomas & Arcus, 1992, p. 4). Through the work of several authors, there has also been increased clarification of the content of family life education over the life-span (Arcus, 1987; Cassidy, 1993; Hennon & Arcus, 1993).

There have also been important commentaries on alternative perspectives on family life issues. Morgaine (1992) analyzed the philosophical roots of family life education and explored a "critical perspective" on the way in which family life education is conducted. Allen and Baber (1992) critiqued family life education from a feminist perspective and developed ideas for how feminist theory can influence work with families. In more specific domains of family life, there have been theoretical discussions of how to work with divorced families from an empowerment perspective (Hughes, 1992) and how to work with ethnic families (Alvy, 1988). These discussions further clarify the work of family life education.

At a more practical level, there have also been important developments in strategies for teaching family life education and in evaluating the effects of programs. Two especially innovative approaches to teaching family relations are a simulation approach to learning for divorced and remarried families (Crosbie-Burnett & Eisen, 1992) and an ethnographic approach to studying human development issues developed by Quinn (1992). In regards to evaluation of family life education, Small (1990) provides clear guidelines to consider when conducting evaluations. He makes an important distinction between established, model programs that are likely to be widely replicated, thus requiring substantial evaluative work, and more general local programs that are in need of ongoing monitoring through evaluation. Additionally, Guerney and Maxson (1990) provide some suggestions for the use of no-treatment control groups and outcome measures evaluating family life programs.

Despite these advancements, there are still major issues that need attention to further develop the practice of family life education. One of the major difficulties with the development of family life education programs is that there has been limited discussion of the methodology of family life education. …

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