Parenting Sources: How Do Parents Differ in Their Efforts to Learn about Parenting?

By Radey, Melissa; Randolph, Karen A. | Family Relations, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Parenting Sources: How Do Parents Differ in Their Efforts to Learn about Parenting?


Radey, Melissa, Randolph, Karen A., Family Relations


We surveyed randomly selected parents in one state (N = 1,081) to examine sources they used to gain child-rearing information. On average, parents used five sources, most commonly books and family members. Usage patterns generally followed the "digital divide" perspective whereby higher education levels were associated with greater usage. Logistic regression results of Internet use showed, however, that being younger and unmarried increased the likelihood of use, indicating the Internet's potential for reaching potentially vulnerable parents.

Key Words: digital divide. Internet, parenting, parenting sources, parent education.

Parents seem to recognize the importance of effective parenting. They demonstrate this in part by seeking information on effective parenting techniques. For instance, parents have expressed interest in learning how to encourage children's learning and how to establish disciplinary procedures (Walsh, 2002; Young, Davis, Schoen, & Parker, 1998). They also seek to understand the process by which children grow and develop (Koepke & Williams, 1989; Schultz & Vaughn, 1999). Given parents' central role in their children's development (see, e.g., Sanders, 2000; Weiss, Lopez, & Caspe, 2006) and their interest in learning about childrearing, we wanted to learn more about where parents get their information about parenting and whether parents of particular demographic groups were more likely to use certain sources.

Studies about the resources parents use to learn about parenting are limited in that research tends to focus on one resource (e.g., parenting groups) or type of resource (e.g., professional or nonprofessional) often among a convenience sample. Most studies do not examine parents' use of a wide variety of sources with a large, randomly selected group of parents (e.g., Allen & Rainie, 2002; Ateah, 2003; Rothbaum, Martland, & Jannsen, 2008; Schultz & Vaughn, 1999). The Internet, in particular, is a growing childrearing resource (Fogel, 2004), yet little is known about parents' use of the Internet to gain childrearing information. In addition, available studies lack consensus on demographic characteristics related to source use (e.g., Carroll, Zimmerman, Rivara, Ebel, & Christakis, 2005; Fuligni & Brooks-Gunn, 2002; Koepke & Williams, 1989). A consideration of both the type of parenting information sources and the demographic profile of parents using each source is important because parents of all backgrounds are receptive and eager for resources to improve their parenting (Young et al., 1998).

The purpose of this study was to examine the resources parents used to gain knowledge of parenting practices. We also investigated variations in resources used on the basis of parental demographic characteristics. Finally, we examined the use of the Internet for parenting information in a multivariate context. Our focus on parents' use of the Internet is important because the Internet is a growing resource for parenting information and provides a wide array of information (e.g., parenting chat rooms and websites dedicated to promote healthy child development). To maximize the Internet's capability in delivering efficient, effective childrearing information to parents, it is worthwhile to consider who is using the Internet for childrearing information. Through identifying parents who use the Internet to learn about parenting, our analysis provides information regarding how best to use this potentially efficient, cost-effective medium to appeal to current users and attract offline parent groups.

The Knowledge Gap and Parent Resource Use

What accounts for demographic differences in parents' use of resources to gain parenting information? The knowledge gap hypothesis (Tichenor, Donohue, & Olien, 1970) offers one perspective from which to understand and explain these differences. The knowledge gap hypothesis states that information is not equally distributed across population subgroups because of differences in access to the medium, retrieval, absorption of information, and so forth (Tichenor et al. …

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