Academic journal article Family Relations

Guidelines for Evaluating Parent Training Programs

Academic journal article Family Relations

Guidelines for Evaluating Parent Training Programs

Article excerpt

We present guidelines for the evaluation of parent training programs. These have been developed within the framework of the Context, Input, Process, Product (CIPP) model of evaluation described by Stufflebeam (1983). The guidelines emphasize that components of evaluation should occur before, during, and after implementation of any training program. The content of programs and the training methods employed should be based on sound theoretical principles and on evidence of effectiveness. We also recommend multiple indirect and direct measures of parent and child behavioral outcomes.

Key Words: parent training, program evaluation, CIPP model.

It is common in contemporary society for community service agencies to provide a variety of education and training activities for parents. Such services have arisen out of a need to support parents to undertake the complex task of rearing their children. The nature of the activities varies considerably, ranging from topics such as information delivery to active skills training.

Although many agencies are in the business of providing parent education and training activities, few ever assess the effect these activities actually have on the families involved. In a time of escalating demands for financial accountability by service providers, there is increasing pressure to produce evidence that the services given are valuable to the consumers. Apart from this fiscal accountability, a strong argument can be mounted on ethical grounds that service providers intervening with families ought to be able to demonstrate that positive outcomes have been achieved. Furthermore, service providers also should be able to demonstrate that the intervention has not caused any damage to the family. Neither of these effects can be assumed, and they cannot be assured unless some form of evaluation is conducted.

The guidelines that follow give a structure for service providers to use when conducting an evaluation of the activities they conduct with parents. They apply particularly to clinical interventions and are suited to programs based on behavioral principles. A variety of terms are currently used to refer to interventions with families. The term parent training is employed primarily in the scientific literature for interventions that aim to improve the skill of parents to promote the health, safety, and development of their children and is used in this article. It should be noted, however, that the guidelines can be applied just as usefully to other parent education activities, such as simply supplying parents with information.

A critical issue regarding the use of these guidelines is that evaluation is not something that occurs separately from the parent training program. Indeed, the design and implementation of parent training programs should include evaluation as an integral component. This evaluation should focus on a number of aspects. First, it should examine whether the program design and implementation are based on sound theory and evidence of effectiveness. Second, it is essential to determine the extent to which the program objectives have been met under the training conditions. Finally, it is important for programs to demonstrate generalization, that is, the extent to which the parenting skills developed through training transfer to different situations, behaviors, and children and are maintained over time.

The CIPP Model of Evaluation

There are a number of approaches to program evaluation, some of which are well suited to the broad areas of policy development and prevention. For example, Jacobs (1988) outlined a five-tiered model that acknowledges that various levels, or tiers, of evaluation may have different audiences as well as different purposes. These audiences range from resource providers, policy makers, and academic researchers to program staff and the general public. Significantly, models such as Jacobs' emphasize the importance of evaluation that determines the long-term impact of the intervention on society. …

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