CICC's Confident Parenting Program
PROGRAM HISTORY AND THEORY

The initial version of the Confident Parenting Program was developed in the early 1970's by behavioral psychologist, Dr. Robert Aitchison and his colleagues, as a prevention and treatment program in the child mental health field. The initial version and its initial field testing by Dr. Aitchison and his colleagues were supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

This program version was adopted by the Center for the Improvement of Child Caring (CICC) to represent the Social Learning Theory Approach to parenting skill-building as part of its own NIMH-supported project, Personnel for Parent Development. That 1970's CICC project created and tested a national model for training mental health, social service and educational personnel to become parenting instructors. It involved the training of these categories of professionals to deliver a Social Learning Theory-Based program, Confident Parenting, or an Adlerian Psychology-Based program, Systematic Training for Effective Parenting, STEP, or a Humanistic Psychology-Based program, Parent Effectiveness Training, P.E.T., (see Alvy and Rubin, 1981, Parenting Training and Training of Parent Trainers, Journal of Community Psychology, 9, pages 53-66).

Theoretical Background

The Confident Parenting Program is based on the belief that society molds the individual's behavior and that there are lawful principles that underlie this social molding process. These principles are derived from experimentally established research findings and understanding these principles provides a basis for a more conscious, self-determined and positive use of the molding process.

The Confident Parenting Program teaches a restricted range of these social-principles, primarily those which govern the effectiveness of various kinds of reinforcing consequences. These consequences can be non-social (food, money, privileges, etc.) or social (praise, punishment, attention). The program emphasizes the role of the latter. It assumes that the positive and negative reinforcements that maintain a child's deviant and pro-social behaviors are provided by persons in the social environment and that many behaviors can be changed by altering these social consequences.

Like other programs with a social learning or behavioral background, the Confident Parenting Program does not have an explicit philosophy of parenthood to inform its choice of child rearing methods. What serves in its place is the orientation that characterizes behavior modification itself: an overriding concern for the development and systematic evaluation of methods that are objective, replicable and efficient.

It is implicit in the original program version, however, that an effective parent is one who is successful at managing the consequences of their children's behaviors. The thrust of the entire program is to enhance the parent's behavior management skills. In so doing, the program intends to train parents to be what is considered appropriate role models: parents who are positive, consistent, efficient, and non-violent.

PROGRAM CONTENT AND USE

1. Targeted Populations: The original Confident Parenting Program was developed for use in child mental health settings with parents whose children ages two through twelve were experiencing behavior or emotional problems. It was initially tested with parents of such children.

Through CICC's national dissemination of the program, it has come to be used in a wider range of institutional settings and by parents of both older and younger children. For example, it is now being used by many child protective service agencies as a treatment program for abusive parents, by early childhood education programs as part of their school-readiness efforts, and in church-based programs as part of their general parenting education efforts.

2. Format: The initial version of the program consisted of ten two-hour training sessions for small groups of parents, 8-15 parents per class or group. This version was substantially enhanced by CICC by adding on new training methods and materials. CICC also created a one-day seminar version of the program for large groups of parents, 50-200 parents. The one-day seminar version also included the teaching of new parenting strategies along with brief versions of the basic Confident Parenting skills (which will be described below).

Ten-Session Program Version

The ten-session version of the program begins by teaching the parents that behavior is shaped by its consequences. Here a good deal of emphasis is placed on helping parents transform their usually global descriptions of their children's functioning ("he's selfish" etc.) into specific behavioral descriptions ("he doesn't share his toys with his brother").

They are then taught exactly how to pinpoint the specific behaviors that they would like to see their children engage in more frequently and those they would like to see less of. This pinpointing involves not only being specific about observable behaviors but indicating where and when the parent would like to see more or less of them (at bedtime, in the morning, at the dinner table, etc., etc.)

Then parents are advised of various procedures for counting and charting specific behaviors so that they have a record of what is or is not taking place. This record serves as a standard against which the effectiveness of the parenting skills or methods that are taught in the Confident Parenting Program can be judged, as the methods are designed to increase or decrease specific behaviors. Thus, the record or charting of behaviors can be used to see whether or not a method is actually working.

The program teaches five basic methods for managing the consequences of children's behavior and which child behaviors are most likely to be increased or decreased by the use of each method. However, it points out the effectiveness of each method is ultimately determined by the child's unique characteristics and response pattern.

Behavior-Specific Praise

The first method is Behavior-Specific Praise, or the art of effective praising, which is believed to be the most powerful technique. The effectiveness of the other methods that are taught in the Confident Parenting Program are believed to be dependent on a parent's frequent and appropriate use of Behavior-Specific Praise. This is so because the other methods are designed to decrease negative or inappropriate child behaviors while praise is designed to increase positive child behaviors. The other methods are most effective when used within a relationship where the child is positively related to a parent and praise is the major method taught in the Confident Parenting for enhancing positiveness.

Behavior-Specific Praise consists of seven behavioral components: (1) looking at the child, (2) moving close to the child, (3) smiling at the child, (4) saying positive things to the child, (5) praising the child's behavior and not the child, (6) being physically affectionate with the child, and (7) moving into action immediately upon recognizing desirable behavior.

An example of praising the child's behavior would be saying, "It was nice of you to help me with the dishes, Diane, " where the message is that Diane earned praise for her behavior, washing the dishes. Praising the child, by contrast, would be saying, "You are such a good girl, Diane," where what is conveyed is an opinion about Diane as a person which does not give her any information as to what she did to merit that high opinion. When delivered appropriately, i.e., with all seven behavioral components operating, Behavior-Specific Praise presents the child with a very animated, enthusiastic, positive and responsive parent.

Mild Social Disapproval

The second parenting method is intended to decrease the repeated misbehaviors of children and establish limits to the child's behaviors. It is called Mild Social Disapproval and it is a confrontation technique. It also consists of seven behavioral components: (1) looking at the child, (2) moving close the child, (3) a disapproving facial expression, (4) a brief verbal comment or command, (5) low intensity, (6) non-verbal gesture consistent with disapproval, and (7) immediate delivery. The verbal component is to be disapproving in content but not pejorative or threatening. The emphasis is on simple and brief commands such as "Stop that!" rather than "You're a naughty girl" or "If you don't stop doing that, I'm going to get the strap."

Time Out

The third technique is a form of punishment that is used when all else fails and the child's behavior has exceeded reasonable limits. It is called Time Out (from social interaction and attention). The Time Out is explained to the child as having to go to a "cooling off" place for a short period of time when her/his behavior has gone too far.

Parents are instructed to make a rule about how Time Out is to be used. For example, the parents may make a rule that destroying property automatically earns a child Time Out. Then when the child breaks that rule, the parents begin and follow through on the Time Out sequence: (1) remain calm, (2) state the rule and its consequence, (3) ignore the child's extraneous verbalizations and excuses, and (4) follow through quickly by initiating the time out procedure.

Soon after the child is removed from Time Out, and when he/she is behaving appropriately again, parents are instructed to praise the child to show they still love the child and that they do not hold grudges.

Ignoring

The fourth parenting method is also a way of decreasing child misbehavior. It is ignoring or withdrawing of attention. The essence of this ignoring skill is that it be used consistently in response to the behaviors that it seeks to reduce. It consists of five behavioral components: (1) looking away form the child, (2) moving away from the child, (3) neutral facial expression, (4) ignoring the child's verbalizations, and (5) ignoring immediately upon noticing the misbehavior.

Special Incentive System

The fifth Confident Parenting method consists of teaching parents how to design and implement a Special Incentive System. This system consists of having the child earn points, stars or tokens for engaging in specified desirable behaviors. The child turns these in for various tangible rewards and/or special privileges. The rewards or privileges are chosen from a Reward Menu which is negotiated cooperatively by the parent and the child. The components of Special Incentive Programs are: (1) defining desirable behavior, (2) counting the target behavior(s), (3) creating the reward menu, (4) establishing the exchange ratio, i.e., how many stars for what rewards, (5) charting of behaviors, (6) praise for positive behavior changes, (7) program adjustments, and (8) phasing out the program.

In the original version of the program, the Special Incentive System was to be used only when there was a history of negative parental control with little social reward. The use of the system was seen as a temporary vehicle for increasing the child's responsiveness to the socially-oriented methods. In addition, the version of special incentives that was used in the Confident Parenting Program differed somewhat from the system used in other behavioral or social learning programs. Other programs used a "response cost" feature where a child lost points or tokens for engaging in negative or undesirable behaviors. The Confident Parenting version does not include this use of withdrawal of reward. Indeed, one of the main differences between Confident Parenting and other social learning programs is its preference for not using withdrawal of privileges and rewards as behavioral consequences.

One-Day Seminar Program Version

The one-day seminar version of the program involves much briefer instruction in the use of praise, mild social disapproval, ignoring, time out and special incentive methods. It also includes brief presentations on the "Confident Parenting Approach" (where parents are not only oriented that children learn from the consequences of their behavior but also form the models to whom they are exposed), and presentations on a Family Rules Strategy (where rules are understood as having "do" and "don't" sides like a coin, and where different parenting skills are needed with each side) and a Thinking Parent's Strategy (which orients parents to think before they act and to think after they act in order to develop a more deliberate and thoughtful approach to managing their children's behavior and their own behavior).

This one-day training event also provides guidance in using the parenting skills in combination and strongly orients parents away from using spanking and other forms of corporal punishment. The schedule for this daylong seminar is shown below.

Confident Parenting
One-Day Seminar for Parents
Seminar Schedule

8:00 - 9:00Registration/Continental Breakfast
9:00 - 10:30The Confident Parenting Approach
The Family Rules Strategy
The Thinking Parent's Strategy
10:30 - 10:45Break
10:45 - 12:00Effective Praise
Mild Social Disapproval
12:00 - 1:00Luncheon
1:00 - 2:15Ignoring
Time Out from Attention
2:15 - 2:30Break
2:30 - 3:45Special Incentives:
The Point System
3:45 - 4:00Break
4:00 - 5:00Using the Methods In Combination
Spanking: A High Risk Method
Resources for Further Learning

3. Teaching Methods: The first five sessions of the ten-session program are devoted to learning the behavioral orientation, the pinpointing and counting procedures, and the basic skills. Parents are assigned readings in the program's text and then quizzed on these at subsequent meetings. The four socially-oriented skills (praise, mild disapproval, ignoring, and time out) are taught through the use very explicit role playing exercises where each parent must demonstrate all components of a skill before using it at home. Parents are given weekly homework assignments, including behavior-change projects. As prelude to engaging in behavior-change projects with their children, they complete behavior-problem checklists and reinforcements surveys.

The last five sessions are focused on the behavior-change projects, with each parent earning special individual consultation with the instructor when the parent carries through on the charting and counting of the child behaviors that they are working on changing. The instructor phones the parents between sessions to prompt and encourage charting.

The instructor of the class version follows an Instructor's Manual, uses overhead transparencies to help in teaching the program content, and family rule cards to aide with role playing. Each parent receives a Parent's Handbook that contains extensive descriptions of the program's basic concepts and skills.

The instructor or leader of the one-day seminar also uses a Manual, the transparencies and rule cards, and parents follow the seminar with a special guide that outlines everything that is taught.

4. Staffing Requirements: The program is designed to be run by an instructor who has completed the intensive 3-day instructor training workshop that CICC conducts in different cities nationwide. The instructor is oriented to mobilize the assistance of many other persons in implementing the program, including individuals and groups who can provide child care, space, transportation, refreshment, advertising, etc.

5. Instructor Qualifications: The ideal instructor is an enthusiastic individual with a background in teaching and group processes, child development and behavior modification. Most instructors have graduate or undergraduate degrees in such fields as education, social work or psychology.

EVALUATION

Several studies on the impact of the ten-session version of the program were conducted in the 1970's by Dr. Aitchison and his colleagues at a community mental health center in California. The study results were made available at the American Psychological Association Convention in 1973 (Evaluating Groups for Training Parents in Child Management by Dr. Aitchison and his colleague, child psychiatrist, Dr. Leiberman) and through the final report that was submitted to the National Institute of Mental Health on the project through which the studies were conducted (Project Summary: Parents as Therapists: An Educational Approach to Child Psychiatry in a Community Mental Health Center. Final Report, NIMH, Grant MH-26207, Rockville, Maryland, by Aitchison, R. and Lieberman, R., 1975).

Study in Child Mental Health Setting

The ten-session Confident Parenting Program was used with nearly all families who were referred to an outpatient child psychiatric clinic because of child behavior problems. After an initial screening interview, parents were either referred to a Confident Parenting class that was just starting or placed on a waiting list for the next class. One study involved 392 parents who completed the class form 1971 to 1975. The mean age of the parents was 33 with a range of 20-56 years. There were 72 percent mothers and 28 percent fathers. Completion of high school was the mean educational level of the parents. Seventy-two percent of the parents were married and 28 percent were divorced, separated or widowed. Of the married parents, 19 percent brought their spouses to at least half of the 10 training sessions.

Each family had an average of three children. The mean age of the children who were considered to have problems by the parents was 7 with a range of 1 to 15 years. The 446 children seen as having problem behaviors by their parents represented 70 percent of all children in the families participating in the classes. Sixty percent of the "problem children" were male and 40 percent female. The majority of parents were referred by school officials or teachers, welfare or other social agencies, and by friends and relatives.

During the screening interview, the parents were asked to complete a behavior problem checklist and indicate the severity of problems. The most severe problems mentioned by the 392 study parents were, in order of frequency of reported problems: disobedience (difficulty in disciplinary control), disruptiveness (tendency to annoy and bother others), fighting, talking back, short attention span, restlessness (inability to sit still), irritability (easily aroused to intense anger), temper tantrums, attention-seeking and "show-off" behavior, crying over minor annoyances, lack of self-confidence, hyperactivity ("always on the go"), distractibility, specific fears (phobias), and bed wetting.

Of all the parents, 41 percent reported that their children's behavior was troublesome at home, 57 percent reported troubles at home and school, and 2 percent indicated that problems existed at school alone. Only four percent on the children viewed as deviant had previously received psychiatric treatment. Less than three percent of children were autistic or psychotic. The great majority of the children were diagnosed as "adjustment reaction of childhood," and "hyperkinetic reaction of childhood."

Educational Measures Employed: A variety of measures and indices were used to evaluate the impact of the program in this setting, including attendance data, tests of conceptual knowledge, parental reports and graphing of behavior change projects, parental reports of the skills that were most useful, parental enactments of skill usage in class, individual case studies, service-cost effectiveness comparisons, and follow up telephone interviews to assess the continued use of the program skills, the need for additional services and consumer satisfaction.

The results of this study were as follows:

  1. Parental attendance averaged out at 30% per class until a $10 refundable fee was used. The fee would be returned if one parent attended all 10 sessions. After instituting the refundable fee, attendance averaged 75 percent. Attempts to involve poverty-level, Mexican-American parents in clinic-based classes were largely unsuccessful but there was a little more success if the class was offered in public housing projects and was led by indigenous and Spanish-speaking instructors.
  2. Conceptual knowledge was assessed using a 50-item true-false test of basic social learning principles and behavioral intervention procedures. Parents showed a 61 percent mean increase in correct answers on the post test taken at the end of the class.
  3. Success in implementing behavior change projects was based on parental reports of child behavior changes and their graphing of these changes. "Success" was defined as a 30 percent or more change in the desired direction of the target problem behavior. Sixty-two percent of the targeted problem behaviors were successfully changed according to this criterion.

    To substantiate parental reports, observers were sent directly into homes on various occasions and verified the data brought in by the parents. Less than two percent of parents did not complete at least one child management intervention: in almost every case, these parents were attending the classes by order of the court and avoided active participation in the parent training program.

  4. In terms of the intervention techniques which the parents indicated were most helpful in bringing about change in their children's problem behaviors, the most frequently mentioned techniques were the effective praise, special incentive and time out techniques.
  5. To assess whether the parents had learned the appropriate use of the techniques, they were asked to role play typical child-parent scenes that would require the use of the techniques early in the program and later in the program. The majority of the parents were rated as having employed more of the technique components later in the program.
  6. Individual case studies were most revealing. An example shows how the program was used in this setting:

    • Five-year-old Patricia was described by her mother as hostile and disturbed. Behaviorally, Patricia shoved, hit, and kicked the family dog and her younger brother. Her mother was instructed to count the frequency of all observed aggressive acts as defined as shoves, hits and kicks to the dog or brother. It was found that Patricia averaged 9 such acts daily for the first week and 14 per day for the second week.

      Patricia's mother was instructed to use the time out technique each time Patricia became aggressive. The parent-supplied data for subsequent weeks showed that the average daily frequency of aggressive acts decreased over an eight-week period to an average of one per day.

  7. In measuring the cost effectiveness of the program, the per hour salaries of the paraprofessional instructors and their psychologist supervisors were compared to the costs of having the parents and children treated by psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers in a traditional child psychiatric manner. The average cost to train parents in groups was twenty times less expensive than the traditional child psychiatric treatment.
  8. Attempts were made to conduct telephone follow up interviews with graduating parents at 6, 12 and 24 months intervals. At the six month point, 73 percent of the graduates were contracted; at 12 months, 42 percent; and at 24 months, 23 percent.

These interviews revealed that 52 percent were still using the techniques at 6 months, 47 percent at 12 months, and 39 percent at 24 months. In terms of keeping records on their children's behaviors only 9 percent were doing it at the 6-month period and these were for the incentive system records; no one reported keeping records thereafter.

Only 5 percent had returned to the clinic for child-related problems at the 6-month period, 22 percent at the 12-month period and none at two years. Ten percent had consulted their pediatrician for abnormal child behavior at the six-month period, 17 percent had at 12 months and 25 percent at two years. Thus, the vast majority of the parents did not report seeking out additional services for child behavior problems.

More than 65 percent of the parents reported that they had not been called to their child's school for special conferences up to the 6-month interval and the number not being called for these conferences increased to 87 percent by the two-year period. Over 88 percent of the parents at each time interval indicated that their "problem" child had been advanced in grade level. And only 5 percent indicated that they had any contact with juvenile court or probation at the six-month interval and none thereafter.

In terms of consumer satisfaction, 91 to 100 percent of the Confident Parenting graduates reported (a) that the program helped them to manage their child's behavior, (b) that they liked the program, and (c) that they would recommend it to a friend or relative.

These results provide strong support for the Confident Parenting Program in terms of both being able to change parental behaviors (the parents learned and used the program skills) and being able to change child behaviors (the majority of children decreased troublesome child behaviors and increased prosocial behaviors). The troublesome child behaviors that were changed through parental participation in this program were those that make family life more hectic and tense and behaviors that also get children in trouble at school and in the neighborhood. Thus, the program also led to improvements in school and community life, and given the low rate of subsequent referrals for community services, helped to prevent costly academic and delinquency problems.

Another important implication was that the parent and child behavior changes were accompanied by an overall improvement in the emotional quality of relationships in the family. Parents not only reported that their relationships with the target children had improved, but so had relations with other children and spouses. Thus, the Confident Parenting Program also was seen as a vehicle for strengthening family relationships. Clearly, it is a highly valuable parent training intervention.

The impact of the Confident Parenting Program was also explored in two other studies that were conducted in the late 1970's and the early 1980's. One of those studies was concerned with the impact of the program on parents of learning disabled elementary school children and the other with its influence on the parenting of low income Latino and African American parents of preschool children.

Study with Parents of Learning Disabled Children

This study with Parents of Learning Disabled Children compared the impact of the Confident Parenting Program with the impact of another parenting program (Lifur-Bennett, Linda, 1982, The Effects of an Adlerian and a Behavioral Parent Education Program on Learning Disabled Children and Their Parents. Ph.D. Dissertation, Los Angeles, California School of Professional Psychology).

Evaluation Measures Employed and Design of Study: The study explored how participation in the two programs affected the quality of relationships in the home (using the Retrospective Family Relationship Change Questionnaire), parental acceptance and rejection as perceived by both the parents and the child (using the Rohner Parental Acceptance/Rejection Questionnaire), and program affects on the child's behavior at home and on his or her self-concept. It also explored whether the child's behavior had changed by asking his or her teachers. The study explored these potential program effects immediately after the programs ended and ten weeks later. It also employed a control group that did not receive any training.

The results of this study were as follows:

The Confident Parenting Program was shown to have significant positive effects on parental perception of changes in their relationships to their learning-disabled child, as well as to perception of positive changes in their relationships to other children and to their spouses at the immediate post-test and ten weeks later.

In terms of parental acceptance/rejection, the study also revealed that the program resulted in increases in overall parent-reported acceptance and decreases in parent-reported aggressive/hostile rejection at the immediate post test, and that these improvements were maintained at the ten week follow up. At the same time the study showed that the learning-disabled children perceived their parents as being more accepting and warm at the post test though there was some slippage back to pretest levels at the ten-week follow-up.

The learning disabled children whose parents were in Confident Parenting showed a significant improvement in self-concept form pre-to post-testing and this was maintained at the follow-up. However, the control group children also improved significantly in self-concept. In terms of behavior problems, the children whose parents were in Confident Parenting were seen by their parents as significantly decreasing their level of activity. They were also seen by their parents as being significantly more social at the post-test and follow-up. Their teachers also saw them as significantly less aggressive and inhibited, though they also saw the control children changing in these ways. The teachers saw the Confident Parenting children as less sleep-disturbed at the post-test and did not see the control group this way.

Another interesting finding of this study was that there were several significant correlations between performance on the outcome measures and parental attendance. For example, by the time of the ten-week follow up parental attendance was significantly correlated with parents perceptions of overall warmth (r = .52, p. <.01) and their estimates of improvement in their relationships with their learning disabled child (r=".50" < .01) and with their spouses (r=".50," p. < .01). This suggests that regular parental attendance is important in maintaining program effects.

Study with Ethnic Minority Parents

This was the study with parents of preschool Latino and African American children. It was conducted in cooperation with Head Start agencies in inner city Los Angeles communities and it too explored the impact of more than one parenting program (Alvy, K.T., Rosen, L.D., Harrison, D.S. and Fuentes, E.G., ffects of Parent Training Programs with Poverty-Level Minority Group Children, Paper presented at the American Psychological Association Convention, Montreal, September 1980).

This study was conducted as a prelude to CICC's work in creating specialized versions of the Confident Program for Latino and African American parents in general and for low income parents from these communities in particular. Indeed, the results of this study, which involved comparisons between parental reactions to the Confident Parenting and to the Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) and Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) programs, contributed greatly to selecting the Confident Parenting Program to be the one that would eventually be culturally-adapted.

The parents in this study all had preschool-aged children who were enrolled in a Head Start program in Los Angeles. The classes were conducted in the mornings while their children were in Head Start. The Head Start agencies were responsible for recruitment of the parents and for providing child care for the parents' other children. The Latino parents were newly immigrated form Mexico and preferred to be called Mexicans.

The study used what has been termed the ideal design, i.e., it used both a non-treatment control group and a placebo control group of parents who were involved in non-parent training group experiences (the placebo group parents were enrolled in drawing and crafts classes). Because there were no major differences in these groups, the no treatment control and the placebo groups were combined into one control-comparison group.

The instructors were psychologists, social workers and educators. They were told to teach the standard programs in the exact manner they were originally supposed to be taught, i.e., according to the curricula of each program. Thus, the (all white) instructors for the African American parents taught the programs as they had originally been designed. The instructors for the Mexican programs (all bilingual, bicultural) used the standard non-translated curricula, but they taught the classes in Spanish. They chose how to translate the concepts and how best to present them. Thus, these instructors did employ more culturally-sensitive strategies but each instructor did this differently. All of the instructors had received special training in teaching their respective programs and all were carefully chosen for having positive attitudes toward ethnic minorities and relevant experiences in working in poverty communities.

Parental attendance was a major problem. The norm for the classes was to have about 25 parents enrolled at an orientation meeting or first session. Then for the numbers to decrease substantially by the third or fourth session, and eventually to stabilize to a smaller group of 8 to 15 core parents per program. It was rare that the exact same group of parents was in attendance from one session to the next. About 30 percent of the parents at any particular session had missed the previous session. Only seven percent of the parents were in attendance for all of the training sessions. Reasons for non-attendance mainly had to do with such practical problems as doctor appointments, car breakdowns, insufficient clothing for rainy days, attending to the needs of other children, illnesses, drug-related absences, and breakdowns in child care arrangements.

The result was the following attendance figures for each cultural group in each parenting program. For the Mexican parents, 17 completed the Confident Parenting Programs, 29 the STEP programs, and 24 completed the P.E.T. programs.

Evaluation Measures and Program Outcomes: To determine the effects of the programs, several measurements were taken immediately after the programs ended and four and eight months later. Most of the participating parents were available for the immediate post test. But very few of the African American parents were contactable at the fourth and eighth month follow-ups. The majority of African-American parents (60%) represented single-parent families with an average of three children, and many of them had moved or had had their phones disconnected. The Mexican parents were predominantly from two parent families (83%) and also had an average of three children. The vast majority of all participating parents (98%) were mothers.

One measure involved questioning the parents about the quality of their relationships with various family members. They were asked to compare the quality of relationship that existed prior to the start of the programs to the quality at the various post tests. If they indicated that there had been a change, they were asked to explain it and (for the training program parents) to indicate whether the program had any effect on the perceived relationship change. This was the same measure used in the previously discussed Lifur-Bennett study.

Results with Mexican Parent

The scores for the Mexican parents on this relationship change measure showed that the training-program parents (parent training combined) consistently rated their relationships with their Head Start preschool child as being more improved than the control/comparison parents at every testing period. These combined program differences were statistically significant at each period.

When asked to explain these improvements, the parents said that they were due to changes in their interactions with their children and to the different ways that they were approaching them. They said that they got along better with their children, there was more cooperation and understanding, that their children were better behaved and that they were hitting them less. They attributed the changes generally to being in the programs, and the most frequently mentioned helpful program elements were the parenting skills that were taught (though few parents in the STEP program mentioned these), the support of the instructor and the other parents, and the reading materials.

A similar pattern of perceived relationship improvements with other children was found, with parent-training parents always having higher improvement scores at all follow-ups.

In regard to having an impact on specific child-rearing practices, the training-program parents reported using more practices that were consistent with those taught in the programs than did the control-comparison parents. For example, in response to both minor and major disobediences on the part of their preschool children, the parents in the three training programs reported using significantly more non-forceful methods (explanations, discussion, removing the child from the situation with little or no force). The trained parents also reported using significantly less physical force (slapping, spanking, beating with objects, and scorching the mouth with hot substances like chili peppers).

There were very few between-program differences in the use of different categories of practices in response to minor and major disobedience at the immediate post test. However, at both the 4-and 8-month follow ups, fewer parents from the Confident Parenting Program reported using the more extreme measures (physical force and intimidation) in response to major disobediences and more of these parents reported using non-forceful methods as well as assertion and privilege withdrawal.

Parental self-esteem was also measured, but the Mexican parents in the training and control-comparison groups were not seen to differ at any of the follow-ups. There was, however, a significant correlation at the four-month follow-up between attendance and self-esteem for the parents in the Confident Parenting Program.

A child behavior problem measure was also used and there were consistent differences favoring the parent-training groups, though none of these differences were statistically significant. At all three follow-up periods, the parent-training groups reported fewer behavior problems in the areas of infantile aggression, antisocial behavior, general aggression and school disturbance.

Results with African American Parents

There were both similar and different results for the African American parents. In terms of parental self-esteem, there were also no significant differences at any of the follow-ups. There was a significant correlation between attendance and self-esteem at the immediate and 8-month follow-up for the parents in Confident Parenting Program.

The data on child behavior problems also showed no significant differences. Surprisingly, the control-comparison group parents tended to report fewer behavior problems. Possibly the training program parents had more problem behavior children to begin with but there was no pretest data available to allow for an exploration of this possibility. There were, however, several significant negative correlations between attendance and child behavior problems at the immediate follow-up for parents in the Confident Parenting Programs, which may indicate that greater participation in those programs is absolutely necessary to produce the behavioral problem decrements that have been found in the studies of other behavioral parent training programs. The significant negative correlations with parental attendance were in regard to general aggression (-.57), antisocial behavior (-.43), school disturbance (-.63) and severity of problems (-.50).

In regard to parent-perceived changes in their relationships with their preschool child, the African American parents did report a statistically significant improvement at the immediate follow-up, and smaller and decreasing improvement at the 4 and 8 month periods. The differences at the 8-month period were not large enough to reach statistical significance on such a small sample size.

The African American parents' descriptions of the kinds of relationship changes they experienced with their preschool children were very similar to those given by the Mexican parents. The changes were in the direction of greater peace and cooperation at home and less violent interactions. The African American parents also attributed the changes to program participation, and across all three parent training programs the skills which were taught were mentioned most frequently as being important to the relationship changes.

Finally, there was evidence to indicate that some African American parents were adopting the disciplinary methods taught in the programs. It is generally acknowledged by authorities on African American parenting that there is a traditional black disciplinary approach that favors the use of harsh methods including whipping and spanking children. The programs promote alternative, non-violent methods. The results showed that a higher percentage of parents in the training programs reported using non-forceful methods in response to both minor and major child disobediences at all follow-up periods. Many other training program parents continued to use forceful methods in response to major disobediences at all follow-ups, but always a smaller percent than of control-comparison parents. The Confident Parenting Program seemed to work better as fewer parents from that program reported using physical force at the immediate and eight month follow-ups.

This study with all of its attendance and follow-up problems does provide evidence that the standard programs, and particularly the Confident Parenting Program, can be helpful with poverty-level African American and Mexican parents. Indeed, given this study's problems, it is somewhat remarkable that any program effects could be documented. One could easily argue that it was not a true test of each program's potential with these groups because so few parents were actually exposed to the full program. The significant correlations between attendance and various outcome measures suggests that if attendance had been better and/or if the total number of parents involved was larger, additional positive effects with these high risk parent populations could have been documented.

Studies as Part of Recent CICC Community Service Projects

As part of its recent community service projects to bring parenting education into the early childhood care and education system, CICC has been conducting and evaluating a series of parenting classes and one-day seminars in several parenting programs, including classes and seminars in the Confident Parenting Program.

Each class and seminar is evaluated by having the parents complete Parent Effectiveness Questionnaires before they start the class or seminar, and at the end of the class or seminar. These rated Questionnaires test the parents on the effective parenting concepts, skills and strategies that are taught in a particular program (pre-post test design). This method allows for determining whether the parents make significant gains from the beginning to the end of the classes and seminars.

At the end of each class and seminar, the parents also indicate if they have been changed in any ways as a result of their participation and whether they have observed or expect changes in how their children behave. Here they are given the opportunity to describe these changes in their own words.

Finally, a third method for evaluating the classes and seminars was a series of rated questions about the seminar or class and the instructor, and about what they had learned.

The results of these evaluation studies are now available in several forms. A book entitled, Bringing Parenting Education Into The Early Childhood Care and Education System, contains the results of three Confident Parenting classes and three seminars.The results of these six education interventions continue to show how much parents and children gain from this program. The entire book can be downloaded free-of-charge by clicking here.

A bound version of this 124 page book is also available for purchase (click here).

Other ways that these studies can be accessed is through research reports on individual seminars or classes. Below is a summary of one such report.

Research Reports on these classes and seminars are becoming available on a regular basis. Below you will find a summary of a research report for a one-day seminar in the Confident Parenting Program.

Research Report 4 - Confident Parenting One-Day Seminar - November 11, 2000, at Los Angeles Mission College, Sylmar, California, Jeffrey S. Morrow, Ph.D., Seminar Instructor.

This seminar was taught in English. Of the total of 99 parents who attended this all-day training event, 91 completed pre-tests where they also indicated various characteristics of themselves and their families, and 80 completed post-tests where they indicated how much they had learned in the seminar.

The 91 parents who completed the pretests ranged in age from 22 to 53 with an average age of 34.1. Of these 91, 82% were female. On the average, the parents had 3.1 children ranging for one to seven children per family. All had at least one child between the ages of birth through five years. The parents reported a wide range of educational backgrounds, skewed toward the lower end of the formal education continuum: only 23 percent had a college education or graduate degree, whereas 30 percent had not completed high school or had no formal education.

Results of the Parent Effectiveness Questionnaire showed a statistically significant improvement form pre to post testing, t (71) = -8.54, p <.001. A close inspection of these highly significant gains showed that more parents at the end of the seminar appreciated that many of their children's behaviors were learned and not inherited, which means that their children can learn new positive behaviors and unlearn old negative behaviors, which is one of the main teachings of this program. The gains also showed an increased understanding of the importance of being verbally positive with children and what to expect from children when using the various program skills. The many noted improvements also demonstrated a heightened respect for using non-violent methods in disciplining and guiding the development of children.

The vast majority of parents (87 to 96 percent) also indicated that as a result of this seminar they felt differently and more positively about being a parent and about their children. In addition, the vast majority also said that the seminar would change how they approach and treat their children. Typical comments included statements like, "I will speak to them directly instead of screaming," " There will be less lecturing on my behalf and more praising for the things they do that I take for granted," etc.

The majority of seminar participants also agreed or strongly agreed that the seminar improved their parenting skills, increased their knowledge of parenting, and improved their confidence in raising their children. They would recommend the seminar to others, and thought the instructor was highly knowledgeable and effective.

DISSEMINATION

1. Instructor Training: The intensive 3-day instructor training workshop prepares individuals to conduct the complete Confident Parenting Program. Over 1000 instructors from the institutions listed on the agency document have already been trained through these workshops. These workshops are led by professional trainers-of-instructors who have run the program themselves and who have received extensive training in conducting instructor training workshops.

The 3-day intensive workshops cover the entire curriculum of the program and provide opportunities for the participants to deliver sections of the curriculum and to receive constructive feedback from the trainer and other participants. These workshops are for 15 to 25 participants, and are usually conducted for three days in succession. CICC schedules workshops in different cities on an annual basis, and it also schedules workshops on an as-needed basis when a state or county agency or a school district or church group contracts with CICC for a special workshop to train their personnel only.

The workshops are evaluated by the participants using standard evaluation forms. The trainer also uses standard forms to evaluate each workshop participant. Successful participants receive certificates of workshop completion.

The current fee per workshop participant is $650, which covers the cost of the 3 days of professional training and the complete Instructor's Kit of training materials. The price of the Kit is currently $242.

2. Program Materials: The complete Instructor's Kit includes a 75 page, fully scripted Instructor's Manual which contains the curriculum for the complete program and technical assistance notes on program implementation. The Kit also contains Instructional Transparencies to use in teaching each program concept, strategy and skill. One copy of the Parents Handbook is included in the Kit, as is Dr. Alvy's Parent Training Today book that contains the history and evaluations of the program. The Kit also includes an audiocassette and worksheets on Generating and Maintaining Parenting Programs (which provides the latest information on successful strategies to recruit and involve parents) and attractive recruitment flyers to use in advertising the program. Also included are Graduation Certificates for parents.

CICC also distributes a variety of other publications for parents, which have been used as supplementary materials to the program and for broadening the education of program instructors.

3. Program Costs: Each parent who enrolls in a Confident Parenting class needs a Parents Handbook ($11). The other program costs vary depending upon which institution sponsors the delivery of the class or seminar, as each institution incurs ifferent costs for marketing and advertising, space, refreshment, child care, transportation, and instructor fees.

 

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