Focusing on Parenting Styles for Better Child Outcomes

FOCUSING ON PARENTING STYLES FOR BETTER CHILD OUTCOMES

  1. Converse, UF/IFAS Extension, Hillsborough County, Seffner, FL

 Situation: Parenting styles form the foundation of modern research concerning the parenting effect on child behavior, socialization, and school success. Parental styles are distinguished by three domains – parent responsiveness/warmth, psychological autonomy, and discipline/behavior management. Family dysfunction can occur because of extreme parenting styles, resulting in poor parent/child relationships, children’s social-emotional disorders, delinquent child behaviors, and abuse/neglect. When a destructive parenting style causes emotional or physical harm, children are sometimes removed from the home and the parent(s) must complete parenting classes. In Hillsborough County, nearly 6,000 children each year are removed from their families. Methods: The Hillsborough County Extension parenting course begins by examining participants’ current parenting styles. In 2015 nearly 150 parents attended court-ordered classes and learned how their discipline and communication skills shape their child’s behavior and long-term success. Family dysfunction is commonly passed from generation to generation, so parents are given tools for changing their destructive child-rearing practices. Parenting styles are the central focus of each class with topics covering; appropriate and effective discipline, important developmental assets for youth’s success, enhancing self-esteem, improving family communication, and managing stress. Results: Pre-test knowledge was 31% and post-test scores were 70%; a 39% gain in knowledge.  Evaluations showed 98% of participants identified their dominant parenting style, 86% understood the strengths and weaknesses of each style, and 99% set goals for improving their parenting skills. Although follow-up evaluations with this demographic group tend to have extremely low return rates, 68% of respondents felt they had improved family communication, 63% increased use of positive discipline while decreasing negative punishment, and 74% reported improved parent/child connections. Conclusion: Parenting education continues reaching families-at-risk in Hillsborough County, which results in healthier family relationships and more responsible, well-adjusted, and successful children.

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