Academic journal article Family Relations

A Review of Divorce Education Program Materials

Academic journal article Family Relations

A Review of Divorce Education Program Materials

Article excerpt

A Review of Divorce Education Program Materials*

Margie J. Geasler** and Karen R. Blaisure

This study reviews program materials being used in over half of the U. S. counties that have documented court-connected educational programs for divorcing parents. Program documents were examined to determine sources of materials, conceptual foundations, topics presented, teaching strategies, and evaluation efforts. Data analysis identified 50 different topic areas covered by programs, reliance on passive or limited parental involvement teaching strategies, and formative. rather than summative, evaluation efforts. Recommendations for the design of court-connected divorce education programs are included.

Recent academic publications and media accounts document the trend to offer and, in some states and counties, mandate attendance at court-connected programs for divorcing parents in hopes of moderating the effects of divorce on children. These programs, while varied, can be described as organized group meetings that focus on the divorce transition for families and have an educational, rather than counseling or mediation, purpose. They are available to parents in many communities (Solomon, 1991) and are offered through, or in cooperation with, a local court system (Blaisure & Geasler, 1996; Geasler & Blaisure, 1995; Schepard, 1994). The first documented program, General Responsibilities As Separating Parents (GRASP), began in Johnson County Kansas in 1978 (James & Roeder-Esser, 1994), and programs have continued to gain popularity (Blaisure & Geasler, 1996; Hickey, 1994; Humphreys, 1994; Kramer & Washo, 1993; Roeder-Esser, 1994; Schepard, 1993).

The proliferation of court-connected education programs has prompted major news organizations to report "on what Time Magazine referred to as the latest trend for family courts" (Salem, Schepard, & Schlissel, 1996, p. 9). The Association for Family and Conciliation Courts has sponsored a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd International Congress on Parent Education Programs since September 1994. The Family and Conciliation Courts Review published a special issue on court-connected programs for divorcing parents in January 1996, and Family Relations has published research on these programs (Devlin, Brown, Beebe, & Parulis, 1992; Kramer & Walsho, 1993). Most recently, several papers were presented on the topic of divorce education at the 1996 Annual Conference of the National Council on Family Relations (Thornburg & Demo, 1996; Fine & Coleman, 1996; Hughes & Kirby, 1996; Ispa & Ganong, 1996; Kramer, Kowall, & Haskell, 1996; Thompson, Demo, Ispa, Thornburg, & Ganong, 1996).

Purpose of Study

Divorce education, like all family life education, needs to be based on sound conceptual foundations that support program goals and provide a basis for selection of topics, teaching strategies and evaluation methods. "A well-grounded family life education program needs a clearly articulated theoretical perspective and a demonstrated research base in regards to the topic, the context and the application techniques. The foundation of a program should include a clear theoretical perspective even if an eclectic approach is proposed" (Hughes, 1994, p. 75).

Summary data about divorce education program topics and teaching strategies is limited except for published descriptions of individual programs (Kramer & Washo, 1993; Petersen & Steinman, 1994; Roeder-Esser, 1994; Schepard, 1993). To date, reviews of programs have listed topics covered (Braver, Salem, Pearson, & DeLuse, 1996; Geasler & Blaisure, 1995), but have not examined the fit between topic choices and teaching strategies, nor reviewed conceptual foundations that underlie programs (Blaisure & Geasler, 1996; Salem, Schepard, & Schlissel, 1996). Moreover, reviews of programs have not clearly connected program goals, theoretical perspectives, topics, teaching strategies and evaluation methods, an important step in the evolution of divorce education programs (Braver et al. …

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