Teen and Parent Perceptions of a Secondary School Family Course

By Stonely, Heather M.; Klein, Shirley R. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 2004 | Go to article overview

Teen and Parent Perceptions of a Secondary School Family Course


Stonely, Heather M., Klein, Shirley R., Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


Adolescent and parent focus groups were conducted to do a needs assessment and discover possible topics for a secondary school family class. Results included identifying teen and parent family-related needs and societal concerns; discovering where teens currently learn about family life; and receiving teen and parent feedback about a proposed family science course curriculum, course placement, and teaching ideas. Potential barriers to family education in the high school are discussed and recommendations for the creation of a family course are suggested.

Recently researchers have reviewed curriculum topics in family and consumer sciences (FCS) sec ondary programs. Based on student, parent, and professional feedback, researchers recommend an emphasis on family relations, child development, and parenting (Erwin, Moran, & McInnis, 1996; Pauley, 1996; Smith, Hall, & Jones, 2001; Wendland & Torrie, 1993). Some research participants note a discrepancy between what they want and what is offered (Erwin et al., 1996; Pauley, 1996; Smith et al., 2001), however, little detail is given about specific topics to cover in a family course.

In deciding what to include in a course about family, it is important to review suggested family topics in a variety of sources (Simerly, Ralston, Harriman, & Taylor, 2000). FCS professionals have established national standards for adolescentfocused family curriculum in secondary schools (National Association of State Administrators, 1998) and professionals in the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) have done complementary work (Arcus, 1995; Arcus, Schvaneveldt, & Moss, 1993; NCFR, 1997; Simerly, King, & Packard, 1994). Integrating the overlapping and unique features of both groups' work provides insight and direction for course development. A comparison of the FCS and NCFR frameworks shows emphasis on the following key areas: family, interpersonal relationships, and parenting of teens.

This study builds upon previous work by providing more detail on what to include in a course about family. Although the results found in these two resources cannot be generalized to all settings, the findings serve as a springboard for further research.

Methods and Sample

The total sample included 65 teens and parents from the suburbs of a large midwestern city and a mid-size western town. Two localities were studied because of the homogeneous population of the western town. The participants included two midwestern teen groups (total n = 18; 5 male, 13 female), two midwestern parent groups (total n = 16; 3 male, 13 female), two western teen groups (total n = 19; 8 male, 11 female), and one western parent group (n=12; 3 male, 9 female).

Local review board and school district approval permitted recruitment of western high school English class students who received extra credit for their participation. A sign-up form to recruit parents was attached to the student recruiting forms. Teens and their parents were not required to volunteer together; either could participate without the other. Because this method of sampling parents required teen cooperation, few parent forms were returned to the teacher. The remainder of the sample was recruited using the snowball method and telephone contacts.

Although researchers hoped to recruit the midwestern sample through schools as well, the districts and schools declined participation. Both parent and teen midwestern samples were found using the snowball method over the telephone. The teens represented five high schools.

Procedures

Seven focus groups were scheduled involving the usual 5-10 participants per group (Harden, 1996; Kelley, 1999; Morgan, 1997). Four adolescent and three parent focus groups were convened, with a range of 7-12 participants in each. Similar procedures were used in each group. all participants completed informed consent forms, as did parents of participating students. …

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