Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Parenting Soundbytes

In a meta-analysis of 30 studies of behavioural parenting training, and 41 studies of individual therapy, effect sizes of .45 for parent training and .23 for individual therapy were found (Carr, 2009). That means the effect of parent training was bigger than the effect of individual therapy in reducing behavior problems. Which approach to reduce behavior problems is used most commonly by school-based mental health practitioners and why?

Longitudinal studies indicate inconsistent, coercive parenting in elementary school and poor monitoring and supervision in middle school exacerbate early conduct problems (CPPRG, 2007). Based on this research, an intervention (like Parents in Control) addressing disruptive behavior would do well to promote consistency and adequate supervision in parenting through middle school.

Disruptive behavior problems in young children are the number one reason for referral to mental health agencies (Breitenstein, 2009). On an individual level, unidentified and untreated, disruptive behavior problems can lead to more serious conduct problems.

On a school level, disruptive behavior problems create a general lack of student discipline and an atmosphere that produces fear in students that is not conducive to learning. Researchers have found that a positive disciplinary climate is directly linked to high achievement (Barton, 2003).

Fourth graders were asked how much they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “Disruptions by other students get in the way of my learning.” Forty-three percent of White students agreed or strongly agreed, compared to 56% of Black students and 52% of Hispanic students (Barton, 2003). This tells us that the learning opportunities of minority students are disproportionately impacted by disruptive behavior. This lack of equality of opportunity in learning might be among the contributing factors of the academic achievement gap.

Clearly, disruptive behaviors have short-term and long-term negative effects for children, families and schools. When occurring among poor and minority students, then the long term effects can have implications for national security when we consider that current projections show that the minority population will be the majority by 2050. Will low-income and minority students of today be adequately equipped to lead in the future? What will we need to do now to close the gap and turn things around?

Students with parents who are involved in their school tend to have fewer behavioral problems and better academic performance, and are more likely to complete secondary school than students whose parents are not involved in their schools. Parental involvement allows parents to monitor school and classroom activities, and to coordinate their efforts with teachers. In addition, parent involvement in school is related to fewer student suspensions and expulsions and higher levels of student participation in extracurricular activities. Data also suggest that schools that welcome parental involvement are likely to have highly involved parents (Barton, 2003).

Among personal factors, a disruptive behavioral profile has repeatedly been shown to predict early withdrawal from school, even after controlling for familial and socioeconomic factors. For example, one study showed that aggressive behaviors and low grades as early as first grade predicted later school dropout. This link was stronger for children living in poor neighborhoods. A follow-up study confirmed that, for boys, math grades and aggressive behavior in the first grade predicted the number of years of schooling. Yet another study showed that disruptiveness rated as early as kindergarten was related to dropping out of school, even after controlling for sociodemographic variables and IQ. Disruptiveness may lead to early withdrawal from school because it contributes to school problems that are conducive to grade retention or special classroom placement (Vitaro, 1999).

A parenting program for preschool children demonstrated that the establishment of a predictable, consistent family environment with clear rules for child behavior lead to enhancement in parent’s contingent responding and reduced parental coerciveness (Bor, et al, 2002). Coerciveness has been correlated with negative outcomes for children with disruptive behaviors (CPPRG, 2007).

Owing to difficulties differentiating clinically significant disruptive behaviors from typical development, a significant proportion of young children with disruptive behavior problems go unidentified and untreated. Research supports the existence of disruptive behavior disorders in young children, and early identification and treatment are critical to interrupt the trajectory of early problems to more significant and impairing difficulties (Breitenstein, 2009).

Quality schools with high levels of student learning may have an accompanying high level of orderliness and discipline throughout the school as students are actively engaged in educationally productive activities. The issues that school discipline policies are designed to address are well known and range from the disconcerting to the dangerous. They include student disrespect for teachers, absenteeism, tardiness, use of alcohol and controlled substances, fighting, and possession of firearms (Barton, 2003).

Teachers of students with highly involved parents tend to give greater attention to those students, and they tend to identify problems that might inhibit student learning at earlier stages. Research has found that students perform better in school if their fathers as well as their mothers are involved, regardless of whether the father lives with the student (Barton, 2003).

A poll conducted in New Jersey found that urban and minority parents are far more likely to feel unwelcome in their children’s schools; 20 percent of suburban parents feel unwelcome, compared to 44 percent of urban parents (Barton, 2003). Do parents feel welcome at our schools? What implications does this have on the academic achievement, graduation rates and future of our students?

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