A comparison of mothers' attitudes and perceptions using two methods of Adlerian parent education

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

While some sub-cultures oppose the traditional family arrangements as being irrelevant in contemporary society, it is the traditional family that still affords its individual member the best opportunity to learn attitudes and values that will prepare them to function effectively in a democratic society. There is a stated need to find ways to strengthen the family unit by assisting parents to improve their parenting skills and to become better support agents for their children. In recent years, auto-tutorial study (AT) and group process have been used to effect achievement and attitudinal growth among diverse individuals and groups. Most of the studies have compared auto-tutorial study with lecture recitation laboratory study. No study had been found that compared the application of AT instruction with the application of a group method to intervene in potential problem causing behaviors of children.

It was the purpose of this study to compare the effectiveness of the auto-tutorial (ATPE) learning package with the effectiveness of the more traditional parent study group (APSG) on two dependent variables: (a) the mother's attitude toward child rearing and (b) the mother's perception of the behavior of a target child. It was expected that mothers, or grandmothers who were the primary caretakers of children age four through twelve years old, would change their attitudes toward child rearing from autocratic high control methods to democratic and more cooperative methods of child rearing. Also, it was expected that the mothers would increase their perception of the target child's misbehavior and to develop specific intervention strategies for coping effectively with the child's potential problem causing behaviors.

Subjects in this study were sixty mothers or grandmothers who lived in a public housing project. They were identified through personal interviews, referral by social service workers, the Director of Community Relations, and the Department of Welfare. Each subject was assigned to the ATPE or APSG group for parent education. Pre-learning interaction before the first session included the completion of the Orchard Manor Tenant Survey Questionnaire in order to ascertain specific personal characteristics of the subjects; the Attitude Toward Child Rearing Scale (ATCRS); and the Children's Behavior Checklist (CBC). The ATCRS and the CBC were administered at posttest, immediately following the last session and at post-posttest four weeks after the last session.

The ATPE mothers met once a week for eight weeks in a parent education session, Guiding Your Child's Behavior, that was presented through slides synchronized with an audio-tape. The APSG mothers met in small groups of eight to twelve mothers for eight weeks' group study. The textbook and assignments were the same for both groups.

Initially there were no significant differences between the two groups for thirteen independent variables. At pretest, chi-square was used on the thirteen biographical variables and pretest scores. The only significant relationship was found to be the school grade of the target child [X² = 57.53, p < .03] and the mother's perception of the target child's behavior.

At posttest, there was a statistically significant difference indicated by an analysis of variance [F (1, 33) = 4.712, p < .05] for attitude toward child rearing. Also, there was a significant difference between the APSG pretest scores and the APSG posttest scores (t = 5.78, p < .001) for attitudes of mother. There was a significant positive Pearson Product Moment correlation for the difference between the pre and posttest scores and the age of the target child (r = .46), and a negative correlation with mother's scores and the average number of hours per day a mother viewed television (r = -.33).

There was no statistical significance between or within the ATPE or the APSG for the mother's perception of the target child's behavior at posttest. However, there was a negatively significant correlation at the .05 level for the difference between the pre and posttest scores and the source of the family income (r = -.29).

Conclusions: (1) The parent study group mothers changed their attitudes toward child rearing to include family decision-making responsibilities that promoted the development of the target child; (2) those mothers who spent the most time viewing television changed the least from autocratic to democratic attitudes for child rearing; (3) those mothers, of older children in the study, experienced the greatest change in more cooperative attitudes for dealing with children; (4) the ability of the mothers in this study to change their perception of the target child's behaviors was negatively correlated with the source of the family incomes. Mothers in families where wages or salary were the source of the family income changed their perception of the target child's behavior and/or developed intervention strategies for coping with potential problem causing behaviors; and (6) although it was not statistically significant both the ATPE mothers and the APSG mothers reported fewer potential problem causing behaviors for the target child following this study.