Assessing parent need in designing parent education curricula

It was hypothesized that parents would have perceived needs for parent education which in some way corresponded to their demographic characteristics, e.g., that parents of an only child would have different needs than older parents; that the perceived needs of parents of very young children would differ from those of parents with older children, and so on. A "Parent Opinion Survey" was developed, consisting of 24 questions, to survey parents on both their demographics and preferences for parent education. The survey included characteristics of age, marital status, educational level, income, number of children, prior participation in parent education offerings, their perceived need of parent education offerings in the various phases of parenting, and how important they felt parent education was in face of other life considerations. Of the 145 survey forms distributed in the greater San Francisco Bay area, eighty-one (81) were returned completed. The survey population was a predominantly high socioeconomic status group with high income and educational levels. A large proportion of the sample had participated in parent education. The data were analyzed using cross correlations yielding Pearson r coefficients and on Chi-Square. Frequency data were also calculated. All three types of statistics were utilized in the analysis and for formulation of conclusions and recommendations. A number of variables yielded statistically significant results. Age of parent, both at birth of first child and currently, correlated positively with reasons for participation and non-participation in parent education offerings. Age also correlated significantly with types of parent education preferred. Older parents tended to participate in parent education early in their parenting experience, to experience less need of parent education later, and to prefer peer-support group format. In contrast, younger parents tended not to participate early in parenthood and to experience more need later on. These and parents of more than one child appeared to prefer instructor-taught classes and support groups with a leader. Income proved to be one of the variables most frequently correlated with reasons for both participation and nonparticipation. The lower income group cited reasons of tiredness, the importance of spending time with their children, the expense of courses and childcare, and unavailability of formats acceptable to them as reasons for non-participation. Due to the non-representative, skewed nature of this population, the results are viewed with caution. Nevertheless, the hypothesis was accepted as supported by the data from the current sample based on numerous significant correlations on a number of variables. Further research, including replication of the study with a more representative sampling of the general population, is recommended. Recommendations are made as to design and presentation of parent education curricula based on these early findings.

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