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Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 228–236 | Cite as

A Reappraisal of the Nobody’s Perfect Program

  • Deborah J. KennettEmail author
  • Gail Chislett
  • Ashley L. S. Olver
Original Paper

Abstract

Nobody’s Perfect Program (NP), involving 46 participants, was conducted from the spring of 2007 to the fall of 2009 in Peterborough, Canada. Prior to the program, parents completed demographic information, along with self-report measures assessing learned resourcefulness, the types of interactions with their children, parent resourcefulness, knowledge and use of resources, parent competency and self-efficacy, which were completed again after the program and at a 2 month follow-up testing. Most parents (83%) earned a certificate. Significant improvements over time were observed for parenting confidence satisfaction, knowledge about community resources, and parenting resourcefulness, with general learned resourcefulness skills approaching significance. Pre/post relative gains demonstrated in one attribute were associated with pre/post relative gains in others. Similarities and differences of these findings to a previous investigation are discussed, as well as the importance of parents’ general level of learned resourcefulness.

Keywords

Nobody’s Perfect Program Learned resourcefulness Parent self-efficacy Parent resourcefulness 

Introduction

The evidence linking parenting to child outcomes is extensive (e.g., Collins et al. 2000; Knoche et al. 2007; Landy and Tam 1998) with the caveat that many other factors, both environmental and genetic, also have a bearing on child outcomes (Brooks-Gunn and Markman 2005; Collins et al. 2000; Landy and Tam 1998; Olds et al. 2007). Less well established is the relationship between participation in parenting programs and parent and child outcomes. This is of interest, especially with parenting education being increasingly viewed by policy-makers as a cost-effective strategy for reducing the social and economic burden resulting from escalating family dysfunction and child emotional/behavioral problems (Barlow et al. 2005; Law et al. 2009; Moran and Ghate 2005; Olds et al. 2007).

Many studies have contributed to the body of knowledge around outcomes of parent education (e.g., DeRosier and Gilliom 2007; Elliot et al. 2002; Gardner et al. 2006; Lipman and Boyle 2005; Tucker et al. 1998; Wolfe et al. 2003). Layzer et al. (2001)conducted a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies and quasi-experimental studies of 260 family support programs related to children from birth to 12 years of age, including drop-in centers, respite care, early development screening and parent training. The authors found family support programs generating a medium to large effect size on parent behavior, knowledge, and attitudes had one or more of the following characteristics: parent development as a primary goal, group delivery format, professional staff, younger children targeted, teenaged parents targeted, families with children with behavior problems or special needs targeted, and child abuse prevention targeted. As well, the meta-analysis concluded that teenaged parents benefit from case management and organized parent–child activities. Moran et al. (2004) in a review of published and unpublished literature, stress effective parent education programs have a strong theory base with measurable outcomes, are manualized, incorporate knowledge delivery by professionals using multiple formats, practical tips and interactive methods, and are implemented in ways which promote retention and engagement.

One program that meets most of these criteria for effectiveness and has undergone previous evaluations is Nobody’s Perfect (NP). NP is an education and support program for parents of children up to 5 years of age, developed by Health Canada in the Maritimes in 1987. The program is designed for parents who are young, single, socially isolated, geographically isolated, or who have limited formal education or income. Parent development is a primary goal; NP helps parents to increase their parenting knowledge and skills and promote the healthy development of their children. Generally, groups of parents meet weekly for a series of eight two-hour sessions in a community location. Trained co-facilitators, who may or may not be professionals, lead the group using a manualized process. NP is participant-centered and based on the concept of experiential learning. The program encompasses topics such as child development, child behavior management, nutrition, health, safety, financial management, mood management and healthy relationships. Participants, as a group, select from this menu of topics according to their needs, examine their experiences, relate their observations to their lives, problem-solve, and apply their learning. The program is offered free of charge, and parenting books, transportation assistance, childcare and snacks are provided. At completion, parents earn a certificate based on attendance.

Several evaluations of NP indicate that participants increase their parenting skills and confidence and feel less isolated (e.g., Leskiw and Associates 2002; VanderPlaat 1989). The first peer-reviewed study, however, was conducted by Chislett and Kennett (2007) involving 71 participants. Prior to the program, parents completed self-report measures assessing the types of interactions with their children, parent resourcefulness, knowledge and use of resources, parent competency and self-efficacy, which were completed again after the program and at a 2 month follow-up. Participants were on average 26 years old, predominantly female, primary caregivers of up to 3 children and low income earners, with less than half of them having at least secondary school education and half of them being single parents. Parents earning certificates (55% of them), in comparison to those not, were younger and more likely to have attended previous parenting programs. They also demonstrated and maintained an increase in parenting resourcefulness, warm/positive parent–child interactions, sense of parenting competency and satisfaction, and use of community resources. Finally, the more sessions parents attended, the better their parenting resourcefulness and warm/positive parent–child interactions on completion and at follow-up, and the less their angry and punitive parenting at follow-up.

Other studies show that outcomes in any type of program depend heavily upon the individual’s personal attributes, and general learned resourcefulness has been shown to be a valuable personal quality associated with retention (Kennett 1994; Kennett and Ackerman 1995) and behavioral change (e.g., Kennett et al. 2008). In the management of everyday life demands, resourceful individuals make use of positive self-instructions, apply problem solving methods and delay immediate gratification (Rosenbaum 1990, 2000). Although this skill base does not prevent people from developing bad habits or provide them with solutions to all problems, when motivated to make changes or adapt to adversities, they are more successful at achieving their goals either on their own or with the help of others. In fact, a considerable amount of research reveals that resourcefulness is an important and key predictor of the specific self-control strategies needed for adopting healthy lifestyle habits (Birkimer et al. 1993; Kennett and Nisbet 1998; Kennett et al. 2009; Levesque et al. 2003), adhering to regimens for chronic illness (Rosenbaum and Palmon 1984; White et al. 1996; Zauszniewski and Chung 2001), breaking bad habits (Kennett, Morris & Bangs, 2006), and dealing with stress (Akgun and Ciarrochi 2003). Important to the current investigation, learned resourcefulness has also been linked to program adherence (e.g., Kennett 1994; Kennett and Ackerman 1995), with 85–90% of drop-outs scoring below the normative average in learned resourcefulness. Moreover, learned resourcefulness is unrelated to IQ, education level and socioeconomic status in adults (Derry et al. 1993).

Recent evidence also suggests that mothers possessing higher levels of learned resourcefulness have a more positive impact on their children’s skill levels, making this attribute an even more important one to examine. Zauszniewski et al. (2002), for instance, examined the child (gender, academic performance, thought patterns), maternal (age, hours working/volunteering, daily functioning, learned resourcefulness) and family (number of parents, number of children) predictors of learned resourcefulness in children aged 10–12 years. They found that children scoring higher in general learned resourcefulness had higher positive thought patterns and mothers who scored higher in learned resourcefulness. No other predictors were observed to be significant. Given the number of hours the mother spent outside the home (either at work or volunteering) was unrelated to the child’s degree of learned resourcefulness, they concluded that it is not the quantity but rather the quality of time a mother and child spend together that facilitates the acquisition of learned resourcefulness.

The current investigation reevaluated NP with the intent to add to the body of literature and determine the reproducibility of the results by Chislett and Kennett 2007. We studied a similar group of parents and used the same instruments, with the addition of Rosenbaum’s (1980) measure of general learned resourcefulness. Based on the previously described findings, it was predicted that parents having higher pre-test learned resourcefulness scores would be more likely to earn a certificate and attend a higher percentage of sessions. Given NP’s experiential learning focus, increases in general learned resourcefulness were also predicted over the course of the study. Lastly, we expected to replicate the findings of Chislett and Kennett (2007). Not examined by Chislett and Kennett (2007); Hake’s (1998) gain factor was used to determine the relative improvements parents made by the end of the program.

Method

Participants

The average age for the 46 participants was 26.59 years (SD = 7.38), ranging from 19 to 48 years. Most parents identified themselves as belonging to no ethnic group; however, 6 identified themselves as native and 2 as half-native. Of the sample, 78% were female, 83% reported household incomes of $20,000 or less per year, 52% reported being single parents, 80% were custodial parents of up to 4 children, 48% had completed at least secondary school education, 91% reported no difficulty reading, 26% had attended NP previously, and 30% had never attended a parenting program of any type before this one. Although most had at least one child between the ages 1–3 years, 20% had only one child less than 1 year of age.

Procedure

Some NP participants self-referred, having heard about the program from friends or to repeat the program again. Most, however, were recruited by health practitioners, family service agencies, or the court system. About 40% disclosed involvement with Children’s Aid Society (a child protection agency), and some of these parents had been advised to attend NP to eventually regain or prevent losing custodial care of their children.

Demographic information was obtained by phone when parents registered for NP. At their first session of the program, participants completed ethical consent forms followed by the pre-test measures. A few participants refused to take part in the study for undisclosed reasons. But, most of those who did not take part in the study (44% of NP attendees) missed the first session and pre-test due to late registration, illness or previous appointments, and were, thus, excluded from the study. Respondents completed post-test measures at their final session, with follow-up testing taking place 2 months later at a community location. During testing conditions, surveys were read out loud, but some respondents having no difficulty reading preferred to work ahead. For completing all conditions, respondents received a $30.00 Walmart gift card.

Groups of parents led by different pairs of co-facilitators met weekly in community locations for NP series of eight two-hour sessions. One series (N = 6 parents) had only six two-hour sessions due to scheduling conflicts with the facilitators.

To promote program fidelity, trained facilitators consult regularly with a program coordinator and follow a scripted approach to session delivery using topic-specific manuals supported by NP parent books. Participants complete anonymous weekly satisfaction evaluations which are reviewed by facilitators and the coordinator. In these evaluations, our sample reported high rates of satisfaction with the program, topics covered and learning new things. None of them noted actionable recommendations/suggestions for program change/improvements. Several requested that the program be made longer, and one parent noted a preference for a more fixed curriculum.

Measures

Unless otherwise indicated, participants rated the items of each scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). For all of the scales, a higher score or sub-score reflects a more positive parenting practice or personal attribute. Scales obtained from other sources demonstrate acceptable validity and reliability, which can be obtained from the cited studies.

The Parent–Child Interaction Scale is a 13-item parenting behavior scale (Oldershaw 2002) and, according to factor analysis, has 3 dimensions: 4 items assess positive/warm interactions, 5 items assess angry and punitive parenting, and 4 items assess ineffective child management. Each item is rated on a 6-point scale from 1 (never) to 5 (always), and 0 (not applicable to me). Further information on this scale can be retrieved from http://www.ucalgary.ca/~landru/adc/kids/k96-9a.htm#9.9. Reported means (Chislett and Kennett, 2007) for the subscales prior to and after completing the NP were: pre-test, 17.78 (SD = 2.44), post-test, 18.63 (SD = 1.31) for positive/warm interactions; pre-test, 16.18 (SD = 6.61), post-test, 16.07 (SD = 6.58) for angry and punitive parenting; and pre-test, 9.66 (SD = 5.83), post-test, 9.99 (SD = 5.87) for ineffective child management. In our study, Cronbach’s alphas were .75, .70 and .52 for the positive/warm interaction subscale, .83, .84 and .85 for the angry and punitive parenting subscale, and .79, .88 and .84 for the ineffective child management subscale at pre, post and follow-up testing, respectively. Although an alpha of .52 might be considered low for the positive/warm interaction subscale at follow-up testing, alphas of this value are not uncommon for scales having a small number of items (i.e., 4 items in this case) and are considered acceptable in light of the alphas values observed at pre- and post-testing for this subscale (Kerlinger and Lee 2000).

The 33-item Parent Resourcefulness Scale assesses the extent to which parents use positive self-statements (e.g., “When I am upset with my children, I tell myself to calm down before I lose my temper.”), problem-solving strategies (e.g., “When my child has a problem, I help him/her find ways to do it on his/her own.”), delay of immediate gratification (e.g., “I [rarely] bribe my children to get them to do what I want.”), among other self-control strategies to cope with the demands of parenting (Walker, 1990). Using a 5-point scale, parents indicate the extent to which they agree with each statement (0 = not applicable to me, 1 = strongly disagree to 4 = strongly agree. Total scores can range from 0 to 132. Chislett and Kennett (2007) reported means ranging from 80.46 (pre-test) to 88.82 (follow-up) with standard deviations around 20. In this study, internal consistency as reflect by Cronbach’s alpha was .92, .90 and 92, at pre, post and follow-up, respectively.

The 11-item Knowledge and Use of Resources Scale was developed by Chislett and Kennett (2007) to assess parents’ knowledge and use of the general array of family resources and supports located within the community (e.g., “I know how to get help with housing or landlord problems,” “I take my child to places in the community, like the zoo, skating rinks, or playgrounds, where we can enjoy ourselves, free of charge,” and “I don’t know which agencies can help with my child’s behavior (reversed coded).”). Total scores can range from 11 to 44. Reported means range from 33.92 (pre-test) to 37.13 (post-test) with standard deviations around 4.20 (Chislett and Kennett 2007). Cronbach’s alphas were .78 across the three testing conditions of this study.

Factor analysis of the 12-item Parenting Sense of Competence Scale (Ohan eta l. 2000), reveals two dimensions: parental efficacy (6 items such as, “If something is troubling my child, I can usually figure out what it is.”), and parental satisfaction (6 items such as, “It’s hard to know whether you’re doing a good job or a bad job as a parent (reversed coded).”). Scores on each of these two dimensions can range from 6 to 24. For the sense of efficacy subscale, Chislett and Kennett (2007) found means ranged from 18.54 (pre-test) to 19.41 (follow-up) with standard deviations around 2.40, and for the sense of satisfaction subscale, means ranged from 15.65 (pre-test) to 17.22 (post-test) with standard deviations around 3.30. For this study, Cronbach’s alphas were in the mid (e.g., .73) to high (e.g., .79) .70 range for each of the two subscales across the three testing conditions.

In contrast to the self-efficacy dimension of the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale, the 11-item Parent Efficacy Scale (Chislett and Kennett 2007) assesses the extent to which parents believe that they have the general ability to overcome the stressors of being parents (e.g., “Often I feel that I’m being controlled by my children (reversed coded).”). Total scores can range from 11 to 44. In the Chislett and Kennett (2007) study, means ranged from 34.99 (pre-test) to 36.22 (follow-up) with standard deviations around 4.50. Cronbach’s alphas in the current study were .79, .82 and .84 at pre, post and follow-up, respectively.

Rosenbaum’s (1980) Self-Control Schedule (SCS) is widely used in the literature to assess the learned resourcefulness skills people use to cope with everyday life upsets and demands. It consists of 36 items, which are rated on a six-point Likert scale ranging from -3, very uncharacteristic of me, to +3, very characteristic of me. In the management of their everyday life, individuals are asked to what extent they rely on problem-solving strategies (e.g., “When I am faced with a difficult problem, I approach it in a systematic way.”), use positive self statements to cope with stressful situations (e.g., “When an unpleasant thought is bothering me, I think about something pleasant.”), and are able to delay gratification (e.g., “I prefer to finish a job that I have to do before I start doing things I really like.”). Scores can range from −108 to 108, with mean scores for adult populations typically around 24 and with a standard deviation of 25 (e.g., Rosenbaum 1980, 1990). Consistent with other studies (e.g., Rosenbaum 1980), we observed internal consistencies to be between .83 and .88.

Results

Percentage of Parents Earning Certificates

Certificates were earned for attending at least five of the sessions. Most participants (83%) earned a certificate and the average attendance rate by all members was 76% (SD = 25.82) of the sessions. There was also equal tendency for both non-custodial (78%) and custodial parents (84%) to earn a certificate. Of the 38 parents earning certificates, 30 of them completed the pre and post conditions, and 29 of them completed all of the conditions. None of the participants not earning certificates completed the post and follow-up conditions.

Table 1 shows the pre-test scores of participants not earning and earning certificates. Attendance and sense of parenting efficacy confidence were the only variables to predict program completion. Not surprisingly, parents earning certificates attended a higher percentage of classes, t (44) = 10.66, p < .001. As well, they were more likely to have a higher sense of parenting efficacy competence at the start of the program, t (44) = 2.30, p = .03. General learned resourcefulness scores, however, did not differ between the groups as expected.
Table 1

Means (M) and standard deviations (SD) of selected variables comparing parents not earning NP certificates (N = 8) to those earning certificates (N = 38)

Variables

Did not earn certificate

Earned certificate

M

SD

M

SD

% Attendance

28.65

12.68

85.86*

13.99

Gender

1.75

.46

1.79

.41

Age

27.00

7.62

26.50

7.43

Income

2.50

.53

3.05

1.18

Education

3.50

1.20

3.97

1.33

Reading

3.00

.00

2.84

.49

One baby only

1.00

.00

1.26

.43

Custodial parent

1.75

.46

1.81

.39

Primary caregiver

1.25

.89

1.29

1.04

Single parent

1.63

.52

1.45

.50

Previous parenting programs

1.13

1.73

1.32

1.73

Sense of competence-pre

 Efficacy- pre

17.93

3.61

20.23*

2.32a

 Satisfaction-pre

16.83

1.73

16.34

3.04a

Parent efficacy-pre

33.38

4.24

35.79

4.12

Parenting resourcefulness-pre

83.63

28.88

84.52

21.57

Parent–child interactions-pre

 Warm/positive-pre

16.50

3.70

17.21

2.58

 Angry/punitive-pre

17.50

1.04

17.25

6.36

 Ineffective management-pre

12.75

4.89

11.57

5.45

Knowledge of resources-pre

35.58

4.84

34.72

5.07

General learned resourcefulness-pre

21.43

22.36

22.66

25.90a

Gender: 1 = male, 2 = female; Age: in years; Income: (household/year) 1 = none, 2 = < $10,000, 3 = $10,000-20,000, 4 = > $20,000-30,000, 5 = > $30,000-40,000, 6 = more than $40,000; Education: (maximum) 1 = < primary completion, 2 = completed primary school, 3 = some secondary school, 4 = completed secondary school, 5 = some post-secondary school, 6 = completed post-secondary school; Reading: (difficulty) 1 = a lot, 2 = some, 3 = none; One Baby Only: (has only 1 child, a baby < 1 yr of age) 1 = no, 2 = yes; Custodial Parent: 1 = no, 2 = yes; Primary Caregiver: # children in your care; Single Parent: 1 = no, 2 = yes; Previous Parenting Programs: # parenting programs, including NP, previously attended

p < .05

a N = 37

Gains Made by Participants Earning Certificates

One-way within subjects ANOVAs were completed on the pre, post and follow-up scores of the inventories used in this study. Over time, significant differences were observed for sense of parenting satisfaction competence, F (2, 54) = 5.38, p = .007, parent resourcefulness, F (2, 56) = 3.31, p = .04, and knowledge and use of resources, F (2, 56) = 5.91, p = .005, with general learned resourcefulness approaching significance, F (2, 54) = 2.79, p = .07. As illustrated in Table 2, Newman Keuls post hoc tests found that these participants showed a significant increase in scores for these variables after completing the program, with general learned resourcefulness again approaching significance at p = .06.
Table 2

Means (M) and standard deviations (SD) of pre, post and follow up results for the inventories for participants earning certificates and completing all test conditions (N = 29)

Inventory

Pre

Post

Follow-up

M

SD

M

SD

M

SD

Parenting sense of competence

 Sense of efficacya

20.00

2.37

19.79

2.53

20.19

2.26

 Sense of satisfactiona

16.17

3.04

17.25**

3.68

17.50**

3.50

Parent efficacy

34.99

4.61

35.89

4.02

36.22

4.59

Parenting Resourcefulness

86.04

21.37

88.44

20.56

92.33*

22.26

Parent–child interactions

 Warm/positive parenting

17.34

2.78

17.31

3.01

18.28

1.81

 Angry/punitive parenting

16.66

6.77

17.41

6.24

17.52

6.30

 Ineffective child management

11.53

5.71

11.17

5.71

12.29

5.39

Knowledge and use of resources

34.20

5.14

35.89*

4.88

36.91**

4.52

General learned resourcefulnessa

19.09

27.10

27.30b

28.47

24.38

26.74

p < .05; ** p < .01

a N = 28

b p = .06

The Effect of Attendance

No significant relationship between session attendance and the inventory scores were revealed at post-test and follow-up. Nonetheless, parents attending more sessions were more likely at pre-test to have higher parenting efficacy competence, r (43) = .32, p = .03, and a tendency to have higher beliefs in their ability to overcome stressors of being a parent (i.e. parent efficacy), r (44) = .25, p = .10. Regarding the demographic variables, parents having a higher education level were more likely to attend more sessions, r (44) = .35, p = .02. Participation in previous parenting programs, gender, age, being single, income level and having at least one child older than 12 months were unrelated to attendance. These same findings were observed for the percentage of sessions attended, to take into account the one group having a six session program.

Relative Pre/Post Gains

We used Hake’s (1998) gain factor to determine the relative improvements parents made by the end of the program. Simply looking at differences between post–pre scores (i.e., absolute improvement) fails to take into account parents’ skill or belief level at the start of the program. Thus, to determine relative improvement for each participant and inventory, the following equation was used: \( \frac{post - pre\,{\text{ test}}\, {\text{scores}}}{{\text{maximum possible score}} - {\text{pre test score}}} \).

As shown in Table 3, pre/post relative gains in one parenting attribute were associated with pre/post relative gains in other parenting attributes. For example, participants showing greater relative gains in general learned resourcefulness also had greater relative gains in parenting efficacy (r = .46) and parenting resourcefulness (r = .41). As well, greater relative gains in competence efficacy and parenting efficacy were related to greater relative gains in competence satisfaction (r = .51 and .36, respectively), with greater relative gains in competence efficacy also associated with greater relative gains (i.e., a reduction) in angry/punitive parenting (r = .37). Greater relative gains in parenting efficacy were associated with greater parenting resourcefulness gains (r = .55). Those having greater knowledge about community resources showed greater gains in parenting effectiveness (r = .82). Finally, attending a higher percentage of sessions was positively related to higher relative gains in one’s sense of parenting efficacy competence (r = .41). Not shown in Table 3, males showed considerably greater relative gains in parenting satisfaction competence over females (r = −.40), and older participants showed greater relative gains in both parental efficacy competence (r = .36) and satisfaction competence (r = .49). No other demographic features of the sample were related to relative gain scores.
Table 3

Correlations matrix of the relative gains for each measure (N = 30)

 

CEFF

CSAT

PEFF

KNOW

POS

ANG

INE

PRES

SCS

%Attend

.41*

.09

−.07

−.19

.20

.01

−.06

.10

.04

CEFF

 

.51**

.30

−.25

.28

.37*

−.15

.30

.12

CSAT

  

.36*

.04

−.16

.22

−.04

.08

.03

PEFF

   

−.14

.07

.13

.02

.55**

.46**

KNOW

    

−.14

−.05

.82***

.05

−.30

POS

     

.20

−.05

.15

.32

ANG

      

.02

.29

−.12

INE

       

.09

−.27

PRES

        

.41*

CEFF Sense of parental efficacy competence, CSAT Sense of parental satisfaction competence, PEFF Parent efficacy, KNOW Knowledge and use of resources, POS Warm/positive parenting, ANG Angry/punitive parenting, INE ineffective child management, PRES Parenting resourcefulness, SCS General learned resourcefulness

p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001

Discussion

In contrast to Chislett and Kennett’s (2007) findings, 83% of our parents earned a certificate, whereas only 55% of them did in the former study. To what extent this difference can be attributed to a greater previous exposure to parenting programs (70% versus 58%) is unknown. But, in the Chislett and Kennett (2007) study, attending more previous parenting programs was associated with earning a certificate. With the exception of this difference, participants in both samples were equally young, single, referred to the program by a child protection agency, and socially and geographically isolated, with most having limited formal education and limited income. Comparable scores on the parenting inventories were observed for the two samples, as well.

Given the small number of participants not earning certificates in this investigation, it was not surprising to find limited differences between them and those participants earning certificates. Aside from certificate earners attending more sessions (on average, 86% of the sessions), they were only more likely to have a higher sense of parenting efficacy competence at the start of the program than non-earners. Unlike Chislett and Kennett’s (2007) results, earners and non-earners of certificates were comparable in age and the number of previous parenting programs completed.

Kennett (1994) and Kennett and Ackerman (1995) reported that nearly all of their program drop-outs scored lower than the normative average in general resourcefulness. Based on this, we predicted that parents earning certificates and completing a higher percentage of the sessions would be more generally resourceful. However, attendance and earning a certificate were unrelated to general learned resourcefulness. Nonetheless, in the two cited studies, participation was entirely voluntary, with members signing-up for the programs on their own accord. In contrast, many of the parents attending NP were advised by a Children Aid’s caseworker to sign-up for the program either to eventually regain or prevent losing custodial care of their children.

Similar to Chislett and Kennett (2007), parents earning certificates demonstrated and maintained increases on many of the parenting variables, including general learned resourcefulness. Namely, these parents showed and maintained improvements in their parenting resourcefulness, sense of parenting satisfaction competence and knowledge and use of community resources. Skrypnek and Charchun (2009), using a non-equivalent wait-list comparison parenting group and a 6-month follow-up, found, too, that parents demonstrated and maintained an increase in stress coping skills, perceptions of social support, and parental problem-solving ability; variables that are concurrent to general learned resourcefulness, knowledge about community resources and parenting resourcefulness.

Chislett and Kennett (2007) found the more sessions parents attended, the better their parenting resourcefulness and warm/positive parent–child interactions on completion and at follow-up, and the less their angry and punitive parenting at follow-up. In the current investigation, no significant relationship between percent session attendance and the inventory scores were observed at post-test and follow-up, albeit, in our case, attendance was relatively high with an average completion of 86% of the sessions. However, for pre-test scores and when parents not earning certificates were included in the analyses, parents completing a higher percentage of NP sessions were observed to have more education, higher parenting efficacy competence and greater beliefs in their ability to overcome the stressors of being a parent. To what extent this heightened confidence along with educational achievement serves to promote better attendance warrants further attention.

This is the first investigation to examine the relative improvements parents made by the end of the program. Using Hake’s (1998) gain factor, we found that greater relative gains demonstrated by parents in one attribute were associated with relative gains in others. As would be expected, parents showing greater relative gains in general learned resourcefulness had greater relative gains in parenting resourcefulness and parenting efficacy. Research on behavioral change demonstrates that the individuals becoming more generally resourceful by program completion are more likely to find it easier to implement the specific self-control strategies they have been taught to achieve those wanted targeted behaviors (e.g., Kennett 1994; Kennett and Ackerman 1995; Levesque et al. 2003), with increases in self-efficacy also seen for many of them (Kennett 1994).

It was also observed that greater relative gains in the efficacy measures were associated with greater relative gains in parenting satisfaction competence and parenting resourcefulness. Finally, a greater relative gain in knowledge about community resources was associated with a greater relative gain in parenting effectiveness. For the most part, these observed relative gains were unrelated to the demographic features of the sample, suggesting that NP helped even the most socially and economically disadvantaged parents.

One limitation of the current investigation is that it did not involve a wait list control group (i.e., it was not randomized control study), and nor was there a comparable ongoing intervention program in the community to assess our participants against. Given that parent–child interactions may deteriorate in the absence of an intervention, as ingrained patterns of parental behavior reemerge and children move into different developmental stages and exhibit challenging new patterns of behavior, it would be unethical to withhold providing service. As mentioned earlier, some of the participants were non-custodial parents or at high risk of losing their custodial rights. To deny them immediate interventions would further exacerbate their situation and place them at an even higher risk of not being able to have access to their children. In any case, we believe that even in a longitudinal trial with random allocation to intervention or control, NP would be shown to significantly increase parent resourcefulness scores and other parenting attributes in comparison to a control group, resulting in reduced parent risk taking and improved family functioning and safety as was emulated during sessions by participants in our study.

In summary, NP is concerned with preparing parents to get along in the world (making them more resourceful, better able to cope, and more self-sufficient) and to better care for their children. The resourcefulness components are arguably the most important parental outcome of those studied, as it implies a greater ability to cope, more successful adaptation to changing circumstances and better self-sufficiency, and, most importantly, they are attributes which do not decline during the parenting years, but build with life experience. We recommend that, when researchers are choosing instruments to measure the outcomes of time-limited parent education interventions, both general learned resourcefulness and parenting resourcefulness are assessed.

In the introduction, it was noted that mothers with higher general learned resourcefulness scores are more likely to have children who are more resourceful (Zauszniewski et al. 2002). Although never directly examined, we suspect the same is true for fathers. Other research on the development of learned resourcefulness skills, for example, points to a strong relationship between the degree of resourcefulness exhibited by a child and the characteristics of the child’s family (Preechawong et al. 2007; Türkel and Tezer 2008). Türkel and Tezer (2008) found teens perceiving their parents as highly involved and displaying some level of strictness were the most resourceful, with the least resourceful teens viewing their parents as low in involvement, regardless of their parents’ level of strictness. In addition to the influence of parenting style, Preechawong et al. (2007) found that older youth having higher functioning families were more resourceful than their younger, lower functioning family counterparts. Hence, as youngsters become older, their resourcefulness improves, with highly functional families producing the most resourceful children.

Based on this evidence, we theorize that in a longitudinal study, increased general and parental resourcefulness would be directly related to improved youth outcomes in the domains of school achievement, and reduced likelihood of teen pregnancy, substance abuse and juvenile delinquency/criminal activity. This is an important and outstanding initiative for future research.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah J. Kennett
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gail Chislett
    • 2
  • Ashley L. S. Olver
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  2. 2.Health Promotion DivisionPeterborough County-City Health UnitPeterboroughCanada

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