Public Release: 5-Dec-2016
Parenting classes benefit all, especially lower-income families
Oregon State University
Parenting education can improve the skills of every mom and dad and the behavior of all children, and it particularly benefits families from low-income or otherwise underserved populations, a new study from Oregon State University suggests.
Researchers examined a sample of more than 2,300 mothers and fathers who participated in parenting education series in the Pacific Northwest between 2010 and 2012. The series, designed to support parents of children up to 6 years old, typically lasted nine to 12 weeks and consisted of one one-hour session per week led by a parent education facilitator. There was no fee for participants.
The study, part of a growing partnership between the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences and the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative to increase access to parenting education for all families, may remove some of the stigma attached to parenting education, which has historically been associated with court orders for parents who've run afoul of child-protective laws.
"Parenting education works across the board," said John Geldhof, an OSU assistant professor of behavioral and health sciences. "All parents can benefit. The way people typically learn parenting is from their parents and from books, and often times what they've learned is out of date and not the best practices for today. All parents - high income, low income, mandated, not mandated - can benefit from evidence-based parenting education."
Neglectful or otherwise ineffective parenting strategies, which can be heightened by economic strain, can put children in jeopardy. While many parenting practices can lead to favorable outcomes in children, research indicates that the optimal combination usually features high levels of support and monitoring and the avoidance of harsh punishment. Those positive outcomes include higher grades, fewer behavior problems, less substance use, better mental health and greater social competence.
Findings of the OSU research, recently published in Children and Youth Services Review, indicate that parent education series serving predominantly lower-income parents resulted in greater improvements in their skills and their children's behaviors compared to series serving higher-income parents.