Parents' Knowledge and
Expectations: Using What We Know
Jacqueline J. Goodnow
This chapter on parents' knowledge and expectations revolves around two questions. The first asks: what do we know that is useful when we move from research into action: into advising parents or into planning or evaluating programs of parental “education” or “support”? The second takes the form: what gaps in our knowledge now become apparent?
The emphasis on action-oriented issues reflects a shift within developmental studies. There is now, for example, the journal Parenting, with the subtitle “Science and Practice. ” The term developmental science is also appearing as a term covering an aimed-for integration between research and action (e.g., Shonkoff, 2000; Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000). Increasingly, psychologists are being called upon to translate what they know into recommendations for action at a family or a policy level and into terms that make sense to others outside their own field.
For the present chapter, the emphasis on translations into practice involves a broadening in audience and perspective but not a complete breach with the past. The audience in mind now covers not only psychologists but also a variety of people who aim at understanding parents' viewpoints and, where needed, at promoting change: change in the way parents view their children or themselves, change in the way they go about the tasks of parenting or accessing community resources. That audience may now include physicians, nurses, teachers, social workers, and policy makers.
The sources drawn on have also been broadened. As in the chapter on this topic contained in the previous Handbook, these sources cover analyses of knowledge and expectations from anthropologists and sociologists as well as by psychologists. To them has now been added, however, more material from intervention programs aimed at changing parents' ideas and actions.
The shift toward asking about translations into action does not, however, mean a reduced interest in basic research on the way people think, especially research in relation to the nature and bases of change. Analyses of parents' ideas benefit by being linked to models and methods