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An assessment of the scholarship and relevance of popular parenting books written for parents in traditional… McMillan, Shannon Julie 1998

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A N ASSESSMENT OF THE SCHOLARSHIP A N D R E L E V A N C E OF POPULAR PARENTING BOOKS WRITTEN FOR PARENTS IN TRADITIONAL A N D NON-TRADITIONAL FAMILIES by S H A N N O N JULIE M C M I L L A N B.Sc , The University of British Columbia, 1992 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL F U L F I L L M E N T OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE D E G R E E OF M A S T E R OF ARTS in THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES The School of Family and Nutritional Sciences Family Studies We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A September 1998 © Shannon Julie McMillan, 1998 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. The University of British Columbia LVPi'ES Vancouver, Canada Date DE-6 (2/88) Abstract A recent trend in parent education has been the adaptation of printed materials for diverse parent populations. To date, however, few studies have examined the quality of printed materials, in particular popular parenting books, currently available for parents in traditional and non-traditional families. The purpose of this study was to assess, using methods of content analysis, two important criteria of quality—scholarship and relevance—in selected parenting books directed toward parents in two-parent, single-parent and stepparent families. More specially, this study examined paragraphs pertaining to the theme of "structure" in six popular parenting books and attempted to determine: 1) whether the information on structure presented in the books reflected contemporary theory and research (scholarship) and 2) whether the information on structure reflected the experiences of the specific group of parents toward whom the books were directed (relevance). The findings reveal elements of systems theory in all six of the books examined, however, in general, the authors did not reflect current research findings. The authors seldom documented the sources used to inform the content on structure and individual differences in parents and children were largely ignored. In all but one of the books, the information on structure was predominantly neutral in tone. Although not all of the paragraphs on structure were presented in the context of family type, for the most part, the books directed toward parents in single-parent and stepparent families reflected the experiences of parents in single-parent and stepparent families, respectively. However, several relevant issues for parents in these two types of families were given only minimal or no attention. This study highlights the need for educators and researchers to monitor more closely the quality of popular parenting books and to develop specific guidelines concerning the presentation of theoretical and research information in the popular literature. ii Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Tables v Acknowledgements vi Chapter 1 Introduction 1 Chapter 2 Review of the Literature 9 Part One - Evaluation of Printed Parenting Materials 9 Parent's use of printed materials 9 Summary and critique 12 Parent's perceptions of the usefulness of printed materials 13 Summary and critique 15 Content of printed materials 15 Summary and critique 22 Part Two - Literature Relating to the Theme of Structure 22 Chapter 3 Methodology 30 Method 30 Procedure 33 Sample 33 Data collection and analysis 37 Pilot study 39 Chapter 4 Findings 43 Case Study #1 43 Nature of content on structure 44 Evaluation of content on structure 55 Summary 58 Case Study #2 59 Nature of content on structure 60 Evaluation of content on structure 66 Summary 69 Case Study #3 69 Nature of content on structure 70 Evaluation of content on structure 78 Summary 82 Case Study #4 83 Nature of content on structure 83 Evaluation of content on structure 92 Summary 95 iii Case Study #5 96 Nature of content on structure 96 Evaluation of content on structure 104 Summary 108 Case Study #6 109 Nature of content on structure 109 Evaluation of content on structure 114 Summary 118 Overview of Findings 118 Chapter 5 Discussion, Conclusions and Implications 121 Discussion 121 Criteria of Scholarship 122 Criteria of Relevance 126 Summary-Scholarship and Relevance 128 General Comments and Impressions 129 Limitations 131 Conclusions and Implications 132 References 133 Appendix A 138 Appendix B 140 Appendix C 144 Appendix D 146 iv List of Tables Table 1. Nature of Content on Structure - Summary (percentages) 119 Table 2. Evaluation of Content on Structure - Summary (percentages) 120 V Acknowledgements I would like to express my sincere appreciation to my thesis supervisor, Dr. Margaret Arcus for her all her support and encouragement throughout my work on this thesis. I would also like to thank the other members of my thesis committee, Dr. Eleanore Vaines and Dr. Hillel Goelman for their insight and valuable suggestions. A very special thanks must also go to my family and friends who saw this project through with me from the beginning to the end. But most of all, I am grateful to my parents for their endless patience and tireless support. I love you both very much. vi 1 CHAPTER 1 Introduction The relationship between parent and child is one of the most significant and intimate relationships in which individuals are likely to be involved in their lifetime (Bigner, 1989). For a majority of people, raising children is an integral part of family life. According to Bigner (1989), the socialization of children remains the principle function of contemporary families. Families help provide children with the knowledge, skills and character traits which enable them to become effective, fully functioning adults (Berns, 1985). Parents are children's first teachers-shaping children's attitudes, beliefs, values and behavior and preparing them for their future (Bigner, 1989). Preparing children for adulthood is not a task to be taken lightly. Pugh and De'Ath (1984) claim, "There is a growing awareness of the crucial role that parents play in their children's development and, as a result, the high expectations that society places on parents to bring up their children adequately" (p. 12). The nature of the parent-child relationship can either harm or benefit a child's development (Bigner, 1994). Yet, despite that fact that being a parent is regarded as one of the most important family roles which anyone can undertake, few individuals are adequately prepared to be parents (Robertson, 1984). Rossi (1968) notes several reasons why preparation for parenthood is poor compared with preparation for other adult social roles. The experience of pregnancy is not sufficient to prepare individuals for the abrupt transition to parenthood. Moreover, few opportunities exist for individuals to sample specific educational experiences designed to promote successful parenting behavior. As Hicks and Williams (1981) observe, "Failure to give parents specific training for the job of parenthood seems to be based on the assumption that if you are a human being, you should know how to raise one" (p. 580). 2 According to Bigner (1994), "Serious events happening in families today and in the past also point to the need for preparing people to perform competently as parents" (p. 4). Social, economic and cultural changes serve to heighten parent's feelings of anxiety and uncertainty regarding their parenting role. Brock, Oertwein and Coufal (1993) claim, "Particularly in times of rapid social change, parents may face new circumstances and challenges that require that they reexamine their basic parental functions and assume new and different roles" (p. 87). For example, as many individuals no longer parent in the context of the traditional two-parent family, many parents can no longer rely on traditional structure in their parenting roles. Changing family structures "not only magnify the awesome task of parenting, they also lessen the opportunities for children to learn the parenting skills during childhood" (Flicks & Williams, 1981, p. 580). Given the new and often unfamiliar demands of parenthood, it should not be surprising that throughout history, individuals have.sought support in their efforts as parents (Harman & Brim, 1980). Individuals have sought and received advice about parenting from many informal sources including their own parents, family members and friends. Bigner (1989) notes that historically, "Advice about childrearing and the role performances of parenthood were part of a folklore that was handed down from generation to generation"(p. 124). Generational transmission of parenting information, however, is no longer as common as in the past. New living arrangements have served to distance adult children from their parents and the erosion of community has resulted in an absence of community support and parenting guidelines (Harman & Brim, 1980). Informal socialization, therefore, has gradually been supplemented and, at times, replaced by formal educational programs and materials designed to enhance child-rearing knowledge and parenting skills (Brock, Oertwein & Coufal, 1993). Efforts to educate individuals about parenting, known as "parent education" have emerged as a result of a number of factors. Escalating rates of divorce and remarriage, child 3 abuse and neglect, spouse abuse, runaways, emotional disturbance, and the high incidence of teenage pregnancy (Hicks & Williams, 1981), as well as the increasing labor force participation of women (Getz & Gunn, 1988; Harman & Brim, 1980) have all been cited as indicators of the current need for parent education. According to Arcus (1995), family life educators believe that family life education, including parent education, can help families deal more adequately with the challenges and stresses of living in a complex and changing society, thus improving or reducing family-related social problems. Harman and Brim (1980) assert, "The rise in various parent education efforts can be perhaps traced to a search for the kinds of guidelines that formerly existed. Parent education might as well be viewed as a new type of support; a mechanism made necessary by a confluence of evolving circumstances and the decline of traditional child-rearing practices" (p. 14). Although all parent educational efforts purport to assist parents in their parenting role, to date, there has been little consensus on a definition of parent education (Hicks & Williams, 1981). In their review of the development of parent education, Brock, Oertwein and Coufal (1993) define parent education as "an organized, programmatic effort to change or enhance the child-rearing knowledge and skills of a family system or a child care system" (p. 88). While earlier definitions focused solely on parents and excluded children as well as any others involved in child care, their definition is one of the first to address the themes of skills training and family systems that are important elements of contemporary parent education (Brock, Oertwein & Coufal, 1993). The lack of a concise definition of parent education has resulted in "considerable variation in the goals, methods, and subjects toward which it is directed" (Brock, Oertwein & Coufal, 1993, p. 88). For example, the content of parent programs and materials may depend on the theoretical model adopted (Robertson, 1984), the age, developmental stage or specific problem of the children (Fine & Henry, 1989), or the characteristics of the parents (Brock, 4 Oertwein & Coufal, 1993). According to Harman and Brim (1980), despite the diversity in parent programs and materials, efforts to educate parents can be organized by the mode of instruction employed. Harman and Brim (1980) note three major modes of instruction in parent education: the individual mode, the group mode, and the mass mode. As the focus of this study is the mass mode of instruction, the individual and group modes will only be briefly discussed. The first mode of instruction—individual parent education—is typically associated with counseling and guidance and is a relatively flexible service provided for individual parents in their home or in the community. In this mode, parents are offered information, advice and assistance from a variety of professionals including doctors, school counselors, teachers and social workers in one-to-one interactions. The second mode of instruction—group parent education—is directed toward specific learning groups of parents and is perhaps the most recognizable form of parent education. Harman and Brim (1980) claim, "The history of parent groups is a long one; indeed so extensive that the term 'parent education' often involves the vision of a group of parents—usually mothers-gathered for purposes of discussing child rearing" (p. 175). There are currently hundreds of different group parenting programs being offered in a wide assortment of settings including courts, churches, schools, and community centers. Some of the most prominent and popular educational programs for groups of parents include Thomas Gordon's "Parent Effectiveness Training" or PET (Gordon, 1975, 1976) and Dinkmeyer and McKay's "Systematic Training for Effective Parenting" or STEP (Dinkmeyer & McKay, 1976, 1989; Dinkmeyer, McKay & McKay, 1987). The third mode of instruction—the mass mode—is the mode of central concern in this study. Harman and Brim (1980) define the mass mode as an 5 umbrella term under which all those parent education activities addressing an anonymous mass audience are included. The audience is anonymous because there is no direct contact between it and the parent educator; it is mass because in theory, any person having the desire, access and—if necessary—requisite means can participate, (p. 161) Under the guise of the mass mode, parents can be educated through a number of different methods, including printed materials (books, pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers); audiovisual materials (films, filmstrips and videotapes); the mass media (television and radio); lectures; and technological instruction through simulators or computers (Darling, 1987; Harman & Brim, 1980). Parents are also increasingly turning toward the Internet for parenting information and advice (Stradwick, Spilker & Arney, 1995). According to Harman and Brim (1980), parents who use methods of mass mode parent education constitute an overwhelming majority of the parent education clientele. There are a number of reasons why mass mode parent education may be particularly attractive to parents. Offered to an anonymous audience, mass mode parent education may be the least directly threatening form of parent education (Pugh & De'Ath, 1984). Moreover, educational opportunities offered to the masses may be particularly cost-effective for parents. Information is often offered for free or for the relatively low cost of a book or magazine. Furthermore, there are typically no time constraints associated with mass mode parent education. For example, parents can have newsletters or magazines delivered to their home which they can then read at their leisure. "Do-it-yourself parent education is practical for many parents, thus contributing to the continued reliance of parents on mass mode methods for parenting information and advice (Authier, Sherrets &Tramontana, 1980). The preferences of parents for mass mode methods of parent education, particularly for printed materials such as books, magazines and newsletters, has been documented in a number of studies. Gotts, Coan and Kenoyer (1977) surveyed the educational needs of 1,799 parents across the United States and found that the majority of parents preferred to learn more about parenting 6 through printed materials and special television programs. Crase, Carlson and Kontos (1981) studied the information needs of 248 families and found that both mothers and fathers listed parenting books as one of their top three preferred sources for parenting information. The publication and sales of "how-to" parent books increased dramatically in the 1970's and 1980's (Carlson & Crase, 1983). This trend has apparently continued into the 1990's. According to Bigner and Yang (1996), the popular literature—most notably large-circulation magazines and popular press books—has been a significant source of information about parenting for many years. Despite the apparent preferences of parents for obtaining information via the mass mode, to date, evaluation of mass mode parent education has been notably limited (Brock, Oertwein & Coufal, 1993). A few studies have examined parent's use of printed child-care materials and their perceptions of the usefulness of the information received. These studies indicate that a significant number of parents consult printed materials for parenting information and advice (e.g. Clarke-Stewart, 1978; Geboy, 1981). Moreover, these studies show that the information parents receive may significantly impact their child-rearing knowledge, attitudes and/or behaviors. However, while the majority of parents report being satisfied with the information they receive through printed materials such as magazines and books, many parents cite that the popular literature has failed to address their concerns (e.g. Hughes & Durio, 1980). This has raised important questions regarding the quality of the parent educational materials available to the masses. It is a widely held principle (in parent education as in family life education more broadly) that educators have a responsibility to provide quality educational programs and materials. Ensuring quality programs and materials involves at least two criteria: providing education which is based on contemporary scholarship (Arcus, 1995), and providing education which is relevant to the needs of individuals and families (Arcus & Thomas, 1993). 7 Regarding the first criteria, Arcus, Schvaneveldt and Moss (1993) identify the importance of basing family life programs and materials on strong scholarly foundations as one of the basic tenets of family life education. Although "much is not yet known or is not yet clear about families and their development and interaction; still, there is a substantial amount of information available about families and individuals in the family context to provide the scholarly foundation for programs in family life education" (Arcus, 1995, p. 338). The scholarly foundation of any program or material is its content—content which should be based on sound theoretical and research information (Arcus, 1995; Hughes, 1994). Thus, providing parent education which is based on contemporary scholarship requires that the content of this education reflect contemporary theory and research. Regarding the second criteria, it has been suggested that family life programs make their "maximum contribution to the enrichment of family life when they are directly related to immediate personal, family and community needs" (National Commission on Family Life Education, 1968, p. 211). Hennon and Arcus (1993) note that needs may be identified in several ways. For example, needs may refer to "felt needs"—needs expressed by individuals and families themselves—or to "developmental needs"—needs that are common to most individuals and families and which are typically determined through reference to the empirical literature. Because of the nature of mass mode parent education, it is developmental needs that are the most relevant to this study. Developmental needs inform the content of mass mode educational materials. As developmental needs are identified through research concerned with the experiences of individuals in families, providing parent education which is relevant to parent's needs requires that the content of this education reflect parent's experiences. According to Bartz (1978), parent education should be "relevant to their [parent's] goals, interests, and experiences or they will find other ways to occupy their time" (p. 209). Attention to developmental needs is particularly important given the changing nature of contemporary families. Although most parent education programs were originally developed as being appropriate for all parents of all children (Arcus, 1995), there has been a recent trend toward specificity, that is toward modifying existing programs and materials in an attempt to meet the specific needs of specific groups of parents. At the present time, mass mode parent education is increasingly targeted toward diverse groups of parents, for example, single parents and stepparents. High rates of divorce and remarriage have resulted in a significant number of adults and children experiencing life in single-parent and stepparent families (Hanson, Heims, Julian & Sussman, 1995; Pasley, Ihinger-Tallman & Lofquist, 1994). In the last decade, scholarly interest in single-parent and stepparent families has increased dramatically. The number of popular parenting materials that have been adapted for single parents and stepparents has also increased. However, to date, little is known about the nature and relevance of this adaptation. Given the number of parents who rely on mass mode methods for parenting information and advice, the lack of attention to evaluating the quality of materials for different parent audiences is of concern. The purpose of this study is to assess, using methods of content analysis, the scholarship and relevance of selected parenting books written for parents in traditional (two-parent) and non traditional (single-parent and stepparent) families. Specifically, this study will examine content pertaining to the theme of "structure" (one of three themes about parent-child relationships which provide a framework for discussing parent education programs and materials) and will attempt to determine: 1) whether the information on structure presented in the books reflects contemporary theory and research (scholarship) and 2) whether the information on structure reflects the experiences of the specific group of parents toward whom the books are directed (relevance). 9 CHAPTER 2 Review of the Literature The literature pertaining to two major areas will be reviewed in this chapter. Part one will examine literature concerned with the evaluation of printed parenting materials. Part two will examine literature relating to the theme of structure and will identify common issues (for all parents) as well as specific issues regarding structure for parents in single-parent and stepparent families. Part One For the purposes of this study, the literature reviewed on the evaluation of printed parenting materials concentrated on three broad areas of research: first, studies which have examined parent's use of printed materials for parenting information and advice; second, studies which have examined parent's perceptions of the usefulness of printed materials, including parent's satisfaction with the information provided and the impact of materials on parent's knowledge, attitudes and/or behavior; and third, studies which have examined the content of printed materials, in an attempt to assess the quality of the information and advice offered. Since this study is concerned with the evaluation of printed materials and parenting books in particular, evaluations of other methods of mass mode parent education (e.g. television) were not considered. However, because few evaluations of parenting books have been conducted, research on magazines and newsletters was also examined. Parent's Use of Printed Materials Several studies have examined parent's use of printed materials for child-rearing information and advice. Clarke-Stewart (1978) investigated parent's use of popular books and magazines in a series of three studies: a survey about sources of child-care advice sent to a random sample of Chicago area parents, an interview with Chicago area mothers participating in a study of child-care arrangements and a questionnaire distributed to readers of parenting books 10 through the Chicago public library. The results of these studies indicate that a high proportion of parents consult popular books and magazines for parenting information and advice. More than 90% of the 67 parents surveyed in the first study claimed to have read at least one magazine article or book pertaining to child-rearing; 38% reported reading more than ten articles; and 25% said they had read more than five books. The most avid readers were parents who were highly educated, relatively isolated from familial support and concerned about doing the best thing for their children. Clarke-Stewart also found that younger parents of younger children were more likely to turn to the popular literature. Although 25% of the parents surveyed in the first study (whose children were all under 12 years of age) reported reading more than five parenting books, 44% of the 104 mothers interviewed in the second study (whose children were all between 2 and 4 years of age) reported the same. This suggests that parents do the majority of child-care reading in the first few years of parenthood. Most of the parents who responded to the library questionnaire (distributed to all persons withdrawing books on child care or parenting) were in their twenties with one child under 5 years old. Clarke-Stewart concluded, "The results also suggest that the time when child-care books are read most is when parents and children are young, when parents are most uncertain and inexperienced" (p. 364). Geboy (1981) examined parent's use of child-care materials (including books and magazines) in a survey of 147 Texas parents. Geboy questioned parents about the extent of reading child-care materials, the types of publications read and the reasons for consulting printed publications. Nearly all of the parents surveyed (96.9%) indicated that they had done at least some child-care reading, particularly when children were young. There was a greater reliance on child-care materials by younger parents, members of more recent generations of parents, parents with fewer children and parents who received more help with child care from sources other than grandparents. Dr. Spock's book, Baby and Child Care, was the publication most frequently read 11 although parents did indicate their familiarity with a number of other popular publications. Most parents (76.2%) reported referring to child-care materials for general information about child development and care although one-fourth (27.4%) also mentioned reading books and magazines to obtain information about specific problems they were having with their children. There appear to be a number of factors which influence parent's use of printed materials. Vukelich and Kliman (1985) compared mature mother's (mean age = 28) and teenage mother's (mean age =16) use of specific sources for needed child development information and found that while mature mothers indicated a preference for discovering answers to their parenting questions by reading books and magazines rather than asking family and friends or attending parenting groups, teenage mothers reported that they would be more likely to turn to family and friends before consulting child-rearing literature or attending parenting classes. Mother's level of education had a significant effect on the extent to which they used printed materials. As education levels increased, so did mature mother's use of books and magazines. Vukelich and Kliman concluded, It seems clear that if educators and child development specialists wish to provide parents with information, they must consider carefully specific characteristics of the target audience. Child development information can not be conveyed to all parents in the same form or through the same channels. Parent education programs, too, must be designed to fit the needs and interests of diverse parent populations, (p. 195) There is some evidence to suggest that family type and ethnicity may also determine parent's use of information sources such as printed materials. In a study of parent information needs of minority and non-traditional families, Hughes and Durio (1980) surveyed 910 Texas parents regarding the information sources they would consult for help with five types of child-rearing problems: health concerns, school problems, home and family behavior, personality problems, and antisocial behavior. Parents were asked to choose from a list of information sources including their spouse, parents, clergy, doctors, friends, or a childcare book or magazine. Hughes and Durio found that although most parents had similar concerns with respect to major 12 child-care issues, different types of families (e.g. single-parent families, stepparent families) and ethnic groups (e.g. Hispanics, Blacks) utilized different sources of information. Although many of the differences in information seeking were subtle—for example, there were no significant differences found among families or ethnic groups with regards to their use of printed materials such as child-care books and magazines—and the sources used were dependent on the type of child-rearing problem, these results suggest that different parent groups may have different information needs. Hughes and Durio concluded, "The interests of parents present a clear task to child care professionals and educators, that is, can and will professionals provide specific and useful information to fulfill these parent's needs?" (p. 12). Summary and Critique. Although the numbers of studies reviewed are limited, literature on parent's use of printed materials suggests that a significant number of parents use printed materials for parenting information and advice. The use of printed materials appears to be related to a number of factors including parent's age, education and amount of child-care experience. Family type and ethnicity may also impact parent's use of printed materials although more research is needed in this area. A major limitation of the research concerned with parent's use of printed materials has been obtaining enough parents to sample. With the exception of Hughes and Durio (1980), sample sizes have been relatively small. In addition, although some studies have used random samples of parents (e.g. Geboy, 1980), most study samples have consisted of those parents who appear to be particularly interested in learning more about parenting, thus limiting the generalizability of the results. It is important to note that all of the studies reviewed on parent's use of printed materials were conducted in the late 1970's and 1980's. No study was found which examined contemporary groups of parents. However, as the number of "how to" parenting books 13 continues to increase into the 1990's, there is reason to believe that parents continue to use such materials today. Parent's Perceptions of the Usefulness of Printed Materials Various studies have examined parent's perceptions of the usefulness of printed materials for parenting information and advice, including their satisfaction with the information and advice received and the perceived impact of printed materials on parent's knowledge, attitudes and/or behaviors. In a survey of 60 parents who responded to a questionnaire distributed to persons withdrawing books on child care and parenting from the Chicago Public Library, Clarke-Stewart (1978) found that most parents expressed generally positive reactions to the child-care books they had read. Nearly all (86%) reported that the author was able to effectively communicate his or her suggestions, and over 80% thought they would read another child-care book or would recommend the book to a friend. However, parents were not totally satisfied with the books read. In particular, parents criticized the books for being too permissive, not very practical and not specific enough. While 78% of parents claimed that the books increased their understanding of child development, only a small percentage reported changes in their parenting behavior (26%) or their confidence as parents (39%). Clarke-Stewart also found that the child-care literature had more influence on younger and more inexperienced parents. Mothers who were younger reported finding that the parenting books were more practical and more likely to increase their understanding of child development. Mothers who had less child-care experience reported that the books answered more of their questions, and they were more likely to recommend the books to a friend and to read another book themselves. Geboy (1981) assessed parent's perceptions of the value or usefulness of child-care materials and found that over 80% of parents who claimed to have read printed child-care 14 materials believed them to be helpful. As well, more than 50% of parents claimed that their behavior toward their children had changed as a result of what they had read. Parents reported experiencing an increase in patience with their child, a greater understanding of their child's development and an increase in awareness of alternate ways of interacting with their children. In contrast, in a study of the information needs of minority and non-traditional families, Hughes and Durio (1980; see also Durio & Hughes, 1982; Holcomb & Stith, 1985) reported that nearly 75% of the 910 parents surveyed were not satisfied with current sources of child-rearing information. Only 13% of parents reported that the information they received answered their questions "often" or "very often". Lower class parents, Hispanic parents, adoptive parents and stepparents expressed the most dissatisfaction. Although Hughes and Durio did not assess satisfaction with printed materials in particular, one third of all parents across family styles, social classes and ethnic groups reported using the popular literature at least sometimes for parenting information. These results suggest, therefore, that printed materials from the 1970's and 1980's may not have effectively addressed the specific concerns of parents in diverse parent groups, resulting in their dissatisfaction with the information received. Research has shown that newsletters which are age-paced and designed with the specific needs of parents in mind may be a particularly effective way to educate individuals about parenthood. Hennon and Peterson (1981) evaluated a learn-at-home delivery system where young families received a total of 10 packets on different aspects of family life, including parenting. The majority of the families surveyed reported that they found the packets useful, particularly if they had a need which was covered by one of the packets. In a series of studies, age-paced parent education newsletters have been shown to promote parent's self-confidence, decrease parental worry, improve parent's knowledge of child development and increase parent's ability to be nurturing with their children (Cudaback, Dickinson & Wiggins, 1990; Cudaback et al., 1985; Riley, Meinhardt, Salisbury & Winnett, 1991). There is also some promising evidence that newsletters may be an effective intervention for those parents undergoing a major life transition, such as a divorce. Hughes, Clark, Schaefer-Hernan and Good (1994) evaluated a newsletter designed to provide support to single mothers immediately following a divorce. Although the newsletters were not sufficient to change mother's psychological well being or their reported parenting behaviors, the majority of mothers found them useful and would recommend the newsletter to other single parents. Summary and Critique. These surveys of parents suggest that most parents who use printed materials for parenting information and advice find the materials useful. Parents report being satisfied with the majority of the information-received, and there has been some evidence to suggest that printed materials may be effective in increasing parent's child-rearing knowledge and improving parent's attitudes and behavior toward their children. However, parents also report that printed materials have failed to address their concerns. This failure of printed materials to address the needs of parents appears to have been most keenly felt by those individuals who do not parent in the context of the traditional two-parent, white, middle class family. Clearly, more research is needed in this area. Since the early 1980's, there has been only limited attention paid to parent's perceptions of the usefulness of printed materials. In addition, of those studies conducted in the 1970's and 1980's, very few examined diverse parent groups. As Harman and Brim (1980) note, "One could propose that for some groups, under certain conditions, reading is an important and significantly effective form of parent education. However, this proposition would require a great deal more research for its validation. It is, at present, merely suggested by currently available information" (p. 248). Content of Printed Materials A number of studies have examined the content of printed parenting materials in an attempt to assess their quality. Rosenblatt and Phillips (1975) reviewed 96 articles on the family, 16 including articles on parent-child relations, published between 1971 and 1974 in five popular magazines. They identified several commendable aspects of the articles reviewed including the encouragement of readers to identify and deal with their problems and the recognition of individual differences in the values and needs of family members. However, they also identified several aspects of the articles in need of improvement. The majority of the articles oversimplified problems and failed to alert readers to the risks and consequences of changing family relationships to an "ideal" as depicted by the authors of the articles. In addition, few articles appeared to be based on even the most rudimentary standards of scholarship. In their conclusion, Rosenblatt and Philips advocate teaching consumers to critically evaluate family articles, and they suggest that the following questions would be useful in assessing scholarship: For example, are assertions made without documentation? Is research cited, or is clinical experience or is merely anecdotal material the source for the article? Is there enough description of the research and clinical cases so that we can tell what the major boundary conditions are?...Are professional sources cited? Are the citations presented with enough detail so that the reader can determine whether the author is taking the sources seriously and not merely using them to support a point that the author wishes to make? Is the author self-critical? Or is the article written as though the world is exceedingly simple and easy to understand? (p. 270) In her 1978 study, Clarke-Stewart drew attention to the poor quality of popular parenting books available for parents in the 1960's and 1970's. She surveyed hundreds of child-care publications and identified two major problems with parenting books: 1) the lack of evidence offered as a basis for expert's recommendations and 2) the disregard for individual differences in children's development and in family circumstances. The authors of these parenting books were criticized for failing to provide parents with enough information to separate "facts" from expert's personal beliefs, and for providing only general guidelines, rules and suggestions as if they were equally applicable and appropriate for every child and family: 17 They [parenting experts] seem to assume that there is one ideal kind of child and one set of rules to produce that child in every family—leaving little room for idiosyncratic behavior on the part of the unusually slow, quiet, active, or sensitive children, in families that are large and poor, where mothers work or fathers are not available, in homes that are disorganized or in cultural groups with values that differ from those of the white, middle-class child development "authorities". (Clarke-Stewart, 1978, p. 367) Clarke-Stewart attributed the failure of parenting primers to increase parent's confidence and competence on the poor quality of the child-care literature available. She concluded, Especially as parents personal support networks weaken or diminish and books are used as a substitute for practical experience, it seems that we [researchers] should indeed try to improve the quality of our literary offerings on childcare. One improvement would be to speak to parents "where they are"- as single parents, working parents, or parents with limited resources and even less time for child care. The authors of popular child-care books address all parents but the underlying assumption is that all their readers lead model, middle class lives. Information should also be responsive to parent's interests and concerns rather than the preconceived ideas of the experts, (p. 368) In a study of the relationship between child development research and popular parenting primers, Griffore (1980) reviewed several popular parenting books from varying theoretical and philosophical perspectives and found that the majority of the books over-simplified research findings and provided unrealistic guidelines not relevant to parent's own child rearing concerns. Griffore stated, "These books are typically simplifications of the child development literature which handle the problems of contradictions in research findings and qualifiers largely by ignoring them. They consequently present the parent with an unrealistically clear and decisive • view of what the research has to say about actual child rearing" (p. 49). According to Griffore, in order to improve the quality of the information provided in the popular literature, "The advice offered in the popular primers should be informed advice" (p. 51). This includes presenting parents with accurate and well-documented information as well as providing parents with the rationale behind expert's recommendations. Carlson and Crase (1983) studied child-rearing information in popular magazines and found that only one-half of the magazine articles surveyed addressed topics previously specified by parents as concerns in child rearing. Parental needs were first identified after carefully 18 reviewing the scientific literature. A total of 88 articles from seven mass circulation magazines were then analyzed, using identified needs as criteria forjudging the articles. The analyzes revealed that parental needs such as dealing with the physical care and medical problems of children were frequently discussed. However, other parental needs such as dealing with adolescents and teaching children religion were largely ignored. In addition, many issues were given only superficial treatment. While several articles addressed problems of child discipline, specific concerns such as setting rules and regulations, dealing with children talking back and handling temper tantrums were not considered. In addition, the majority of the articles addressed parents as a homogenous group rather than as individuals with unique needs and situations (e.g. single parents, working mothers, members of minorities). Moreover, most of the articles failed to recognize individual differences in children and parents and did not include age-specific information. Furthermore, although the greatest percentage of articles were written by professionals with expertise in the area of children and/or parents (primarily medical doctors), over one-half of the articles failed to cite research and did not provide any evidence for the information or recommendations provided. Stendler (1950), Bigner (1972), and Bigner and Yang (1996) examined over 100 years of child-rearing information as presented in several popular women's magazines, including Ladies' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and Redbook. In all three studies, selected articles were content analyzed in an attempt to identify contemporary parent education topics as well as trends or themes in parenting advice. Exact replication of the methodology used by Stendler (1950) and Bigner (1972) enabled Bigner and Yang (1996) to summarize the topics discussed and the advice given to parents over time. Bigner and Yang found that although the writers of popular magazine articles attempted to reflect social and economic changes and their impact on families and parenting, the majority of articles did not address important concerns of parents. There was also little difference in the topics discussed by writers of popular literature articles in the period 19 between 1950 and 1970 and that between 1972 and 1990. The majority of the articles focused on three topics: the socialization of children, parent-child relations, and children's developmental stages. However, although a stable pattern was observed in terms of the general topics discussed over time, the particular child-rearing advice given and the specific child-rearing practices advocated did appear to depend in part on the decade in which individuals were raising children. Bigner and Yang (1996) noted the emergence of several themes in the 1970's and beyond, which were not present in previous studies. For example, a dominant theme of writers in the 70's and 80's was that the socialization of children was more difficult than in the past due to such factors as violence in the media, the pressures of not having a full time mother, and the confusion about how to react to a rapidly changing world where children have to grow up too fast. However, despite some attention given to issues important to parents, writers gave only minimal attention to parent's concerns. Bigner and Yang concluded, "If we have a major concern, it is that writers of this popular literature are not sharing with their readerships the complex challenges that face the majority of parents in raising children to be effectively functioning adults. Rather, descriptions of extreme and frightening cases are supplementing more relevant discussions of issues facing parents" (p. 25). Boggs (1983) reviewed a selection of parent advice books written for Evangelical Christian parents and found that the majority of the books did not discuss topics relevant to contemporary parents. Boggs analyzed 32 books for the presence of seven general content areas including parental roles and responsibilities, goals of the child-rearing process and recommendations regarding specific child-rearing practices such as toilet training and feeding. Boggs discovered that the books reviewed paid little attention to the social context in which family life takes place. She stated, "The books presumed a family structure—mother at home, devoted primarily to home and child care—which is fast disappearing in American society" (p. 77). In addition, the books failed to address such relevant issues as the impact of violence, unemployment and the influence of the media on family life and the raising of children. Boggs concluded, To a degree, this literature exists in a kind of social and cultural vacuum.... The family, Christian or otherwise, is influenced to no small degree by social realities, factors which have a profound effect on parental practice and child development. The lack of attention to cultural factors raises some question as to whether literature such as this meets the needs of the families toward which it is directed (p. 78). According to Clarke-Stewart (1978), popular parenting literature should "speak to parents 'where they are'-- as single parents, working parents or parents with limited resources and even less time for child care" (p. 368). As noted earlier, educators have increasingly begun to adapt parent programs and materials for specific parent populations (e.g. single parents, stepparents). However, as the adaptation of printed materials to specific parent populations is relatively recent, to date, only a limited number of studies have examined the content of such materials. In a study of stepfamily life as presented in the popular literature, Pasley and Ihinger-Tallman (1985) examined 109 articles on remarriage and stepparenting published in popular magazines between 1940 and 1980. The content of the articles was analyzed according to four categories: the citation of authorities, the source of the information provided, the overall tenor or tone, and the topics addressed. Pasley and Ihinger-Tallman found that despite increases in the citation of authorities and the provision of factual information over time, the articles primarily offered advice based on clinical or personal experience rather than empirical data. In general, the articles took a problem-focused approach to discussing stepfamily life although the popular literature appeared somewhat more positive and optimistic when compared with the professional literature. The topics addressed in the articles were similar to topics addressed in the professional literature and focused predominantly on issues relating to parent-child and stepparent-stepchild relations, specifically, stepparent's adjustment to their new role, children's reactions to stepparents and the discipline of stepchildren. 21 Lagoni and Cook (1985) examined articles on stepparenting in a sample of magazines published between 1961 and 1982. Articles were classified into two groups—personal or research based—and were analyzed for specific content about stepfamily issues based on three broad topics: parent-child relations, finances and legalities, and ambiguity of parental roles. Lagoni and Cook found that over one-half of the 30 articles examined were based on personal accounts rather than on scholarly research. The majority of the articles focused on the needs of children (discipline, communication, and acceptance) and the ambiguity of the stepparent role-issues identified in the professional literature as being the most relevant concerns of stepparents. The authors noted that professional research is vital to the growth and evolution of stepfamily articles in the popular literature and concluded, "This type of article [personal accounts] has served to support stepparents, but has done little to educate or inform them about issues and parenting techniques unique to their situations. Stepparents need more information to help them define their roles and researchers can play a vital role in their education through the popular press" (p. 525). In a recent study of divorce education program materials, Geasler and Blaisure (1998) found that very few of the materials documented the theoretical, research, or experimental basis of program content. Adapting the Family Life Education Program Review Form developed by Hughes (1994), Geasler and Blaisure reviewed program materials from 37 divorce education programs. They reported that program materials tended to refer to concepts, rather than to named theories or models. Moreover, although the majority of programs referred to research on divorce, not all provided full citations and much of the research cited was out-of-date. They concluded, In addition to ensuring continuity of theory and practice throughout the program, developers have a responsibility to base their program decisions on the most current and valid knowledge about divorce and its implications for the lives of family members. Again, some programs could benefit from updating their theoretical and empirical base (p. 171). 22 Summary and Critique. As the studies reviewed in this section vary widely in date, in the types of documents analyzed, and in the specific research questions asked, caution must be used in summarizing the results. With this in mind, however, it appears that most of the research which has been conducted in this area identifies the poor quality of the printed materials available for parents in the 1970's and 1980's. The majority of the materials failed to document any theoretical or research base and for the most part, the authors failed to address parent's needs and concerns. Although materials directed toward specific parent populations (e.g. stepparents) appear to have been more effective at addressing parent's concerns, these materials have also been shown to lack documentation regarding the theoretical or empirical basis of the content. More research in this area is warranted. Few studies have examined materials targeted toward diverse parent populations. In addition, very few studies have examined the content of contemporary parent educational materials. Many of the studies reviewed failed to clearly document the methodology used. In some cases (e.g. Rosenblatt and Phillips, 1975), researchers merely reported their "impressions" of the content without conducting an in-depth content analysis. In addition, although similar methods were employed to assess scholarship across the studies reviewed, the items used did not appear to have emerged from the family life education literature. P a r t T w o According to Brock, Oertwein and Coufal (1993), three themes about parent-child relationships have emerged from decades of research on parent-child interaction. These three themes—nurturance, structure and patterns of interaction—"provide a framework both for summarizing what is known about parent-child interaction and for discussing selected parenthood education programs" (Brock, Oertwein & Coufal, 1993, p. 90). Although ideally, all three themes should be addressed in parent programs and materials, this study is specifically 23 concerned with the theme of structure. The theme of structure was chosen as the focus of this study for two reasons. First, providing structure appears to be a salient concern of all parents regardless of family type. Thus, it is expected that all books directed toward diverse parent populations would include content on structure. Second, family type may significantly influence parent's experiences in providing structure for children, thereby permitting an assessment of relevance which is an important part of this study. Brock, Oertwein and Coufal (1993) define structure in the following way: "Structure in parent-child interaction consists of making and enforcing rules and includes limit setting, control, behavioral expectations and follow-through. It is through structuring that a parent outlines the boundaries that enable a child to define him- or herself in a complex world" (p. 91). Although this definition was used to guide research in this study, others have provided more expansive definitions of structure. For example, Bigner (1994) claims, Structure describes those aspects of parenting behavior aimed at providing children with the means to regulate their lives and to lay the foundation upon which a child's personality is formed and expressed. Structure involves teaching children about personal boundaries, teaching them the limits to which they may go in their behavior so that they do not infringe on other's needs and rights, providing the experiences that promote their acquiring a healthy sense of self-worth, and providing a sense of safety and security so that they will learn to be appropriately trusting of others. Structure also involves helping children to develop healthy habits in thought and behavior; learn values and ethics; acquire healthy character traits such as honesty, integrity and personal honor; and develop personal responsibility for their actions. Structure helps to provide a child with a healthy, strong sense of self-esteem that permits growth toward meeting personal potential and becoming a well-differentiated individual who is valued for distinct qualities and traits, (p. 70-71) Brock, Oertwein and Coufal (1993) note that perhaps the best "method" of structuring in parent-child interaction is the Baumrind model of authoritative parenting. Baumrind outlined three different styles of parental structuring—permissive, authoritarian and authoritative—which were associated with particular child behaviors. The style which promoted the most positive child behaviors (e.g. self-reliance, self-control) was an authoritative style where parents valued self-will and conformity and used reason, power and reinforcement to structure children's 24 behavior. Authoritarian parenting (parents used punitive and forceful measures to ensure child compliance), and permissive parenting (parents exerted few demands on children and controlled through reason or manipulation), were associated with less favorable child behaviors. Clarke and Dawson (1989) assert that structure varies with children's developmental age and stage. During each stage of development, children are busy with specific age-appropriate tasks. These tasks help determine parent's behavior toward children and the type of structure they provide. For example, during the early childhood years, when children's behavior is geared toward gaining a sense of initiative, parents become increasingly concerned with teaching children about structure as it is interpreted by the particular family system. During middle childhood, parents aim to help children acquire even more refined abilities as children are expected to become more self-directed. During adolescence, there is typically a rewriting of the rules and patterns that govern the parent-child relationship as adolescents become increasingly autonomous and less dependent on their parents for guidance (Bigner, 1994; Clarke & Dawson, 1989). Clearly, the nature of parenting changes as children grow older. However, other influences, including family type, also appear to have an impact on parenting behaviors. In a study of 1,741 "cases" of clients from 11 Canadian family service agencies, Hoge, Andrews and Robinson (1990) found that parents in diverse family types (e.g. two-parent, stepparent, single-mother and single-father headed families) had different patterns of child and parenting problems. For example, blended and single-mother headed families tended to have the most problems with regards to role expectations, communication, and rule setting. These findings were supported even when family variables (e.g. family size, children's age, parent's age, and length of family status) and economic variables (e.g. inadequate income, welfare status) were introduced as controls. Although the sample in this study was drawn from a clinical population, the results 25 suggest that family type may be an important influence on the parent-child relationship and on family functioning. Research on single-parent families has shown that single parents—especially single-parent mothers—may be particularly vulnerable to role, task and/or emotional overload (Gongla & Thompson, 1987). Single parents must carry out household activities, nurture and discipline children, and support the family financially with little or no help from others. Bigner (1994) notes that one effect of role strain on single-parent mothers is an increased reliance on authoritarian parenting. Citing research done on single-parent families formed as a result of parental separation or divorce, Bigner (1994) reports that the transition to a single-parent family may be particularly difficult for single-parent mothers and sons. However, as the new family system gradually achieves stability, single-parent mothers generally shift to more authoritative patterns of childrearing which tends to promote healthier and more positive adjustment among children, both boys and girls. Although divorced single-parent fathers also gradually shift from authoritarian to more authoritative patterns of childrearing over time, there is evidence to suggest that divorced single-parent fathers may have different expectations for children than single-parent mothers. Research has shown that single-parent fathers tend to demand more independence from children and expect children, especially daughters, to share in household management tasks. Single-parent mothers tend to perform more of these tasks themselves, rather than expect children to cooperate, which may increase levels of role strain (Bigner, 1994). Changes in the boundaries that define parent-child interaction are not unusual following a parent's separation or divorce. Westcot and Dries (1990) note that "blurring" of role boundaries within single-parent families often occurs due to a number of factors including the introduction of partners other than the noncustodial parent, the allocation of parental roles to one or more of the children, and the role overload experienced by many single parents. According to Kissman 2 6 and Allen (1993), parents and children must "renegotiate" parent-child boundaries during the transition to a single-parent family: During this often emotionally charged transition stage, one child, and usually the oldest or opposite gender, tends to take on the identity of the absentee parent. A child who resembles the absentee parent in manner and appearance may become the recipient of parental anger, which is projected onto the child. Such scapegoating can cause a great deal of pain and conflict in parent-child interactions. It can lead to unrealistic expectations of the child's ability to comply, and thus to harsh discipline, and punitive parental behavior toward the child, (p. 16) Parents in single-parent families must also establish new rules. Rule setting in single-parent families is different than in two-parent families, as single parents do not need to negotiate rules with another parent in the home. Horowitz (1995) claims, "Because life circumstances often force single parent families to learn how to adapt, rigid rules may be abandoned in favor of more flexibility" (p. 54). Rule setting in divorced single-parent families may be particularly challenging, as children must often learn to live with two sets of rules in two separate households. Horowitz (1995) asserts that it is especially important for custodial and non-custodial parents to establish and maintain cooperative, shared parenting relationships and to develop a clear and consistent set of rules for children. Children's age at the time of divorce may be an important factor in children's adjustment to a single-parent family. Although Kissman and Allen (1993) note that the period of adolescence can be problematic in any family type, this period "can be extremely painful in the one-parent family where parental separation and then parent-child separation occur almost simultaneously" (p. 15). Kissman and Allen recommend that single parents involve adolescents in the process of decision-making about rules (e.g. curfews) which may help reduce conflict and promote positive parent-child interaction. Specific issues around structure may also arise in stepparent or blended families: 27 Stepfamilies differ from other family forms in their patterns of functioning, organization, and relationships. Defining and developing appropriate and acceptable roles within the family unit is a major challenge confronting stepfamilies, and constructive functional relationships in stepfamilies may differ from those in nondivorced or in divorced, single-parent households. Unlike divorce, which involves the exit of a family member, remarriage is unique in that it involves the entrance of a new, and for children, a potentially unwelcome member into a family unit with a shared family history and established roles and relationships. (Hetherington & Jodl, 1994, p. 57) A major task for stepfamilies is the merging of family cultures and identities to establish new roles and relationships. New rules and boundaries (e.g. relating to personal property, psychological intimacy and family routines or traditions) must also be negotiated! Bigner (1994) notes that "Clear communication, commitment to the family system, and willingness to discuss issues and reach agreeable solutions are necessary for these new patterns to become established and adapted" (p. 404). Research on stepfamilies has shown that stresses and changes in remarried families are associated with problems in children's adjustment and conflictual stepparent-stepchild relationships. Pasley, Dollahite and Ihinger-Tallman (1993) note, "Normative experiences for stepfamilies include role ambiguity, loyalty conflicts, conflicts regarding child discipline, unrealistic expectations, and stepparent-stepchild distance and/or conflict" (p. 318). According to Visher and Visher (1988), discipline is one of the major problems facing stepfamilies. Research on stepfather families suggests that the relationship between stepfathers and stepchildren may be more positive if stepfathers make few attempts to control or discipline stepchildren and only gradually exert authority (Hetherington & Jodl, 1994). In a study of adolescent stepchild-stepparent relationships, Ganong and Coleman (1994) found that of 53 adolescents sampled, the majority did not approve of their stepparent acting in the role of disciplinarian. Pasley, Dollahite and Ihinger-Tallman (1993) state, "The literature regarding appropriate and desirable stepparenting behavior suggests that at first, stepparenting be limited to 28 monitoring behavior. Monitoring is more likely to facilitate positive stepparent-stepchild interaction early in the remarriage" (p. 319). Hetherington and Jodl (1994) note that the length of time since remarriage as well as child's gender and age at the time of remarriage may be important factors in children's adjustment and the quality of the parent-child and stepparent-stepchild relationship. Hetherington and Jodl looked closely at three studies on divorce and remarriage and reported that in the early stages of remarriage, parent-child relationships may be more conflictual than in nondivorced families, particularly if the remarriage occurs during the child's adolescence. Moreover, conflict is most likely to occur between stepfathers and stepdaughters and both stepmothers and stepfathers may remain more disengaged and less authoritative in the parenting of their stepchildren than their own children. Changing birth-order arrangements may also complicate children's adjustment in a newly blended family. Hildebrand, Phenice, Gray and Hines (1996) note, Depending on the child's age and gender, different reactions can be expected. A child who has been the oldest in the family and then enters a stepfamily with older children may be particularly threatened. Likewise, the child who may have been the only girl, or the only boy, and now has a stepsibling of the same gender can find this threatening, (p. 243) Clearly, diversity in family type necessitates adaptations in the relationship between parents and children. However, it is important to note that different types of families are themselves heterogeneous. There is a great deal of within group variation in two-parent, single-parent and stepparent families. For example, in two-parent families, one or both of the parents may be employed outside the home. Single-parent families may differ in such factors as the gender, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation of the head of the household (Kissman & Allen, 1990). Tremendous diversity and complexity also characterize stepfamilies (Coleman & Ganong, 1990). However, while research on family diversity has directed attention toward differences within and between families types, Fine (1993) notes that attention should also be devoted to similarities across different types of families. For example, Hanson, Heims, Julian and Sussman (1995) assert, "Single-parent families have many of the same issues and experiences as dual parent families. Practitioners often address the unique issues of these families, but forget the legitimacy of general overall parental issues that all families have in common" (p. 21). Exploring similarities as well as differences in families is an important task for researchers: "Without examining such similarities, we may erroneously conclude that different types of families are more distinct than they actually are" (Fine, 1993, p. 236). 30 CHAPTER 3 Methodology The purpose of this study is to assess, using methods of content analysis, the scholarship and relevance of selected parenting books written for parents in traditional (two-parent) and non-traditional (single-parent and stepparent) families. In this chapter, an overview of content analysis as a research method will first be presented, followed by a discussion of the specific research procedures used in this study. Method Kerlinger (1964) describes content analysis as "...a method of observation. Instead of observing people's behavior directly, or asking them to respond to scales, or interviewing them, the investigator takes the communications that people have produced and asks questions of the communications" (p. 544). Content analysis has also been defined as "any technique for making inferences by systematically and objectively identifying special characteristics of the messages" (Holsti, 1968, p. 604). According to Duncan (1989), content analysis is a technique which lies at the crossroads of quantitative and qualitative methods. There is some debate among scholars whether content analysis should be quantitative or qualitative. While quantitative techniques are particularly useful in determining frequencies of pre-determined categories, qualitative methods are especially helpful in identifying themes or patterns from the data. Although either method may predominate in any one study, a number of researchers suggest that both quantitative and qualitative techniques should be used (Abrahamson, 1983; Smith, 1975). More importantly, as Shapiro and Markoff (1997) note, content analysis techniques, whether quantitative or qualitative in focus, should be sound: 31 In our view, there is a fundamental distinction to be drawn between research carried out with systematic procedures and a critical evaluation of data and methods in relation to theory and research that is haphazard or that involves no thought of the adequacy of the fit of the data and methods to theory. This distinction is a far more fundamental division in sociology than the more recent usage of the qualitative-quantitative distinction, a usage that distracts attention from the struggle for methodologies that advance knowledge, (p. 29) There is also some debate among scholars whether content analysis should be limited to manifest content—"those elements that are physically present and countable"—or extended to include latent content—"an interpretive reading of the symbolism underlying the physically presented data" (Berg, 1995, p. 176). Berg (1995) maintains, "Perhaps the best resolution of this dilemma about whether to use manifest or latent content is to use both whenever possible"(p. 176). According to Berg (1995), researchers using content analysis to assess written documents must first decide at what level they plan to sample and what sampling strategy will be used. Weber (1990) notes, "The sampling scheme employed will depend in large part on the population to be sampled and the kind of inferences to be made from the text" (p. 42). Sampling may occur at any or all of the following levels: words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, sections, chapters, books, writers, ideological stance, subject topic or similar elements relevant to the context (Berg, 1995). Sampling strategies include random sampling, systematic sampling, stratified sampling and purposive sampling (Berg, 1995). The next critical step in conducting a content analysis is to determine the basic unit of text to be counted. Several major elements in written messages can be counted: words or terms, sentences, themes, characters, paragraphs, items, concepts, and semantics (Berg, 1995; Weber, 1990). Combinations of these elements are also possible; The element(s) selected are determined in large part by the research questions being investigated and the type of document being assessed. 32 Once the basic content elements have been identified and recorded, the final step is to code the elements into categories. Categories must be tailored to fit the needs of the study and are dependent on the nature of the research as well as the type of document being analyzed (Berg, 1995). Categories can be determined inductively, deductively or by a combination of both (Berg, 1995). An inductive approach involves researchers "immersing" themselves in the documents to identify themes that seem meaningful to the producers of each message. In a deductive approach, researchers first identify relevant categories suggested by a theoretical perspective and the documents provide,a means for assessing the hypothesis. According to Berg (1995), In many circumstances, the relationship between a theoretical perspective and certain messages involves both inductive and deductive approaches. However, in order to present the perceptions of others (the producers of the messages) in the most forthright manner, a greater reliance upon induction is necessary. Nevertheless...induction should not be undertaken to the exclusion of deduction, (p. 180) There are several strengths as well as limitations in using content analysis as a research method. One of the greatest strengths is that content analysis is an unobtrusive method in which neither the sender nor the receiver of the message is aware that it is being analyzed. Webb et al. (cited in Weber, 1990) note, "Hence, there is little danger that the act of measurement itself will act as a force for change that confounds the data" (p. 10). Harbert, Vinick and Ekerdt (1992) assert, "As a method, it [content analysis] can be utilized with a minimum of high-tech equipment at low cost, it can be taught to and practiced by persons with a minimum of special background knowledge, and it can yield valuable insights" (p. 264). However, content analysis is limited to examining only previously recorded documents. Thus, researchers may experience difficulty in locating messages relevant to the particular research questions being asked (Berg, 1995). In addition, careful attention must be paid to data 33 extraction and categorization criteria if reliability of the data and validity of the results are to be ensured (Harbert, Vinick & Ekerdt, 1992). Weber (1990) notes that problems with reliability (the consistency of judgements concerning text classification and categorization), "usually grow out of the ambiguity of word meanings, category definitions, or other coding rules" (p. 15). Reliability can be assessed in two ways: 1) comparing the results of two coders working on the same text to determine the consistency of shared meanings held by both coders or 2) having the same coder assess the text at different times to determine the stability of the classification scheme over time (Weber, 1990). According to Weber (1990), "As happens with reliability, validity problems also grow out of the ambiguity of word meanings and category or variable definitions" (p. 15). A content analysis category is considered valid if there is a correspondence between the category and the abstract concept that it represents. Careful attention must be paid to methodology and categorization criteria. Testing coding on a sample of text can assess clarity of methodology and category definitions. Weber (1990) asserts, "Testing not only reveals ambiguities in the rules, but often leads to insights suggesting revisions in the classification scheme" (p. 23). Procedure Sample Three sources were used to obtain the sample of books for this study: 1) selected lower-mainland bookstores; 2) a local parent educator; and 3) the Vancouver Public Library. First, using the 1997 Yellow Pages- Vancouver & Part of Burnaby, bookstore chains with five or more lower-mainland locations were identified, as it was thought that these larger chains would provide a greater selection of parenting books. Four bookstore chains met this criteria: Coles, Duthies, Smithbooks and Book Warehouse. The manager of the largest bookstore in each chain (based on the volume of books available) was contacted by phone and asked to participate in the study. Three of the four managers expressed initial interest in participating in the study and each 34 was sent a follow-up letter (see Appendix A). Because Book Warehouse stores primarily carry out-of-print books, this bookstore was deemed unsuitable for further use. As an alternative, the manager of the largest Chapters bookstore was contacted by phone and after agreeing to participate was sent a follow-up letter. Although at the time, there were only four Chapters bookstores in the lower-mainland, there are over 100,000 volumes of books available at each location. Two of the four managers responded to the follow-up letter. One manager (Duthies) provided a list of all parenting books which had sold three or more copies between January, 1997 and January, 1998. This resulted in a list of 161 book titles. Because the emphasis in this study is on books dealing with general parenting concerns, "naming baby" books, books targeting parents of a specific group of children (e.g. infants, teenagers, children with special needs), or books addressing a single issue (e.g. how to potty train) were not considered relevant and were eliminated from the list. Books published prior to 1990 were also excluded given the focus of the study on books published in 1990 and beyond. Of the original 161 titles, only 7 books—six directed toward parents in two-parent families and one directed toward parents in single-parent families—were found to be appropriate for this study (see Appendix B). The manager of Chapters provided a list of all parenting books which had sold more than one copy between January, 1997 and January, 1998, in the order of most to least sold. This resulted in a list of 310 book titles. Again, books published prior to 1990, "naming baby" books, books directed toward parents of a specific group of children, or books dealing with a single issue were eliminated from the list. Of the original 310 titles, only 28 books—twenty-five directed toward parents in two-parent families, two directed toward parents in single-parent families and one directed toward parents in stepparent families—were found to be appropriate for this study (see Appendix B). 35 The second source used to obtain the sample of books was a Vancouver-based parent educator, identified by the BC Council for Families as a prominent leader in the field of parent education. This educator was contacted by phone and asked to provide a list of parenting, single-parenting and stepparenting books which would be recommended to parents. Both a written list of parenting books compiled for a 1993 newsletter and a verbal reporting of more recent recommendations were provided. Only two of the books recommended, both with a focus on two-parent families, were appropriate for this study (see Appendix B). No recommendations were given for books directed toward single parents and the one book recommended for parents in stepparent families was published prior to 1990 and therefore did not meet the criteria for this study. The third and final source used was the Vancouver Public Library. As the intention of this study was to sample books which were readily available to parents, a computer search of the library catalogue was made to determine whether the books identified using the first two sources were also available through the Vancouver Public Library. A l l but nine of the books identified— seven directed toward parents in two-parent families and two directed toward parents in single-parent families—were available through the Library. Although it would have been useful to obtain circulation statistics, in order to determine which book(s) library users consult most frequently, it was not possible to obtain such statistics. The final step in the sampling procedure was to select six books for analysis: two each written for parents in two-parent, single-parent and stepparent families. Several criteria were used to select the final sample of books. First, the lists from both bookstores, the list of books recommended by the parent educator and findings regarding the availability of books through the Vancouver Public Library were compared, and those books which were identified most frequently by all three sources were retained in the final sample. If several books were identified with the same frequency, consideration was then given to the volume of books sold on the 36 bookstore lists. For example, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care by Spock and Rothenberg (1992) was selected over other books appearing with the same frequency as this book was the second best seller according to both of the bookstore lists. Second, books which were written in a "conversational style" were excluded from the final sample. For example, Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family by Faber and Mazlish (1990) was not included as this book consisted almost entirely of "dialogue" between parents participating in a group parenting program. Finally, books which could not be found at bookstores or at the Vancouver Public Library at the time of the search were also excluded from the final sample. For example, Single Parent's Almanac by Foust (1996) was on order at Chapters bookstore and could not be obtained for ten weeks. This book was also unavailable through the Vancouver Public Library. Five books were selected following the above procedure. Of these, two books focused on parenting in two-parent families: Kids are Worth it! Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline, B. Coloroso (1994). Somerville House Publishing, Toronto: Ontario. Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care (6th Edition), B. Spock & M B . Rothenberg (1992). Simon & Schuster, New York: N Y . Two books focused on parenting in single-parent families: Positive Discipline for Single Parents: A Practical Guide to Raising Children Who Are Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful, J. Nelsen, C. Erwin & C. Delzer (1994). Prima Publishing, Rocklin: CA. Keys to Single Parenting, C. Pickhardt (1996). Barron's Educational Series, Inc., Hauppauge: N Y . However, using this procedure, only one book was identified which focused on parenting in stepparent families: Successful Stepparenting, B. Coverley (1996). Bloomsbury Publishing, London: UK. 37 Thus, it was necessary to select an additional stepparent book. A computer search of the Vancouver Public Library catalogue was used to determine other stepparenting books available, and the following book was selected: Positive Discipline for Blended Families: Nurturing Harmony, Respect, and Unity in Your New Stepfamily, J. Nelson, C. Erwin & H . S. Glenn (1997). Prima Publishing, Rocklin: CA. This book was selected both because it was published recently (1997) and because it was believed that interesting comparisons could be made between this book and Positive Discipline for Single Parents: A Practical Guide to Raising Children Who Are Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful, written by two of the same authors. Data Collection and Analysis Sentences were selected as the content unit of analysis for this study. Each sentence pertaining to the theme of structure, along with data locating the sentence in the book (e.g. chapter, page and line number) was recorded verbatim on a data assessment form developed specifically for use in this study (See Appendix C). Based on the review of literature, five concepts—all fundamental components of structure as specified by Brock, Oertwein and Coufal (1993)~were used to help identify relevant sentences: rules (guidelines for children's behavior); limits (boundaries); control (efforts to modify or influence children's behavior); behavioral expectations (expectations for children's behavior); and, follow-through (enforcement of rules or limits). Each sentence recorded on the data assessment form was then evaluated according to six evaluation criteria: Source-Citation, Source-Documentation, Context, Complexity, Tone, and Theory. In the review of literature, these criteria were noted to be especially important in assessing the scholarship and relevance of information in documents such as parenting books. A specific set of questions pertaining to each of the six criteria was used to evaluate sentences: 38 1) Source-Citation: Is a source of the information cited? If so, is the source "personal" (e.g. based on the experience of a parent or neighbor), "clinical" (e.g. based on experience with families in a clinical setting), "empirical" (e.g. based on empirical research such as surveys and interviews) or something other than personal, clinical or empirical?; 2) Source-Documentation: If a source of the information is cited, how complete is the documentation of this source (e.g. date of research, characteristics of clinical or research setting and participants)?; 3) Context: Is enough detail given so that parents can determine whether the information is relevant to their own lives (e.g. framework provided for the information)?; 4) Complexity: Does the information reflect the complexity of parenting (e.g. attention paid to social class, ethnicity, gender, age and stage differences) or is the information oversimplified (parents offered quick "band-aid" solutions to parenting problems, individual differences in parents and children ignored); 5) Tone: Is the tone of the information neutral (e.g. neither negative, nor positive), positive (e.g. strength focused, hopeful, optimistic) or negative (e.g. problem-focused, pessimistic)?; and finally, 6) Theory: Does the information reflect a particular theoretical perspective (e.g. systems, symbolic interaction or exchange theory)? In the final step, sentences were sorted into categories. Five categories were determined deductively prior to analysis. These categories—Rules, Limits, Control, Behavioral Expectations and Follow-Through—were based on the five components of structure specified by Brock, Oertwein and Coufal (1993). Sentences which discussed rules or guidelines for children's behavior were placed in the category, Rules. The category, Limits, included all sentences which discussed limits or boundaries. Sentences which focused on efforts to modify or influence children's behaviors were placed in the category, Control. The category, Behavioral Expectations included sentences which referred to parent's expectations for children's behavior. And finally, sentences which examined parent's enforcement of rules or limits were placed in the category, Follow-Through. Where it was possible to classify one sentence into two different categories, the sentence was placed in the category which best reflected the information. According to Weber (1990), the 39 following strategy should be used when dealing with content elements which can be classified in more than one category: Perhaps the best practical strategy is to classify each word, word sense or phrase in the category where it most clearly belongs. If there is sufficient ambiguity, the word should be dropped from the category and—if necessary—from analysis. This tactic restricts categories to those words that unmistakable indicate concern with the category, thereby, maximizing validity, (p. 37) Pilot Study Prior to beginning data collection and analysis on the sample books, a pilot study was conducted in order to test the methodology and to make any necessary revisions to the data assessment form. One chapter from each of three books was selected for the pilot study, with one book directed toward parents in two-parent families, one toward parents in single-parent families and one toward parents in stepparent families. These books were selected from a list of parenting, single-parenting and stepparenting books compiled after an extensive computer search of the Vancouver Public Library catalogue. Books directed toward children, parents of teens or young children, handbooks or resource manuals as well as books dealing with a single issue (e.g. single-parents and the law) were not considered relevant to the study and therefore, were not included on this list. In addition, only those books published in 1989 or earlier were listed in order not to conflict with books selected for the final study. The three books which were published closest to 1989 and which were in the library at the time of the search were selected for the pilot study. The Table of Contents of each book was examined and the keyword "structure" was used to select one relevant chapter for analysis. If the keyword structure did not appear in the Table of Contents, each chapter was then examined and the first chapter to focus predominantly on structure was chosen. Using this procedure, the following books and chapters were selected for the pilot study: When Good Parents Have Bad Kids: How To Make Sure Your Child Grows Up Right, E.K. Hayes (1989). Chapter 3: Good parents provide structure (pp. 50-65). Doubleday, New York: N Y . [Focus on parents in two-parent families] 40 How To Single Parent, F. Dodson (1987). Chapter 10: Parenting children alone (pp. 44-51). Harper & Row, New York: N Y . [Focus on parents in single-parent families] Making It As a Stepparent: New Roles, New Rules. C. Berman (1986). Chapter 10. Matters of discipline (pp. 125-133). Harper & Row, New York: N Y . [Focus on parents in stepparent families] Following the pilot study, several modifications were made to the data collection and analysis procedures. First, as sentences in the same paragraphs tended to discuss the same ideas, it was determined that paragraphs, rather than sentences would be a more appropriate unit of analysis for the study. Second, it was found that some of the content in the pilot chapters focused on "examples" or made-up illustrations used to highlight or clarify the information given. As these examples were repetitious of the information already provided, it was decided to exclude examples from analysis. Finally, a number of changes were made to the evaluation criteria (see Appendix D for revised data assessment form). Very few sentences in the pilot chapters included any documentation regarding the source of the information, and thus, the criteria, Source-Citation and Source-Documentation, were collapsed into one item. This item was renamed, Source, and permitted the issue of citation to be more succinctly addressed. Any notable information (including the date of research as well as characteristics of research or clinical setting and participants) could be included in the comment section on the revised data assessment form. Changes were also made to the definition of Context. In the original form, this concept was used to assess whether or not enough detail was given to enable parents to determine if the information was relevant to their own lives. During the pilot study analysis, it became evident that Context could not be defined in this way as this required speculating about parent's feelings and about their evaluation of the advice given. However, since an important part of this study is 41 to determine whether books directed toward parents in different family types provide parents with information relevant to their particular parenting experiences, Context was redefined in relation to family type: Is the information presented in the context of the particular family type toward which the book is directed (e.g. In a book directed toward parents in single-parent families, is the information specific to single parents)? The criteria, Theory, was also revised. During the pilot study, it became apparent that little reference was made to specific theories. Thus, it was determined that it would be more meaningful to focus on systems theory as this theory plays a prominent role in understanding parent-child relations (Bigner, 1994). In addition, one of the major issues in parent education is the integration of systems theory into parent programs and materials (Brock, Oertwein & Coufal, 1993). Therefore, assessing whether the content of parenting books reflects systems theory or any of its elements is an important task for researchers and one which has received little attention to date. Theory was evaluated using the following question: Does the information reflect elements of systems theory (e.g. bi-directional relationship between parents and children portrayed, discussion of systems theory concepts such as rules and boundaries)? Two of the evaluation criteria, Complexity and Tone, were not changed. At this stage, several steps were taken to address issues of reliability and validity. First, in conducting the pilot study, the data collection and analysis procedures were tested and any necessary revisions were made. Second, several independent raters evaluated each chapter used in the pilot study to ensure that there was consistency with regards to data collection and analysis. Finally, each chapter was evaluated at different times by the same researcher to ensure consistency over time. These steps are compatible with those recommended by Weber (1990). After the pilot study was completed, data collection and analysis began on each of the six sample books. Each paragraph pertaining to the theme of structure was recorded verbatim on the revised data assessment form. Each paragraph was then evaluated according to five criteria: 42 Source, Context, Complexity, Tone and Theory. Finally, paragraphs were sorted into the categories of Rules, Limits, Control, Behavioral Expectations and Follow-Through. Where it was possible to classify one paragraph into two different categories, the paragraph was placed in the category which best reflected the information. On subsequent readings, some paragraphs did not clearly fit into any of the deductive categories. However, as these paragraphs appeared to reflect other elements of structure besides the five specified by Brock, Oertwein and Coufal (1993), it was decided to retain these paragraphs in the study and assign new category headings reflective of their content. Similar steps as in the pilot study were used to help ensure reliability and validity. Data collection and analysis procedures were periodically checked by an independent researcher as well as the same researcher over time. 43 CHAPT ER 4 Findings In this chapter, the findings of the analysis of the selected six books will be presented as individual case studies. The two books directed toward parents in two-parent families will be presented first, followed by the books for parents in single-parent and stepparent families, respectively. Each case presentation will begin with a brief description of the book in order to provide a context for the findings on structure. Next, findings concerning the number of paragraphs on structure found and the categories identified (the nature of content on structure) will be reported. Finally, findings regarding the evaluation criteria of Source, Context, Complexity, Tone and Theory (evaluation of content on structure) will be reported. The criteria, Context, was not evaluated in the two books directed toward parents in two-parent families as this criteria was considered relevant only to those books addressing parents in single-parent and stepparent families. Case Study #1 Kids Are Worth It! Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline (1994) Kids Are Worth It! Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline (referred to from now on as Kids Are Worth It!) was written by Barbara Coloroso, a parent and educator with a background in sociology, special education, philosophy, and theology. Coloroso, who admits she is not a "perfect parent", wrote the book to challenge behavior modification techniques of parenting and to answer such questions as, "Could children become responsible, resourceful, and resilient if they were controlled, manipulated, and made to mind? Could they develop a sense of inner discipline if all of the control came from the outside?" (p. 8). She claims, The answer is more an approach to parenting than a collection of techniques. Believing kids are worth it, not treating them in a way I would not want to be treated, and behaving in a way that leaves our dignity intact are not themselves specific tools; rather, they provide an attitude and an environment that helps me help my children develop a sense of self-discipline, (p. 8) 44 Coloroso summarizes her work in Kids Are Worth It! by stating, "The following pages are what I do, have done, would have done, wished I had done, and plan to do next time" (p.8). This book consists of 14 chapters (255 pages) including "Keeping Your Cool Without Putting Your Feelings on Ice", "Three Alternatives to No and Other Plan Bs" and "I Can Be Me". Each chapter begins and ends with quotes from a wide range of authors (e.g. Dr. Lee Salk, Eleanor Roosevelt, Aristotle, and William Shakespeare). Coloroso also makes use of quotes, examples and anecdotes throughout the book. The Nature of Content on Structure A total of 245 paragraphs on structure were found in Kids Are Worth It! The majority of these paragraphs were in Chapter 1, "Kids Are Worth It" (44 paragraphs) and Chapter 9, "The Big C and the Three Rs: Chores, Relaxation, Recreation and Rebellion" (35 paragraphs). A significant number of paragraphs were also in Chapter 8, "Settling Sibling Rivalry Without Calling in the Cavalry" (34 paragraphs) and Chapter 5, "Keeping Your Cool Without Putting Your Feelings on Ice" (30 paragraphs). In two Chapters (Chapter 7, "Getting Your Kid Out of Jail and Other Mega-Problems" and Chapter 14, "Sexuality Is Not a Four-Letter Word"), no content on structure was found. As outlined below, the 245 paragraphs addressed 9 categories of structure. Five of these categories (Rules, Limits, Control, Behavioral Expectations and Follow-Through) had been deductively identified prior to analysis. Four other categories (Skills, Parenting Style, Self-Esteem and Values) were also identified. 45 Outline of Content on Structure Control (N=80, 33%): understanding children's behavior (n=31) discipline (n=24) behavior modification techniques (n=21) other (n=4) Skills (N=56, 23%) Rules (N=55, 22%) Family Type (N= 19, 8%) Follow-Through (N=l 1, 4%) Limits (N= 9, 4%) Self-Esteem (N=7, 3%) Values (N=6, 2%) Behavioral Expectations (N=2, 1%) Control. In £Ms /Ire PFort/z ///, one-third of the paragraphs on structure (80, or 33%) discussed Control, or efforts to modify or influence children's behavior. Four sub-topics were identified: "understanding children's behavior", "discipline", "behavior modification techniques" and "other". The largest number of paragraphs in the Control category (n=31) focused on the sub-topic, "understanding children's behavior" and examined reasons why children misbehave (e.g. feelings, developmental age, personality). Most attention was given to "feelings" as an influence on children's behavior. Parents were urged to look beyond children's behavior and to help children learn to identify and express their feelings in appropriate ways: "It is possible to teach kids to replace these irresponsible actions with more appropriate, responsible expressions of their feelings. But first they need to know it's all right to feel..." (p. 82). Coloroso examined feelings in three different family types ("brick-wall", "jellyfish" and "backbone") and noted that parents in the three family types teach children about feelings in different ways. For example, in brick-wall families, parents punish or deny feelings, resulting in children who misbehave or act violently toward themselves or others: 46 "Forbidden to express these emotions themselves, kids get stuck in their anger, fear, sadness, and hurt. Sometimes they even refuse to acknowledge that they are angry or hurt and have no way of getting rid of the energy produced by those feelings....The energy builds up inside, like steam pressure in a boiler...." (p. 84). Parents in jellyfish families fail to help children identify or responsibly express feelings, resulting in unhappy children who may be overly dependent on others to solve their own problems: "If the jellyfish parent constantly rescues the child from feelings and situations, the child learns to be dependent on others to define her own feelings. She also becomes helpless at solving her own problems and is quick to lay blame on others...." (p. 87). Parents in backbone families, on the other hand, teach children to recognize and deal with feelings by acknowledging children's feelings as real and legitimate and by modeling appropriate expression of emotions. Coloroso urged readers to emulate backbone parents and stressed the importance of teaching children to deal with feelings "assertively": "...When kids express their feelings irresponsibly, backbone parents accept the feelings as real, label the feelings, and help their children find alternative expressions that are both responsible and assertive... " (p. 88). In addition to looking at feelings, Coloroso also noted that children's behavior is influenced by their "developmental age and stage" as well as their "unique personalities". She described "three ages of rebellion"—two, five and puberty—and cautioned parents to expect behavior changes at each age: "Often when they are on the verge of a major breakthrough in their physical, mental, or psychological development, kids will become very agitated, frustrated, sullen, or angry....(p. 89). Coloroso singled out children with "strong-willed" personalities as being particularly challenging to parents: "...Strong-willed children are never easily led by anybody-not by you, but also not by their peers. So celebrate your child's strength of will throughout the early years, and when the going gets tough for both of you, give that strong-willed child a hug and know that the independent thinking you are fostering will serve him well in the teen years" (p. 78-79). 47 A significant number of paragraphs (n=24) in the Control category focused on the sub-topic, "discipline": "Discipline is not judgmental, arbitrary, confusing, or coercive. Going back to the Latin roots, to discipline with authority means to give life to learning. Our goal as parents is to give life to our children's learning—to instruct, to teach, to help them develop self-discipline—an ordering of the self from the inside, not imposition from the outside..." (p. 29). Most attention was given to the use of "real-world consequences" (e.g. natural and reasonable consequences) in disciplining children: "In giving life to children's learning, discipline involves real-world consequences or intervention, or a combination of the two. It deals with the reality of the situation, not with the power and control of the adult" (p. 29). Coloroso advised parents to let children experience the natural consequences of their actions wherever possible. However, if natural consequences are not appropriate, reasonable consequences—consequences which are simple, valuable and practical—can be used instead: "If the natural consequence is nonexistent or would not give life to your child's learning, it may be time to help out with reasonable consequences. Many parents struggle to come up with consequences that are appropriate and meaningful. If you have to struggle to come up with a consequence, step back and ask yourself if you are trying to punish your child or discipline him. Natural consequences just happen; reasonable ones take a bit of reasoning but not a lot of energy on your part, and certainly shouldn't be a struggle...." (p. 32-33). Some attention was also given to the use of punishment as a method of discipline. Coloroso contrasted punishment with discipline, "Instead of punishing we can discipline our children. Contrary to popular belief, discipline is not synonymous with punishment. Punishment, by its nature, is adult-oriented, requires judgement on the part of the adult, imposes power from without, arouses anger and resentment, and invites more conflict..." (p. 27-28), and emphasized that parents should not rely on "punitive tools" to discipline children: "Once we are committed to the idea that we will not treat our children in a way we ourselves would not want to be treated, we can begin to find responsible, effective, alternatives to the punitive tools of threatening, hitting, psychologically or verbally abusing, neglecting, or abandoning our children" (p. 17). 48 Twenty-one paragraphs in the Control category focused on the sub-topic, "behavior modification techniques". Coloroso stressed that behavior modification techniques (e.g. bribes, rewards, threats and punishment), which are based on the "power and control" of parents, have both short term and long term harmful effects on children: "Kids who are consistently bribed and rewarded are likely to grow into adults who are overly dependent on others for approval and recognition, lacking their own self-confidence and sense of responsibility..." (p. 19). Coloroso emphasized that parents should not rely on such techniques to influence children's behavior: "Just because a technique works or appears to work doesn't make it a good one. A serious problem with the many parenting tools that control kids and make them mind is that both parents' and children's dignity and sense of self-worth are sacrificed in the name of behavior modification or behavior management..." (P- 17); "...really powerful teachers and parents do not attempt to control their children through threats, punishments, or rewards—all of which can backfire. In fact, they don't attempt to control their children at all. Control tactics compel or prevent actions and force kids to behave in an adult-approved way. Often the result of control is either that kids become submissive, obedient, and compliant or that they go to the opposite extreme and rebel against any and all authority" (p. 22). The remaining four paragraphs in the Control category discussed "other" ways to influence children's behavior including the use of encouragement to empower children, "Encouragement inspires. It imparts courage and confidence. It fosters and gives support. It helps a child develop a sense of self-pride and enhances internal motivation...." (p. 27), and the importance of modeling desired behaviors, "Your habit of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day will not make your child smoke, too, but your actions will definitely influence your child's behavior... If you take good care of yourself, your children will probably take good care of themselves" (p. 25). Skills. Fifty-six of the paragraphs (23%) in Kids Are Worth It! focused on teaching children specific skills, including conflict resolution, responsibility, decision-making, and problem-solving. 49 Most attention in this category was given to teaching children conflict resolution skills: "Knowing how to handle conflict is more than a matter of creating peace in the home; it is a matter of creating a peaceful attitude in ourselves and our children so we can create that peaceful atmosphere in our home. And unfortunately this knowledge does not come naturally. Kids don't come out of the womb knowing how to deal with conflict. It is a skill that needs to be learned... " (p. 129). Coloroso noted that parents in brick-wall, jellyfish and backbone families approach conflict very differently. Brick-wall and jellyfish parents tend to view conflict as a "contest" and parents in both types of families fail to provide children with appropriate conflict resolution tools. Backbone parents, on the other hand, view conflict as a "challenge" and an "opportunity to grow and change". Backbone parents provide the necessary tools for children to handle conflict non-violently, including teaching children to be assertive, i "...If one of your children is always deferring to an older, quicker, or more creative sibling, even if the sibling is not using brute force or intimidation (she's just good at weaseling things out of her younger sister), it is important to teach the other sibling to stand up for herself and express her own wants and needs...." (p. 135), and helping children see that there is "more than one side of a story", "Being able to see the other person's point of view is one of the most useful skills in resolving conflict. When we tell or read stories to our kids, we can begin to teach them this skill by having them look at the other side of the story..." (P- 137). Coloroso emphasized that parents should model non-violent approaches to handling conflict, and should encourage children to resolve their own disputes, ". . .As a parent you can listen, help them listen to each other, and guide them toward a resolution. Don't give them an answer, but do help them come up with options for solving the problem and assure them that you believe they can handle it. The goal here is a peaceful solution..." (p. 136). Significant attention in this category was also given to teaching children responsibility and decision-making skills: 50 "Since responsibility and decision making are prerequisites to self-discipline, kids need to be trusted to assume responsibilities and to be given opportunities to make critical decisions throughout their childhood. Responsibilities and decisions need to be age-appropriate and meaningful... " (p. 74). Coloroso advised parents to increase responsibilities and decision-making opportunities as children grow older. However, she cautioned parents to keep some responsibilities and decisions for themselves: "There are some decisions and responsibilities that parents need to keep for themselves. Different parents will make different choices. But first a parent needs to ask, Am I keeping this decision or responsibility for myself because I am afraid to give it to my kids for fear of losing control, or because it is a part of being a wise and caring parent?" (p. 75). More limited attention in this category was given to teaching children problem-solving skills. Coloroso outlined "six steps to problem solving" (e.g. identify and define the problem, evaluate the options, make a plan) and encouraged parents to demonstrate this problem-solving process for children. Involving children in family meetings was described as an excellent way to teach children about problem-solving: " A family meeting can be a forum for kids to learn to examine situations, propose solutions, and evaluate the results with guidance, support, and demonstrations from parents and older siblings....Once children are old enough to offer ideas for solving a problem, they can be included in the problem-solving process. Younger children can lean a lot about the process just be observing older family members go through the steps in a family meeting..." (p. 113). Rules. Fifty-five of the paragraphs (22%) in Kids Are Worth It! looked at Rules or guidelines for children's behavior. Coloroso discussed rule setting in five different areas of family life: bedtime, chores, allowance, mealtime and toilet training. Most attention in this category was given to setting bedtime rules and routines. Coloroso noted that brick-wall parents (rigid rules) and jellyfish parents (inconsistent rules) fail to provide the consistency and structure that children need around bedtime. Backbone parents, on the other hand, establish a "bed time, bed place, and bedtime routine" (p. 210). Bedtime rules and 51 routines should be flexible and should take into account the needs of the family as well as children's changing development: "Backbone parents provide a basic bedtime routine that is flexible enough to adjust to the needs of the individual family members and the family as a whole. Responsibility for establishing the routine rests first with the parents, but then, as the children grow older, responsibilities and decisions about bedtime and bedtime routine are increasingly turned over to them... " (p. 210). Significant attention in this category was also given to setting rules for chores. Coloroso emphasized that chores should not be gender biased, "...Boys and girls can and need to learn to mow the lawn, take out the trash, do the dishes, clean their rooms, do the laundry, cook, sew, use yard and shop tools, baby-sit, scrub the bathroom, pull weeds, plant a garden..." (p. 171), and should change as children grow older, "When your children are toddlers, they can help you keep their rooms in order. They can help make the bed, help put toys in the box or on a shelf, help fold their clothes and put them away, help dust, and help make the room a pleasant place to be in. In the early childhood years (five to ten), kids can increasingly take over these chores themselves. Then by the time they are teenagers, you can turn their rooms over to them as their first experience in apartment living...." (p. 166). Coloroso also examined rule setting in the area of allowance. She noted that while brick-wall parents insist on dictating how children manage money and jellyfish parents provide children with little or no guidance on money-managing techniques, backbone parents teach children to successfully handle money by setting negotiable and non-negotiable allowance rules: " A backbone parent hands a kid a dollar and reminds him that some of it must go into savings, some to charity, and the rest may be spent on whatever he wants (with the provision that they are not life-threatening, morally threatening or unhealthy). The backbone structure is that they must save, spend, and give. The backbone flexibility is that they decide how to do all three and how much to devote to each..." (p. 183). Limited attention in this category was given to mealtime rules and rules around toilet training. Coloroso examined mealtime rules in brick-wall (rigid rules for every aspect of mealtime) and jellyfish (inconsistent mealtime rules) families and noted that children in both of 52 these families may be particularly at risk for developing poor eating habits. Coloroso advocated "backbone basics" around mealtime, including setting healthy, yet flexible mealtime rules: "Backbone parents provide a healthy and flexible structure for mealtime. It is a celebration, an occasion to come together as a family to nourish the body, mind, and soul. It is also a time to teach children about nutrition, food preparation, manners and conversation or dialogue—the mutual exchange of ideas, opinions and feelings..." (p. 197). Coloroso also urged parents to take a "backbone" approach to toilet training: "...The parent has a flexible routine, is positive and nonchalant about the routine, expects mistakes and sees them as opportunities to learn, has a relaxed attitude and is available to help...The three Ps [prepare, practice and patience] are the backbone structure that is used" (p. 222). Family Type. Although Coloroso referred to three family types (brick-wall, jellyfish and backbone) throughout Kids Are Worth It!, 19 of the paragraphs (8%) looked specifically at parent's overall approach to parenting in the three family types. The first approach discussed was that of brick-wall parents. In brick-wall families, "the structure is rigid and is used for control and power, both of which are in the hands of the parents" (p. 38). Children in brick-wall families grow up to be easily led by authority figures or "act-out", often violently, against themselves or others: "In the brick-wall family the building blocks—the bricks—that are cemented together to make the family are an obsession with order, control, and obedience, a rigid adherence to rules, and a strict hierarchy of power. Kids are controlled, manipulated, and made to mind. Their feelings are ignored, ridiculed or negated. Parents direct, supervise, minilecture, order, threaten, remind, and worry over..." (P- 40); "...The children are not allowed to express their opinions and feelings. Intimidated, coerced, threatened with physical violence or actually abused, they often become compliant and apathetic, easily led by any authority figure. As adults, some seek out partners who control and abuse them. They may even abuse their own children, perpetuating the cycle of abuse..." (p. 43). In jellyfish families, "structure is almost nonexistent; the need for it may not even be acknowledged or understood" (p. 38). Parents who take a "jellyfish" approach to parenting risk raising unhappy children who look for attention in unsafe ways: 53 " . . . A permissive, laissez-faire atmosphere prevails. Children are smothered or abandoned, humiliated, embarrassed, and manipulated. They become obnoxious and spoiled and/or scared and vindictive. Since they receive no affirming life messages from their parents, they view themselves and the world around them with a lack of optimism..." (p. 49); "...Like their counterparts in a brick-wall family, though for opposite reasons, they are often drawn to cult or gang leaders. The child of brick-wall parents seeks warmth and security from them as well as a sense of belonging, whereas the child of jellyfish parents hopes to find some consistency and structure" (p. 46). Coloroso advocated the third approach to parenting—a backbone approach—modeled by parents in backbone families, where "structure is present and firm and flexible and functional" (p. 38): "The backbone family provides the support and structure necessary for children to realize fully their uniqueness and to come to know their true selves, which are suppressed in brick-wall families and ignored in jellyfish families...." (p. 38). Coloroso emphasized that parents in backbone families "empower" children and help children develop their own sense of self. Coloroso paid particular attention to the positive effects on children resulting from backbone parenting: "...Backbone parents don't demand respect—they demonstrate and teach it. Children learn to question and challenge authority that is not life-giving. They learn that they can say no, that they can listen and be listened to, that they can be respectful and be respected themselves. Children of backbone families are taught empathy and love for themselves and others. By being treated with compassion themselves they learn to be compassionate toward others, to recognize others' suffering and to be willing to help relieve it...." (p. 50-51). Follow-Through. Eleven of the paragraphs (4%) in Kids Are Worth It! looked at Follow-Through or parent's enforcement of rules or limits. Coloroso discussed "three cons" (begging, aggression and sulking) children use when faced with rules or reasonable consequences to try and get parents to "back down, give in, or change our minds" (p. 157). She stressed that by being assertive and not giving in to the three cons, children learn that they can count on their parents to follow-through: 54 "By your not giving in to the three cons, your kids will begin to understand that you say what you mean, you mean what you say, and you do what you said you were going to do. Your kids are counting on that consistency and structure" (p. 164). The importance of being firm and consistent in enforcing rules and limits was also emphasized. Referring to the rule of "you hit, you sit", Coloroso stated, "What if he goes back and slugs his friend again? He sits again. From this he's going to learn one of two things: how to sit or how to play without hitting. The key is to handle it each time with a sit—not letting it go sometimes, threatening other times, and following through once in a while—or worse, hitting him to show him not to hit! It is not the severity of the consequence that has impact, it's the certainty of it that's important...." (p. 146). Limits. Nine of the paragraphs (4%) in Kids Are Worth It! discussed Limits, or boundaries. Coloroso noted that while brick-wall parents impose inflexible limits and jellyfish parents avoid setting limits for children, backbone parents explain the limits they set, "Backbone parents save their no for the big issues, when there is no bend, when they mean it, intend to follow through with it, and it is in the best interest of the safety and well-being of the child. With the no they give an explanation that is meaningful..." (p. 61), and provide both the "freedom and the boundaries" necessary for children to function "responsibly and creatively" in society. Coloroso also emphasized the importance of teaching children to recognize and respect their own personal boundaries: "...Nurturing touches—massage, gentle tickles, or hugs—communicate your acceptance of your child's body. She will learn to accept it herself. And your respect for her personal boundaries—not tickling or hugging her if she isn't in the mood, for example—will help her recognize those boundaries and understand that they are to be respected and that she has an absolute right to her own body...." (p. 216). Self-Esteem. A total of 7 paragraphs (3%) in Kids Are Worth It! discussed self-esteem. Coloroso noted that parents in brick-wall and jellyfish families fail to provide opportunities for children to develop into "unique and capable" individuals. Backbone parents, on the other hand, begin to build children's self-esteem when children are young and continue to do so as children grow older: 55 "Teenagers in backbone families have known from the time they were young that they were listened to and cared for and were important to their parents. They could freely express their feelings, make mistakes, grow from those mistakes, and take the steps needed to become responsible, resourceful, resilient, loving individuals who could act in their own best interests, stand up for themselves, and exercise their rights while respecting the rights and legitimate needs of others. They truly begin to develop their individual selfhood..." (p. 79). Values. A small number of the paragraphs (6, or 2%) in Kids Are Worth It!, examined values. Coloroso urged parents to look closely at their own value system and to model values for their children: "Backbone parents know what their values are, even if those values fly in the face of conventional wisdom or the latest trend. It might be as small a thing as recycling newspapers and cans when their neighbors on both sides think it's silly. Or it might be taking the time to go to a city council meeting to protest an ordinance they feel is unjust to the poor and disadvantaged....when we walk our talk, we model for our children ways to rebel creatively, constructively, and responsibly" (p. 178). Behavioral Expectations. An even smaller number of the paragraphs (2, or 1%) in Kids Are Worth It! looked at Behavioral Expectations or parent's expectations for children's behavior: ".. .And we need to let them know what our standards are in making a bed. The standards you set should not be rigid brick-wall bounce-a quarter-off-the-bed type of standards nor jellyfish anything-goes type of nonstandards. There needs to be some backbone structure and flexibility" (p. 165-166). Evaluation of Content on Structure The 245 paragraphs on structure in Kids Are Worth It! were evaluated according to the following four criteria— Source, Complexity, Tone and Theory. As this book is directed toward parents in two-parent families, the criteria, Context, was not considered relevant. Source. The majority of the paragraphs (217, or 89%) in Kids Are Worth It! did not include a source. Of the 28 paragraphs (11%) where a source was cited, reference was made most frequently to specific books and/or authors (e.g. "James Dobson, Temper Your Child's Temper"; "Jane Smith, Play It Again Cinderella: A New View if Old Tales"; "Myriam Miedzian, 56 Boys Will be Boys: Breaking the Link Between Masculinity and Violence'''). Only a few paragraphs, however, provided any background information on the authors cited, "Philip Grevin, a historian, states the problem [use of punishment] and offers a positive solution in his book, Spare the Child..." (p. 16), and no paragraphs provided any information on the date of publication or the publisher's name: "...In his Cooperative Sports and Games Book, Terry Orlick speaks of the magic realm of play as 'the child's natural medium for personal growth and positive learning. Children who are free to develop their creativity not only get a great deal of personal satisfaction but also gain experience in working out solutions to their own problems....'" (p. 175). Personal sources were also frequently cited including other parents, "Kathy Tyler, a parent concerned about the abundant use of external rewards in her children's school, wrote in a letter to her school board..." (p. 19), as well as acquaintances of the author, "Don Shaw, the former 'sex and sin director' (health education director) in our school district, said that if you let your children make most of their own decisions that are not life-threatening, morally threatening or unhealthy before they reach puberty, they rarely take the quantum leap into serious rebellion in the teen years, because it's hard to rebel against one's own decision" (p. 72). In several paragraphs, Coloroso also made clear that the information reflected her own personal opinion: "I believe that if we are to survive as a planet, we must teach this next generation to handle their own conflicts assertively and nonviolently...." (p. 147); "I'm not so sure that it is a good idea to abandon rest time. I rather enjoyed naptime and rest time with my toddlers..." (p. 211). Complexity. In most of the paragraphs (199, or 81%) in Kids Are Worth It!, the information did not reflect the complexity of parenting. For example, individual differences in children were largely ignored in paragraphs addressing the importance of teaching children conflict resolution skills: "...Kids who don't fight, those who avoid conflict or always give in, grow up to be passive adults, or adults seething with suppressed anger and rage..." (p. 128). 57 Individual differences in parents and children were also ignored in nearly all of the paragraphs discussing brick-wall and jellyfish families: "Brick-wall and jellyfish families, although at opposite extremes, tend to raise children who know what to think but not how to think or feel, and who lack a sense of a true self..." (p. 38). However, 46 of the paragraphs (19%) reflected complexity by acknowledging individual differences in parents and children. For example, referring to setting bed-time rules: "As a family, you have to look together at what works best in your home. Because of work commitments and your own body clock, you may prefer to have your young children have a late nap, be up with you later in the evening, and all of you sleep later in the morning.... You have to do what you can live with, set what works for your family, and be open and flexible to the changing sleep needs and routines of the members of your family" (p. 206). In addition, most of the paragraphs which discussed backbone families acknowledged that not all backbone families or family member are alike: "Backbone families come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. They don't come from any particular background or social strata. They don't live in special neighborhoods. They aren't necessarily headed by older parents or by younger parents. They are not necessarily religious or nonreligious, nor are they of any specific race or ethnic origin..." (p. 50). Tone. Almost half of the paragraphs (121, or 50%) in Kids Are Worth It! were neutral in tone: "Remember, there are lots of ways to do chores. It doesn't always have to be my way. Be willing to give a bit. This is our home. We can do it in our way and in our time. Figuring out how to do this will mean communicating with one another, making our expectations clear, and listening carefully to one another... " (p. 168); "Tantrums usually occur when kids are tired, hungry, frustrated, or all three. If parents remain calm, they can help their children by eliminating the cause or redirecting the energy in a more responsible and productive way" (p. 89). One-third of the paragraphs (79, or 32%) were negative in tone. For example, considerable attention was given to the harmful effects on children of growing up in brick-wall and jellyfish families: 58 "...Both families can produce children who as adults will believe themselves to be powerless and unable to live truly satisfying lives" (p. 38). However, 45 of the paragraphs (18%), including most of the paragraphs referring to the backbone family or backbone approaches to parenting, were positive in tone. For example, responsibilities and decision-making were portrayed as ways to "empower" children, giving them a sense of self-confidence and the ability to face challenges: "In order to believe that they can solve their own problems, kids need self-esteem, integrity and a sense of their own power. Responsibilities and decision-making skills help to create this power...By having power over the situation, the child's dignity, integrity, and self-worth are enhanced" (p. 74). Theory. The information in just over two-thirds of the paragraphs (165, or 67%) in Kids Are Worth It! did not reflect elements of systems theory. For example, Coloroso discussed behavior modification techniques as promoting a one-sided relationship between parents and children: "...Rather than seeing children as unique individuals with the right to express their own needs and have them respected, parents who consistently employ these techniques tend to see kids as kids as people needing to be shaped and made to behave in the way parents want them to behave. That this attitude is mostly unconscious makes it all the more dangerous" (p. 18). However, in 80 paragraphs (33%), some elements of systems theory were reflected. For example, systems theory concepts such as rules and boundaries were discussed: "...Backbone parents provide both the freedom and the boundaries necessary to help their children create their own moral backbone." (p. 59). Coloroso also examined the sibling subsystem : "As parents we have a tendency to rescue our younger (or weaker, or less creative) children. ('Quit picking on your little sister. Let her watch her program today. She's younger than you.')...." (p. 135). Summary In summary, Kids Are Worth It!, focussed primarily on the Control component of structure, with nearly equal attention paid to the sub-topics of "understanding children's behavior", "discipline" and "behavior modification techniques". Significant attention was also 59 paid to the categories of Skills and Rules. Comparatively few paragraphs addressed Family Type, Follow-Through, Limits, Self-Esteem, Values and Behavioral Expectations. Very few paragraphs included any citation of a source and the majority of paragraphs did not reflect complexity. Half of the paragraphs were neutral in tone, and of the remaining paragraphs, more were negative than positive in tone. Elements of systems theory were reflected in one-third of the paragraphs. Case Study #2 Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care (1992) The first edition of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care was published over 50 years ago in 1945. This 6th edition (1992), written by Benjamin Spock (a physician and author) and Michael Rothenberg (a pediatrician and child psychiatrist) is touted to be "fully revised and updated for the 1990's". Although Spock and Rothenberg wrote Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care to provide valuable and much needed advice to parents, they caution, The most important thing I [referring to both Spock & Rothenberg who use the first person pronoun, "I" rather than "we" throughout the book] have to say is that is that you should not take too literally what is said in this book. Every child is different, every parent is different, every illness or behavior problem is somewhat different from every other. Al l I can do is to describe the most common developments and problems in the most general terms. Remember that you are more familiar with your child's temperament and patterns that I could ever be. (p. xiii) This book is divided into 26 topic areas (832 pages). The content in most of these areas was not relevant to this study. For example, Spock & Rothenberg pay considerable attention to "Illness", "First Aid" , and issues related specifically to the care of infants (e.g. "Breast-Feeding", "Equipment and Clothing" and "Daily Care"). In addition, five topic areas ("One-Year Olds", "Two-Year Olds", "Three to Six", "From Six to Eleven" and "Adolescence") examine specific characteristics of children at different ages (e.g. nail biting and fears are examined in the topic area, "Three to Six"; physical changes and sexuality are covered in "Adolescence"). Although in each of these areas, valuable information and advice is provided to parents about understanding 60 children's behavior at each stage of development, due to the specific nature of the content, these five areas were not considered relevant for analysis. Three topic areas~"The Parent's Part", "Managing Young Children" and "Divorce, Single Parenting, and Remarriage"—were considered relevant for this study (127 pages). Although the majority of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care is targeted toward parents in two-parent families, the authors singled out divorce, single parenting and remarriage as being particular concerns for parents in the 1990's. As this study is interested in information pertaining to parents in two-parent as well as single-parent and stepparent families, it was decided to include content on single-parent and stepparent families. The Nature of Content on Structure A total of 115 paragraphs on structure were found in the three areas examined in Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care. Most of these paragraphs were in "Managing Young Children" (85 paragraphs), followed by, "The Parents Part" (20 paragraphs) and finally, "Divorce, Single Parenting and Remarriage" (10 paragraphs). As outlined below, the 115 paragraphs addressed 5 categories of structure, all of which had been deductively identified prior to analysis. Outline of Content on Structure Control (N=99, 86%) discipline (n=39) understanding children's behavior (n=38) other (n=22) Rules (N=8, 7%) Behavioral Expectations (N=3, 3%) . Follow-Through (N=3, 3%) Limits (N=2, 1%) Control. Nearly all of the paragraphs on structure (99, or 86%) in the areas examined in Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care discussed Control, or efforts to modify or influence children's 61 behavior. Three sub-topics were identified: "discipline", "understanding children's behavior" and "other". The largest number of paragraphs (n=39) in the Control category focused on the sub-topic, "discipline". Most attention was given to methods of discipline, including the use of "distraction" with young children (up to three years of age) and, "warnings" as children grow older. Parents were advised to let older children experience the consequences of their actions-consequences which are "reasonable" as well as "fair": "If you're dealing with an older child who is always fooling with the dishes and breaking them, it may be fair to make him buy replacements from his allowance. A child beyond the age of 6 is developing a sense of justice and sees the fairness of reasonable penalties. However, I'd go light on the legalistic 'take-the-consequences' kind of punishment before 6, and I wouldn't try to use it at all before 3... "(p. 436). Spock and Rothenberg cautioned against the use of physical punishment as a method of discipline, citing the harmful effects of physical punishment on children and the parent-child relationship: "There are several reasons to try to avoid physical punishment. It teaches children that the larger, stronger person has the power to get his way, whether or not he is in the right, and they may resent this in their parent—for life. Some spanked children feel quite justified in beating up on smaller ones. The American tradition of spanking may be one cause of the fact that there is much more violence in our country than in any other comparable nation—murder, armed robbery, wife abuse, child abuse" (p. 437). Some attention was also given to parental approaches to discipline. Spock and Rothenberg noted that deciding on a "strict" or "casual" approach to discipline is an issue for many parents, especially, new parents: " A great majority of them [new parents] find their own balance in a little while. For a few parents it remains a worrisome question, no matter how much experience they've had" (p. 24). They argued, however, that strictness or casualness is not the real issue—the real issue is "what spirit the parent puts into managing the child, and what attitude is engendered in the child as a 62 result" (p. 25). While discipline should be both "friendly and firm", it is more important for parents to be "moderately" strict or casual in their approach: "Good-hearted parents who aren't afraid to be firm when it is necessary can get good results with either moderate strictness or moderate casualness. On the other hand, a strictness that comes from harsh feelings or an excessive permissiveness that is timid or vacillating can each lead to poor results...." (p. 24-25). The role of mothers and fathers in disciplining children was also addressed in a small number of paragraphs: "...There are quite a few parents in America—fathers much more often than mothers—who shy away from the guidance and control of their children (though they may play often with them), leaving most of this to their spouses...." (p. 26). Spock and Rothenberg emphasized that both parents should be involved in discipline: "When a parent is timid or reluctant to give leadership, the children—especially those of the same sex—feel let down. They are like vines without a pole to grow on" (p. 26). Thirty-eight of the paragraphs in the Control category focused on the sub-topic, "understanding children's behavior". These paragraphs examined reasons why children misbehave and took a close look at specific behaviors and feelings, for example, "whining", "aggression", "jealousy" and "rivalry". Spock and Rothenberg emphasized children's developmental age and stage as an important influence on children's behavior (e.g. aggression): ".. .In the course of growing up, children have a natural tendency to bring their aggressiveness more and more under control provided their parents encourage this. One-to 2-year olds, when they're angry with another child, may bit the child's arm without hesitation. But by 3 or 4 they have already learned that crude aggression is not right...." (p. 411). They also encouraged parents to look for the feelings underlying children's behavior, "As for the child who spreads the ashes around the living room, it's natural for his parents to feel exasperated and angry, and they will probably reprove him anyway. But if they realize that he did it from a deep sense of despair and bitterness, they may later feel like reassuring him, too, and try to remember what they did that he just couldn't take any longer" (p. 448-449), and to model appropriate expression of emotions (e.g. anger): "To put it the other way around, children are happier around parents who aren't afraid to admit their anger, because then they can be more comfortable about their own. And justified anger that's expressed tends to clear the air and leave everyone feeling better...." (p. 23). More limited attention was given to the influence of birth order on children's behavior. Spock and Rothenberg noted that parents tend to treat children differently depending on their birth order. For example, parents tend to "fuss" over first children, resulting in children who may be spoiled and unsociable: "Another factor that sometimes seems to make a first child unsociable is too serious an attitude on the parents' part. It isn't that the parents are grim people; they can be easygoing with their friends and their later children. They are just trying too hard with the first" (p. 454-455). Parents were cautioned to avoid comparing siblings and to be aware of differing expectations: "...Then there is the situation in which parents have been disappointed by their previous children. Maybe they didn't get the athlete or scholar they'd hoped for, and they put too much pressure on the youngest. Or they may have especially wanted a boy to carry on the family name, and when the youngest is another girl they let their disappointment show and make her feel there's something wrong with her. Just being aware of these possibilities will help you avoid them" (p. 456). A small number of paragraphs looked specifically at understanding the behavior of children in divorced, single-parent and remarried families. For example, children of all ages were noted to experience behavior problems following a parent's divorce. Many of these problems result from children's inability to manage their difficult feelings and parents were encouraged to give children "regular opportunities to talk about their feelings and reassurance that these feelings are normal" (p. 764). Twenty-two paragraphs in the Control category looked at "other" ways to gain control of children, including modeling desired behaviors, 64 " If your child whines that there is nothing to do, it's smarter not to be drawn into suggesting a variety of possible activities, which the child, when in this mood, will scornfully shoot down one by one. You can toss the responsibility back to the child, without getting bogged down in futile argument, by saying, 'Well, I've got lots of work to do, and then I have a dozen pleasant things to do afterward, if there's time.' In other words, 'Follow my example; find things to do for yourself. Don't expect me to amuse you or argue with you.'"(p. 441), and using firmness to prevent problems from getting out of hand, "...The way we avoid irritation the rest of the time, whether we realize it or not, is by keeping our children under reasonable control and by being extra firm or sufficiently disapproving when things first threaten to go wrong. Such firmness is one aspect of parental love. Firmness, by keeping children on the right track, keeps them lovable. And they love us for keeping them out of trouble" (p. 24). Parents were advised to take the time to "lead" children through their various routines, using "reminders" when children forget, and encouraging children to take responsibility for their own actions: "In the early years, before a child is capable of carrying out directions, lead him through his various routines. As he gets old enough and wants to take over responsibilities, step out of the picture as fast as you can. When he slips back and forgets, lead again. When he goes to school, let him think of it as his job to get there on time..." (p. 423). Only a small number of these paragraphs examined methods of control in remarried families. Stepparents were cautioned to avoid displaying hostility toward stepchildren and to be "firm, yet friendly": "On the other hand, it's not good for you to be submissive when the stepchild intrudes into your territory, for instance, abusing one of your possessions or being deliberately rude. Then you can say in a friendly but firm way that you don't like abuse—of your things or yourself..." (p. 775-776). Rules. Eight of the paragraphs (7%) in the areas examined in Dr. Spock's Baby and Chdd Care discussed Rules, or guidelines for children's behavior. Spock and Rothenberg looked specifically at rule-setting in the areas of bedtime and chores. For example, they emphasized that bedtime rules should be firm, yet, flexible: 65 "Keep bedtime agreeable and happy. Remember that it is delicious and inviting to tired children if you don't turn it into an unpleasant duty. Have an air of cheerful certainty about it. Expect them to turn in at the hour you decide as surely as you expect them to breathe. It's good for children to be able to persuade parents to change their minds once in a while about bedtime... " (p. 418). They also emphasized that chores should not be gender specific and should change as children grow older: "...By 2 they can be expected to go through the motions of helping pick up their playthings. By 3 they should have such small chores as helping to set the table or empty the wastebaskets, even though they don't save parents much work. By 7 or 8 they should be carrying out genuinely useful jobs each day...." (p. 420). A small number of paragraphs examined rule-setting in remarried families. Stepparents were advised to avoid setting rules for stepchildren until stepchildren have shown acceptance of the stepparent. Spock and Rothenberg noted that parents and stepparents should agree in advance on rules for children and stepchildren and should be as consistent as possible with regards to the rules they set: 1 "...The parents have to agree with each other, and be consistent with the children, about family rules concerning things like bedtime, chores and watching TV. This can be a pretty complicated business...." (p. 776). Behavioral Expectations. Three of the paragraphs (3%) in the areas examined in Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care looked at Behavioral Expectations or parent's expectations for children's behavior: "Since having children does mean giving up so much, good parents naturally do, and should, expect something from their children in return: not spoken thanks for being born or being cared for—that's too much—but considerateness, affectionateness and willingness to accept the parents' standards and ideals..." (p. 18). Follow-Through. Three of the paragraphs (3%) in the areas examined in Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care looked at Follow-Through or parent's enforcement of rules or limits: "When parents are afraid to be definite and firm, their children keep testing the limits—making life difficult for the parents and also for themselves—until the parents are finally provoked into cracking down. Then the parents are apt to feel ashamed, and back off again" (p. 26). 66 Limits. Only two of the paragraphs (1%) in the areas examined in Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care discussed Limits or boundaries: "...But learn to prevent their whining and your frustrations: set limits confidently and promptly, before their demands become incessant and petulant" (p. 441). Evaluation of Content on Structure The 115 paragraphs on structure in Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care were evaluated according to the following four criteria— Source, Complexity, Tone and Theory. Although this book included information for parents in single-parent and stepparent families, the majority of the information was directed toward parents in two-parent families. Thus, the criteria of context was not considered relevant. Source. The majority of the paragraphs (93, or 81%) in the areas examined in Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care did not include a source. However, in 22 paragraphs (19%), a source was cited, most frequently, the authors themselves. Spock and Rothenberg repeatedly used the first person pronoun "I" to indicate their collective opinion: "Don't give the small child too many reasons [why a certain behavior is expected]... This is the period when he is meant to learn by doing and having things happen. I'm not advising that you never warn your child in words, but only that you shouldn't always be leading him out beyond his depth with ideas" (P-431); ".. I think the best thing you can do for a middle child is to avoid making comparisons with his older and younger siblings. If your middle child knows that you love him and appreciate him as an individual, that's what counts" (p. 455). Several references were also made to research, " A l l children develop signs of tension [following a parent's divorce]... In one study children under 6 most often showed fears of abandonment, sleep problems, regression in bed-wetting and temper tantrums, aggressive outbursts. Children of 7 and 8 expressed sorrow and feelings of aloneness, Nine-and 10-year-olds were more understanding about the realities of divorce; nevertheless, they expressed hostility toward one or both parents, and complained about stomachaches and headaches. Adolescents spoke of the painfullness of the divorce and of their sadness, anger, and shame. Some girls were handicapped in developing good relationships with boys" (p. 763), 67 and "child guidance work", "... Child guidance work teaches us in case after case that a child is happier as well as better behaved if her parents insist on reasonably good behavior...." (p. 429). However, very few details were offered regarding the studies mentioned or the nature of the work done by child guidance professionals. Complexity. In just over two-thirds of the paragraphs in the areas examined in Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care (78, or 68%), the information did not reflect the complexity of parenting. For example, although many of the paragraphs provided specific developmental information (e.g. what to expect from "small children" or "adolescents"), individual differences in children (e.g. gender or personality differences) were largely ignored: "Small children are comforted by having a certain amount of ritual about going to bed. For example, the dolly is put in her bed and tucked in. Then the teddy bear is put in the child's bed. Then the child is tucked in and kissed. Then the parent pulls down the shade or puts out the light...." (p. 418). However, nearly one-third of the paragraphs (37, or 32%) reflected complexity. For example, parents were cautioned to expect different behaviors from children at different ages: "Generally speaking, jealousy of the baby is strongest in the child under 5, because he is much more dependent on his parents and has fewer interests outside the family circle. The child of 6 or more is drawing away a little from his parents and building a position for himself among his friends. Being pushed out of the limelight at home doesn't hurt so much..." (p. 450); "Children become interested in dressing dolls properly, coloring carefully, playing trains realistically, each at a certain stage of development. You can't hurry them...." (p. 408). Individual differences in parent's attempts to control children (e.g. "Many good parents...", "But other parents...") were also acknowledged. For example, Spock and Rothenberg highlighted gender differences in parent's attempts to discipline, noting that it is ".. .fathers much more often than mothers—who shy away from the guidance and control of their children...." (p. 26). Tone. Just under two-thirds of the paragraphs (73, or 64%) in the areas examined in Dr. 68 Spock's Baby and Child Care presented information in a straightforward manner and were neutral in tone: "The reasons why parents sometimes get off on the wrong foot with one child are quite varied and are usually hidden under the surface. Two possible factors were mentioned in Section 4: the parents may not have felt ready for this pregnancy or there may have been usual family tensions during it . . . ." (p. 19); "Children's motives are good (most of the time), but they don't have the experience or the stability to stay on the road. The parents have to be saying, 'We hold hands when we cross the street,' 'You can't play with that, it may hurt someone,' 'Say thank you to Mrs. Griffin,' 'Let's go in now, because there is a surprise for lunch,' 'We have to leave the wagon because it belongs to Harry and he wants it , ' . . . . " (p. 435). Of the remaining paragraphs, significantly more were negative (35, or 30%), than positive (7, or 6%) in tone. For example, in several paragraphs, children were portrayed as "badly behaved": "On the other hand, there are also a fair number of poorly behaved children. The parents of some of them punish a lot and the parents of others never do.. . ." (p. 434). However, other paragraphs acknowledged the positive impact on children when parents use firm guidance and control: ".. .If parents can be encouraged to be firm, it's amazing how fast the children will sweeten up and the parents will, too" (p. 26). Theory. The information in just over two-thirds of the paragraphs (79 or 69%) in the areas examined in Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care reflected elements of systems theory. For example, much of the information on control acknowledged that the relationship between parents and children is bi-directional: ".. .No child can be that irritating by accident. If parents can determine in which respects they may be too permissive and can firm up their discipline, they may, if they are on the right track, be delighted to find that their child becomes not only better behaved but much happier. Then they can really love their children better, and the child in turn responds to this" (p. 428); 69 "Often when you look back over such a series of exasperating actions, you can see that the child has really been asking for firmness all morning and that it was your well-intentioned effort at overpatience that made him go from one provocation to another, looking for a check" (p. 21). Just under one-third of the paragraphs (36, or 31%) failed to reflect elements of systems theory: ".. .When it's time for lunch, lead him or carry him to the table, still chatting with him about the thing that was on his mind before. When you see signs that he needs to go to the bathroom, lead him there or bring the potty chair to him. Start undoing him without even mentioning what you're up to" (p. 430). Summary In summary, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, focussed predominantly on the Control component of structure, especially on the sub-topics of "discipline" and "understanding children's behavior". Only limited attention was given to the categories of Rules, Follow-Through, Behavioral Expectations and Limits. Relatively few paragraphs included any citation of a source and the majority of paragraphs did not reflect complexity. Most of the paragraphs were neutral in tone although significantly more of the remaining paragraphs were negative than positive in tone. Elements of systems theory were reflected in just over two-thirds of the paragraphs. Case Study # 3 Positive Discipline for Single Parents: A Practical Guide to Raising Children Who Are . Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful (1994) Positive Discipline for Single Parents: A Practical Guide to Raising Children Who Are Responsible, Respectful, and Resourceful (referred to from now on as Positive Discipline for Single Parents) was written to help single parents "gain confidence and learn problem-solving skills" as they confront the challenges of parenting alone. The authors—Jane Nelsen, writer of several parenting books; Cheryl Erwin, a single parent and parent education trainer; and Carol Delzer, a single parent and attorney specializing in divorce and child custody cases—describe 70 single parenting as "a kind of'parenting plus': you face all the everyday tasks of raising children, plus the problems of doing a job alone that was originally designed for two people" (p. 1). The authors' hope is that parents who read this book will gain new skills and understanding as they attempt to "raise responsible, respectful, resourceful children in a single-parent home" (p. 3). Positive Discipline for Single Parents consists of 12 chapters (196 pages) including, "Setting the Stage for Single Parenting", "Get Into Your Child's World" and "Your Child's Other Parent: In or Out of the Picture?". It is one of a series of "Positive Discipline" books (e.g. Positive Discipline for Teenagers, Positive Discipline A-Z) and includes a list of similar books, tapes and videos. The Nature of Content on Structure A total of 126 paragraphs on structure were found in Positive Discipline for Single Parents. Although content on structure was found in eleven of twelve chapters in the book, most paragraphs were in Chapter 7, "Nonpunitive Discipline" (thirty-nine paragraphs), followed by Chapter 5, "Understanding Misbehavior" (sixteen paragraphs) and Chapter 2, "Coping with Feelings: Yours and Theirs" (15 paragraphs). In Chapter 4, "Help! I'm Overwhelmed", no content on structure was found. As outlined below, the 126 paragraphs addressed 8 categories of structure. Five of these categories (Control, Rules, Follow-Through, Limits, and Behavioral Expectations) had been deductively identified prior to analysis. Three other categories (Self-Esteem, Skills and Parenting Style) were also identified. 71 Outline of Content on Structure Control (N=81, 64%): understanding children's behavior (n=42) discipline (n=35) other (n=4) Rules (N= 12, 10%) Follow-Through (N=12, 10%) Self-Esteem (N=7, 6%) Skills (N=7, 6%) Limits (N=3, 2%) Behavioral Expectations (N=2, 1%) Parenting Style (N=2, 1%) Control. Nearly two-thirds of the paragraphs (81, or 64%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents discussed Control, or efforts to modify or influence children's behavior. Three sub-topics were identified: "understanding children's behavior", "discipline" and "other". Forty-two paragraphs in the Control category focused on the sub-topic, "understanding children's behavior". These paragraphs looked at reasons why children misbehave and emphasized the importance of understanding the underlying causes of children's behavior (e.g. feelings, beliefs): " . . . A l l too often, parents deal with their children's symptoms (their problems and misbehavior) without understanding the causes (their beliefs and feelings). Taking time to understand a child's feelings may make a tremendous difference in your approach to a problem—and in your ability to find a solution" (p. 82). Most attention was given to "feelings" as an influence on children's behavior, in particular, feelings which arise as a result of living in a single-parent family: "It's important to help kids deal with their feelings, such as their disappointment about having only one parent, or their anger if there has been a divorce..." (p. 19). Parents were encouraged to make an effort to understand and accept children's feelings by paying attention to children's "nonverbal clues", " . . . A slammed door, a quivering chin, or an inability to sleep at night may be evidence that your child needs to sort through some feelings with you" (p. 25), and by using reflective listening to explore the feelings behind children's behavior, 72 "Reflective listening is the art of listening to, and reflecting back, a child's feelings....Reflective listening does not necessarily mean that the parent is agreeing with the child, but it allows a child to feel understood—something all of us need from time to time—and an opportunity to clarify her own feelings and move on to problem solving" (p. 24). Parents were also urged to model "emotional honesty" for children, thus inspiring children to talk honestly about their own feelings: "As tricky as it can be sometimes, it's best to talk honestly about what you're feeling, especially when the family is going through times of change or stress. Not only does a parent's emotional honesty help children understand what's really happening, it encourages them to express their own feelings honestly as wel l . . . " (p. 29). In addition to feelings, attention was also given to "beliefs" as an influence on children's behavior: " A l l of us, parents and children alike, are active participants (not victims) in the process of deciding things about ourselves, about others, and about life, and our behavior is based on these decisions. Understanding this process—how your children create their beliefs about life and how they fit into their family—is the first step to understanding their behavior. With this understanding, you can encourage your kids—and provide opportunities for them to change their unhealthy beliefs and behaviors" (p. 69). The authors claimed that children's beliefs often lead to four "mistaken goals" of misbehavior-undue attention, power, revenge and assumed disability—and parents were advised to use "guessing" to discover children's hidden beliefs through a process called "goal disclosure": "...When done in a friendly manner goal disclosure can help a child feel understood. Children are not consciously aware of their mistaken goal, and awareness can be the beginning of change...." (p. 78). Discovering children's hidden beliefs was described as an important part of helping children to change their behavior: "When we understand our children's thinking, their beliefs about themselves, about others, and about life, we're in a better position to influence them in positive ways. We're much more effective when we deal with the belief behind the behavior instead of the behavior alone" (p. 71). Thirty-five paragraphs in the Control category focused on the sub-topic, "discipline": 73 "True discipline is not about punishment or control. The word itself comes from the Latin word disciplina, which means 'teaching' or 'learning'. And at its best, discipline is about teaching and guiding, helping young people to make wise decisions about their behavior and to accept responsibility for their choices and actions...." (p. 88). The authors emphasized that for discipline to be effective, parents need to take into account children's abilities and limitations, separate children from their behavior, model mistakes as opportunities to learn, and most importantly, create a foundation of love and closeness: "...The hassles of daily life with our children can seem less bitter and overwhelming when we manage to communicate love in the midst of them. We may find it necessary to use some positive discipline methods when our children have made unfortunate choices, but we can still smile or give an affectionate touch that says, 'You're my child and I still love you'" (p. 187). A number of paragraphs stressed the use of natural and logical consequences as an important part of effective discipline. Parents were urged to let children experience the natural consequences of their actions wherever possible. However, if natural consequences are unsafe, logical consequences, decided in advance by parents and children, may be substituted: "...Using natural and logical consequences is a wonderful way for parents to involve children in the process of discipline by focusing on future behavior, by talking with children about the results—good and bad—of the choices they make, and by setting up, ahead of time, the consequences that are reasonable, respectful, and related to the behavior" (p. 93-94). Although most attention was given non-punitive forms of discipline (e.g. consequences), limited attention was also given to the use of punitive forms of discipline such as lectures, punishment and shaming. The authors warned parents not to use punitive forms of discipline, in particular, spanking, due to the harmful short term and long term effects of punitive discipline on children: "Children who live with punitive forms of discipline frequently learn unintended lessons: to misbehave whenever the enforcer isn't around, to get even whenever possible, or to focus on the 'mean old parent' rather than on the behavior that got them into trouble. Spanking, in particular, presents several hidden problems. It becomes less and less effective over time, and it eventually becomes physically impossible...." (p. 89). 74 Four paragraphs, which did not focus on either understanding children's behavior or discipline, discussed "other" ways to influence children's behavior. For example, parents were advised to use encouragement to promote appropriate behavior in children, "...Be sure to let them know by your encouragement that the appropriate behavior is what you're looking for; make it more fim to behave well than misbehave!" (P- 90), and to plan special time with children, particularly if the single parent is involved in a new dating relationship, "Children need to know that they matter to you, and that they still have access to you even when you're busy or with someone else. If the access isn't planned, they'll take it anyway with constant demands for attention..." (p. 150-151). Rules. Twelve of the paragraphs (10%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents discussed Rules or guidelines for children's behavior. Most attention was given to setting rules for family work or "those tasks that need to be done to keep a home running smoothly and peacefully" (p. 107). The authors encouraged parents to get children involved in family work such as housework and chores by assigning them age-appropriate tasks, "Every member of a family, from the youngest to the oldest, can do something worthwhile. A three-year-old can put napkins at each place at the table; older children can clear away and wash dishes, take out trash, or water plants; teens can help out in a variety of ways...." (p. 107), and by allowing children to help decide family rules and routines, for example, through family meetings, " A great way to get children involved in making a contribution is to invite them to share in the decision making through family meetings. (Single-parent families are still families, you know!)...Children are much more likely to be enthusiastic and motivated to follow decisions that they have helped to make. Let your children help you decide on bedtime routines, morning routines, chore routines, homework routines, planning family-fun events, and anything else it takes to help your family run smoothly" (p. 12-13). Although parents were encouraged to involve children in rule-setting, the authors emphasized that parents should decide in advance which issues will be negotiable and non-negotiable: 75 "And remember: pick your battles carefully. Decide which issues are non-negotiable, and which you can compromise on. Every family will be different. Some parents value church attendance, while it's not important to others. Messy rooms push some parents' buttons while others couldn't care less. Everything can become a battle if we let it. Be sure you save your energy for the things that really matter" (p. 91). Limited attention in the Rules category was also given to rule-setting in the specific situation of the single parent having to leave a child (or children) home alone in order to work or take time for him/herself. The authors noted that if single parents must leave children home alone, they should set specific guidelines for activities allowed and ensure that rules are absolutely clear: "Never simply ask a child if he understands the rules—he'll always tell you he does. Write down the rules you've agreed upon, post them where they can easily be seen, and have your child repeat them to you to check his understanding. If he isn't comfortable with the rules you've agreed upon, don't leave!" (p. 46). Follow-Through. Follow-Through or parent's enforcement of rules or limits was discussed in 12 of the paragraphs (10%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents. The authors described follow-through as requiring, "...that parents decide what they will or won't do in response to a child's choices. Follow-through is appropriate only when a parent is present to carry out his or her decision" (p. 97). Follow-through was noted to help empower children, promote cooperation between parents and children and improve the parent-child relationship: "...follow-through can make parenting pleasurable, magical, and fun. We can see the things kids do as cute, adorable, and normal instead of lazy, inconsiderate, and irresponsible" (p. 102). The majority of paragraphs in this category focused on how to provide effective follow-through. Parents were urged to be consistent in providing follow-through, to use "kind and firm action", and to take into account children's developmental age and stage: "When children are young, follow-through is simple. When you say something, mean it. When you mean it, follow through with kindness and firmness...." (p. 97); 76 "Follow-through is more effective with older kids when they're involved in some preliminary preparation..." (p. 98). Self-Esteem. Seven of the paragraphs (6%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents discussed self-esteem: "Everyone agrees that it's critical for children to have a healthy sense of self-esteem: believing in themselves and in their intrinsic worth is what gives children the courage to try new things, to take risks, and to resist peer pressure..." (p. 123). Most attention was focused on ways to build children's self-esteem, for example, using encouragement to foster a sense of "belonging and significance" in children: "...Encouragement is probably the single most powerful tool in building self-esteem—and all too often it's one we forget to use. Take time to notice when your children do what they're supposed to; tell them you appreciate their cooperation, their good behavior, their sharing, their cheerful smiles. Thank them with a smile for the four tasks they completed after school, and wait until later to remind them about the one they forgot...." (p. 125-126). Parental modeling and communicating acceptance of children were also cited as important tools in building children's self esteem: "Above all, let them know you love and value them for exactly who they are, differences and special qualities included. The pressure to go along with the majority is overwhelming enough as it is. It takes patience and perseverance, but teaching our children to value their own uniqueness just may be the thing that sets them off on the road to a creative and productive life" (p. 43). Skills. Seven of the paragraphs (6%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents looked at teaching children specific skills, in particular, responsibility: "Being a single parent provides an extra incentive to enlist children in shared . responsibility. When parents do too much for children, to 'make up' for the fact that they have only one parent, the children don't have a chance to develop responsibility, initiative, and new skills....Rather than worrying about the deprivation your children may suffer because you are single, concentrate on giving them a positive outlook and important life skills" (p. 12). The authors also stressed the importance of teaching children problem-solving skills as a way to help children resolve conflict: 77 "It's important to teach problem-solving skills, too; children aren't born knowing how to resolve an argument....While ignoring sibling rivalry may work if the argument is intended to get your attention (remember the mistaken goals?), an arguing between children may continue indefinitely if children haven't been taught how to solve a problem or how to reach a compromise...." (p. 91-92). Limits. A small number of the paragraphs (3, or 2%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents discussed Limits or boundaries. Al l 3 paragraphs referred to the "blurring" of parent-child boundaries which can occur in single-parent families and emphasized the importance of maintaining healthy parent-child boundaries: "...Single parents often focus a huge amount of their time and energy on their children. They may be struggling with the transition from being part of a couple to being single. They may be feeling lonely and afraid. They may be worried about—and trying to compensate for—the effects on their children of growing up in a single-parent family. And because they love their children, they sometimes become over-involved in their lives, blurring the healthy parent-child boundaries, and becoming enmeshed" (p. 116-117). Behavioral Expectations. An even smaller number of the paragraphs (2, or 1%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents examined Behavioral Expectations or parent's expectations for children's behavior. Both paragraphs stressed the importance of keeping expectations developmentally appropriate and specific to each individual child's capabilities and personality: "It's always helpful to understand a child's (or.a teenager's) development, and to know what they are and are not capable of at each age. It helps simply to know your own child. Some children enjoy airplane trips and need little preparation or planning, while others are afraid or overly energetic and need much more help finding acceptable ways to keep busy" (p. 91). Parenting Style. Two of the paragraphs (1%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents Parent's looked at parenting style. The authors emphasized that although single parents do not face the "battles" that parents in two-parent families may experience when deciding how to parent, single parents still need to explore their approach to parenting and achieve a "balance" between the two extremes of strict "control" and "permissiveness": 78 "...In fact, children respond best to something in between [control and permissiveness], known as firmness with dignity and respect— something a single parent can provide quite effectively" (p. 9). Evaluation of Content on Structure The 126 paragraphs on structure in Positive Discipline for Single Parents were evaluated according to the following five criteria— Source, Context, Complexity, Tone and Theory. Source. The great majority of the paragraphs on structure (117, or 93%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents did not include any citation of a source. Of the 9 paragraphs (7%) where a source was cited, reference was made most often to specific books and/or authors, for example, "Rudolf Dreikurs, author of Children: The Challenge". In a paragraph examining parent's expectations for children, the authors stated, "Rudolf Dreikurs spoke often of having 'the courage to be imperfect.' This means recognizing that all of us—parents and children alike—make mistakes, and that expecting perfection will only lead to disappointment...." (p. 124). The authors quoted Dreikurs as having said, "shut your mouth and act" regarding follow-through with young children and credited Dreikurs for the procedure of "goal disclosure" which they advised parents to use to discover the hidden beliefs behind children's behavior. Reference was also made to other books by Jane Nelsen (one of the authors of Positive Discipline for Single Parents), including, Positive Discipline (Nelsen, 1981) and I'm On Your Side: Resolving Conflicts with Your Teenage Son or Daughter (Nelsen & Lott, 1991). In two paragraphs, reference was made to a "media" source, specifically, " A recent segment of the A B C television news show '20/20' [which] took a close look at spanking...." (p. 88). The authors described certain details of the news show including the number of families studied and the procedure followed: "...Four families in which children are regularly spanked allowed the television cameras to follow them around and to record the parents' encounters with their misbehaving children..." (p. 88-89). The show's findings were also described: 79 "...Perhaps more important, the show found that spanking and similar punishments produce children who have lower self-esteem, who may seek out abusive relationships, and who consider violence an acceptable way to solve problems—results that these parents, who certainly loved their children, obviously didn't intend" (p. 89). However, despite attention to the show's methods and results, other important information such as the date the show aired as well as specific characteristics of the families studied (e.g. family type, number of children) were not included. Context. In 25 of the paragraphs (20%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents, the information was presented in the context of the single-parent family. For example, referring to the importance of maintaining healthy parent-child boundaries in the single-parent family, the authors stated, "...It's natural for a single parent to want someone to lean on, someone to share the responsibilities of keeping this new kind of family together. But children are still children, and the weight of being the 'little man' or the 'littler woman' can be far too heavy for their young shoulders" (p. 105-106). Other examples of attention to context include: "...'Failure' in the form of death or divorce is devastating, and children often blame themselves for it. Rebuilding your children's self-esteem and sense of worth may seem like a huge task when your own is heavily damaged. How do we go about healing self-esteem? Where do we begin?" (p. 122-123), and, "One important way of creating a spirit of teamwork and cooperation is the family meeting. It doesn't matter whether your family consists of one parent and one child or one parent and several children—you're a family and family meetings will strengthen your family team" (p. 107). However, despite the focus of this book on "single parents", in over three-quarters of the paragraphs (101, or 80%), the information was not presented in the context of the single-parent family. For example, much of the information on discipline did not appear to be directed specifically toward single parents: 80 " A l l parents must eventually ask themselves what they believe about discipline. If we believe that we are responsible for our children's behavior, that misbehavior deserves to be punished, and that children must suffer in order to learn, we'll find ourselves relying on spanking, grounding, and, all too often, a lot of anger..." (p. 88); "Parents often believe in the necessity of controlling their children, failing to realize that total control is not only unwise, it's rarely even possible—especially when children have grown too large to be physically moved and confined. Relying on control and the power of punishment turns parents into policemen, full-time enforcers who set the rules and then watch constantly for violations..." (p. 87). Complexity. In the majority of the paragraphs (108, or 86%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents, the information was oversimplified and did not reflect the complexity of parenting. For example, in many of the paragraphs which looked at reasons why children misbehave, individual differences in children were largely ignored: "Our children's behavior—good, bad, and indifferent—doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's a result of the way they're feeling about themselves, about us, and about their place in life. Misbehavior can be annoying and irritating, but understanding these feelings—and the code your children use to communicate them to you—may be all you need to solve the problem. Children who feel encouraged, loved, and worthwhile have less need to misbehave. And isn't that what we're really after?" (p. 71); "Children are not consciously aware of these beliefs, nor do they know that their misbehavior is a way of telling us they're discouraged. It's not important that they know. It is important that parents realize there is a belief behind every behavior" (p. 67). However, in the 18 paragraphs (14%) which reflected complexity, attention was given to individual differences in parents and children. For example, it was noted that parents should take into account children's development and unique personality in their attempts to discipline: "...a large part of effective discipline will be focused on creating an atmosphere of cooperation, taking into account children's abilities and limitations..." (p. 89). The authors also acknowledged that not all single-parent families are alike-single-parent families may be formed through "death, divorce, or perceived abandonment" (p. 122). 81 Tone. Most of the paragraphs (79, or 63%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents were neutral in tone. For example, in many of the paragraphs centered around understanding children's misbehavior, the information presented to parents was straightforward, with no emotional language used: "...Too often we forget that there's a difference between feelings and actions. We try to talk kids out of their feelings, or just plain tell them, 'You shouldn't feel that way.' Sometimes we try and rescue them, or to fix things, so they won't have to experience their feelings" (p. 82). However, other paragraphs, in particular, paragraphs which looked at rule-setting, were positive in tone (30, or 24%). For example, using family meetings to help negotiate rules and routines was cited as, "...an excellent way to solve typical problems such as hassles over chores, [and] family meetings allow children to feel needed..." (p. 13). Doing family work together was also noted to be a positive experience for both parents and children: "...Believe it or not, most children react with enthusiasm when they're given opportunities to be valued contributors to their family. Being part of the team, especially when it's approached with love, humor, and respect, can be a wonderfully empowering and encouraging experience for parent and child alike" (p. 106-107). A small number of paragraphs (17, or 13%) were negative in tone. For example, punishment was described as leading to serious, deleterious effects on children and irreparable damage to the parent-child relationship: "We may be fooled into thinking our methods are working when we punish a child for a certain behavior and the behavior stops. Sometimes, though, we need to beware of what works. Suppose you've punished a child for 'talking back' and she stops talking back. It may appear that the punishment has worked. What you may not know is that she's feeling hurt and confused; she's thinking you're unfair and don't really care about her; and she's deciding that you can make her stop talking back, but you can't make her do well in school. The long-range effect of 'what worked' is revenge. You've just won one battle—and changed the direction of the entire war" (p. 75-76). 82 Theory. Elements of systems theory were reflected in just over two-thirds of the paragraphs (88, or 70%) in Positive Discipline for Single Parents. For example, systems theory concepts such as rules and boundaries were discussed, "...Make some family rules on picking up toys and clothes, and enforce the rules you set...." (p. 41), and much of information portrayed a bi-directional relationship between parents and children, "The first step [in understanding children's mistaken goals] is to identify the way the misbehavior makes you feel....The second clue comes from noticing your child's response to your usual ways of dealing with his misbehavior. If your child's mistaken goal is power, for example, and you use power to respond, the misbehavior will escalate...." (p. 71). However, in nearly one-third of the paragraphs (38, or 30%), elements of systems theory were not reflected. For example, many of the paragraphs on follow-through failed to acknowledge a bi-directional relationship between parents and children: "When a difficult situation arises, decide what you will do instead of what you'll make your children do. Trying to make children do something often invites power struggles....It's important to follow through with kindness and firmness..." (p. 151). Summary In summary, Positive Discipline for Single Parents, focussed primarily on the Control component of structure, in particular on the subtopics of "understanding children's behavior" and "discipline". More limited attention was given to Rules, Follow-Through, Self-Esteem and Skills. Three other components of structure—Limits, Behavioral Expectations and Parenting Style-received only brief mention. The source of the information was rarely cited and less than one-third of the paragraphs presented information in the context of the single-parent family. The majority of the paragraphs did not reflect complexity and failed to acknowledge individual differences in parents and children. Most of the paragraphs were neutral in tone, however, nearly one-third were positive, and a relatively small number were negative in tone. Elements of systems theory were reflected in just over two-thirds of the paragraphs. 83 C a s e Study #4 Keys to Single Parenting (1996) Keys to Single Parenting was written by Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D. Pickhardt gathered material for this book from three sources: ten years of writing columns for The Single Parent Magazine, conducting numerous parenting workshops; and counseling single parents in his private practice as a psychologist. The purpose of this book is to assist single parents "in the important work they do" (p. viii). This book is divided into ten parts (181 pages), each focusing on a different aspect of life in a single-parent family. Parts 1 and 2 describe the process of transition into single-parent life. Parts 3 and 4 discuss how single parents can organize their new single-parent family. Parts 5 and 6 examine adolescence and changing parent-child interaction. Part 7 looks at the single-parent's role in children's learning and the impact of the educational system. The final three parts address the challenges of specific single-parent family circumstances including single-parent families formed through divorce, death and abandonment. This book also includes a list of commonly asked questions as well as suggestions for further readings and the names of several single-parent support groups. The Nature of Content on Structure A total of 147 paragraphs on structure were found in Keys to Single Parenting. The majority of these paragraphs were in Part 4, "Getting the Family Organized" (41 paragraphs), followed by Part 2, "The Child's Recovery" (33 paragraphs), Part 6, "Single Parenting and the Adolescent" (29 paragraphs) and Part 5, "Family Membership" (24 paragraphs). Less than ten paragraphs each were found in four of the remaining six parts, with no paragraphs found in Part 7, "Dealing with School" and Part 10, "The Abandoned Single Parent". As outlined below, the 147 paragraphs addressed 5 categories of structure. Four of these categories (Control, Rules, Limits and Behavioral Expectations) had been deductively identified prior to analysis. One new category (Skills) was also identified. Outline of Content on Structure Control (N=103, 70%): understanding children's behavior (n=76) asserting authority (n=19) other(n=8) Skills (N=22, 15%) Rules (N= 13, 9%) Limits (N=6, 4%) Behavioral Expectations (N=3, 2%) Control. Over two-thirds of the paragraphs (103, or 70%) in Keys to Single Parenting discussed Control, or efforts to modify or influence children's behavior. Three sub-topics were identified: "understanding children's behavior", "asserting authority" and "other". The majority of the paragraphs in this category (n=76) focused on the sub-topic, "understanding children's behavior". These paragraphs explored reasons why children behave as they do (e.g. adjustment to the single-parent family, developmental age and stage) and looked closely at the underlying causes of children's misbehavior. Most attention was given to children's adjustment to living in a single-parent family. Pickhardt noted that children often exhibit "protest" and "resistance" behaviors in the early stages of transition into single-parent family life: "Through protest, children ventilate their hurts and angers over what has been lost. Through resistance, they oppose adjustments demanded by the new family situation. Both protest and resistance responses are natural parts of children's adjustment to a change they didn't anticipate, do not want, but must eventually accept" (p. 15). Pickhardt emphasized that children who experience the loss of a parent may behave in ways that the single-parent does not approve: 85 "Loss of a parent, whether through death, divorce or abandonment, is experienced by children as a loss of power. Either impersonal fate or parental choice, neither of which children control, has drastically altered their lives. In response, they often want to compensate by getting control back, reasserting power in some ways the single parent can support, but in other ways he or she must oppose" (p. 28). Although children's behavior improves over time, there are a number of things that parents can do to ease children's adjustment to life in a single-parent family and positively influence their behavior in the process. Pickhardt encouraged parents to regularly invite children to talk about their feelings, "Helpfully listening to these emotions [worry, grief] requires the single parent to exercise some self-restraint by not interrupting, not correcting, not criticizing, and not trying to fix hurt feelings that are being expressed. Listening conveys acceptance of the pain...." (p. 16), and to model appropriate expression of emotions, in particular, anger, "Typically, the management of anger is learned in one's family of origin through how that emotion is modeled, encouraged, and allowed by the adults in charge. Because single parents are creating the family of origin for their children, as fathers and mothers they need to example and instruct how anger can be usefully expressed so their children can learn to manage anger well...." (p. 11). Significant attention was also given to children's development as an influence on children's behavior. Pickhardt singled out adolescence as being a particularly trying time for parents: "...living with the adolescent feels different than living with the child. Whereas the child may have been loving, obedient, hard working, and helpful, the adolescent tends to be more resistant, uncooperative, unmotivated, and moody... (p. 91). He described characteristic behaviors in three stages of adolescence: early adolescence (ages 9 to 13), mid-adolescence (ages 13 to 16), and, late adolescence (ages 16 to 19) and emphasized that normal behavior during adolescence may become "intensified" in children of divorce: 86 "...Divorce tends to intensify adolescence. It can drive many normal tendencies of growth at this stage to extremes. The sense of grievance, the negativity, the resistance, the early experimentation, the preoccupation with friends, the lack of communication at home, and the push for freedom can all become more pronounced. At this time of life, contrast (asserting differences from childhood and parents), opposition (testing and contesting authority), and independence (seeking social freedom from family) are leading themes in the child's growth. The single parent needs to anticipate that divorce may cause these themes to be more strongly played than if the marriage had remained happily intact" (p. 28-29). Adolescents who lose a parent due to death may also experience difficulties, particularly in their relationships with others: "When the death of a parent coincides with a child's adolescence, this event may also cause teenagers to distance themselves from caring relationships. Fears of mortality can get in the way.. ." (p. 24). Pickhardt also examined the impact of birth-order on children's behavior. Birth-order effects arise out of a complex interaction between children and parents. Parents who treat children differently depending on their place in the family may reinforce certain behaviors in children and fuel conflict between siblings: "...Initially accustomed to the ease of parenting Child Number One, parents find Number Two much more demanding and less rewarding to raise. 'Our hard child' is how they come to describe Number Two, wondering what is wrong with him or her, sometimes growing tired of dealing with the constant difficulty. At their most exhausted, they may even blame the hard child for not being as easy as the other son or daughter" (p. 77). Parents were advised to avoid comparing siblings due to the negative effects of such comparisons on children's behavior. "Once this comparison is fixed in the mind of the parent and in the hearts of the children, dehumanizing forces are set in motion. The good child may become determined to live on best behavior, fearing anything less might injure reputation in the family... As for the bad child, he or she may become even more determined to live on worst behavior. Having given up the possibility of ever pleasing or succeeding, the bad child may resolve to live defiantly on his or her angry terms (p. 78). Nineteen paragraphs in the Control category focused on the sub-topic, "asserting authority": 87 "...For single parents, with no co-parent to back them up, asserting authority can require courage.... Although children may resent this imposition of authority at the moment, and treat the parent more as an enemy than a friend, over time a firm and well-intentioned authority conveys love, creates security, and engenders respect...." (p. 55), Pickhardt described four ways to "encourage the child's consent to go along with their [single parents] authority": 1) guidance; 2) supervision; 3) structure; and, 4) exchange points. The first way for single parents to assert authority is through "guidance": "...guidance means providing children with a stream of feedback about their conduct, a running commentary on which of their decisions are working well, and which are not. Persistent parents never shut up. They explain, they evaluate, and they editorialize to keep the child aware of their caring point of view...." (p. 55-56). Asserting authority also involves "supervision", "...Supervision is nagging, and nagging is honorable work. It needs to be done. Unhappily, it is also the drudge work of parenting, The child doesn't like receiving it, and parents don't like doing it...." (p. 56). as well as "structure" which is the "power of punishment", "...structure describes the boundaries of allowable behavior. When children breach those boundaries, consequences (punishments) are applied. Sometimes natural consequences can occur...Other times, however, parents must devise adverse consequences where no natural ones exist. These consequences can catch the children's attention, thereby causing them to rethink what they have done, and encourage them back into the range of acceptable conduct" (p. 57). Although Pickhardt noted that parents should not use physical punishment (e.g. spanking, whipping, hitting) as a consequence due to the negative effects of such punishment on children, he advocated the use of other punishments including "deprivation" (restricting the child's freedom of movement or use) and "reparation" (working off the offense). Pickhardt also encouraged parents to set up a process of "exchange points": "Working the exchange points exploits the child's dependency on parents for various permissions, services, and resources they control....After the child performs for the parent, the parent will perform for the child. Good parents insist on adequate exchange" (p. 58-59). 88 The remaining eight paragraphs discussed "other" ways to influence children's behavior and stressed the importance for parents to have "patience" and "perspective" in dealing with children's misbehavior, "The truth is, every child needs freedom to be both good and bad, to express and integrate their positive and negative sides. Therefore, to the extremely good child it may be helpful to explain: 'Everybody sometimes misbehaves, and that's okay. I'm certainly not perfect all the time. But you keep loving me when I mess up, and that is just the way I would keep on loving you.' As to the child who seems to thrive on being bad, a parent can appreciate the positive when it occurs and affirm the good...." (p. 78-79), and to avoid overreacting to problems, "Although parents are usually giving voice to frustration, what the child hears can feel like an indictment, another problem to add to the one he or she already has...." (p. 47). Skills. Fifteen percent of the paragraphs (N=22) in Keys to Single Parenting looked at teaching children skills (e.g. responsibility, mutuality and communication). Most attention in the Skills category was given to teaching children responsibility, defined as "the power of self-sufficiency". Pickhardt noted that teaching children responsibility may be particularly important in single-parent families: "Because single parenting is so demanding, training children to early responsibility becomes important. Teaching children to operate independently at home by becoming self-regulated eases the single parent's load...." (p. 62). Responsibility encourages independence in children and prepares children for adulthood. Deciding when to begin teaching children responsibility will depend on children's age and parent's assessment of children's readiness to acquire self-sufficiency. Responsibilities should increase as children grow older and parents must eventually give children the freedom to experience the consequences (good and bad) of their decisions: 89 "...Growing into responsibility inevitably entails risk. No matter how well prepared, undertaking what one has not done before usually requires some learning of the trial and error kind. Having chosen foolishly, the child must be held accountable for the decisions he or she has made. Figuring out how to recover from painful consequences helps the child learn to better handle that situation responsibly the next time it arises. After all, the child doesn't want to experience that pain again" (p. 61-62). According to Pickhardt, parents must also teach children skills of "mutuality" or how to act in relationships with others: "...Somewhere between the extremes of total denial of self (subservience to others) and total indulgence of self (exploitation of others) is a middle way where the needs of the self and others in relationships are both respected. Learning this definition is important for children both now and later. If mutuality is learned when children are young, then they carry this interpersonal habit into significant partnerships when they are older. If not, they are at risk of acting so self-sacrificing or so self-centering it will be to the costs of those later relationships. How the child is taught to act is how the adult comes to behave later" (p. 69). Teaching children mutuality involves reciprocity, "...reciprocity, means learning to maintain a working exchange so that giving and receiving benefits in the parent/child relationship goes two ways. The parent gives and the child gives in return...." (p. 70), compromise, "...Children need help learning this principle of compromise. In order to get some of their way, they have to give up some of their way. Most important, they must accept that some is enough..." (p. 70), and, sensitivity, "...Single parents need to take a stand for sensitivity. Attacking other members where they hurt in order to get one's way, to get even, or to poke harmful fun is not allowed...." (p. 71). A small number of paragraphs also looked at teaching children communication skills. Pickhardt emphasized that parents should model "speaking up" and should create a family environment where children feel safe to express their wants and needs: 90 "The legacy of learning to speak up in one's family of origin is that children will feel comfortable being socially outspoken in their peer and later adult relationships. They will be empowered to use communication to assert their needs and wants, and to defend their limits. Unhappily, the opposite legacy may afflict those children who grow up in a family where speaking up is not modeled, valued, or safe. They acquire a different set of skills: shutting up..." (p. 52-53). Rules. Thirteen of the paragraphs (9%) in Keys to Single Parenting discussed Rules or guidelines for children's behavior. Most attention in this category was given to helping children who have experienced parental separation or divorce adjust to different rules in different households: "...they [children] may try to exploit differences between households to their advantage. 'If I'm allowed to stay up late and watch T V over there, why can't I do that over here?' The child is simply trying to import freedom permitted in one home back into the other. In response, the single parent needs to have an answer to this ploy. 'Now you have to live by two sets of family rules, not just by one. There will be differences between the households, and the inconsistencies will take some getting used to. On visitation, you do things their way. At home, you do them mine.'" (p. 29). Pickhardt stressed that although children may experience some difficulty in adjusting to "different degrees of freedom" between different households, custodial parents, in particularly, can make the transition easier by establishing "fixed schedules and routines", "Besides rituals, routines can also help quell fears. A predictable organization of daily life becomes supportive. Knowing what structure to expect when living with the custodial parent and knowing the schedule of visitation with a noncustodial mother or father provide security on which the child can depend...." (P- 23), and by "firmly asserting the rules and routines that govern their household", ". . .As a consequence of the child pushing for change, and the custodial parent enforcing the status quo, some conflict may occur immediately following reentry from a visitation. Fortunately, after some initial testing and complaint, children usually accept that they are back home where 'business as usual' applies... " (p. 137). Limited attention was also given to rule-setting during the period of adolescence. Pickhardt cautioned parents that adolescence is characterized by rebellion against parental rules. 91 He encouraged single parents to stand firm on the rules they set, especially when rules help keep teenagers safe from harm: "Parental popularity with the teenager at this critical period is not the issue. The teenager's safety is what matters. Whenever parents are in doubt about what the teenager is saying or wanting to do, delay and think, question andfind out, check and verify, search and discover, push for what's right, andfeel free to say 'no (p. 100). Limits. A small number of the paragraphs (6, or 4%) in Keys to Single Parenting examined Limits or boundaries. Pickhardt looked specifically at television and stressed the importance of setting limits on children's television viewing: "...Make sure what it [television] says is within the bounds of what is considered appropriate for children to see and hear, and don't let it interfere with everyone else's communication... " (p. 86). Pickhardt also noted that boundaries between single parents and children, in particular, single parents and only children, may become blurred. Thus, it is especially important for single parents to avoid treating children as their "emotional confidante" and to work to maintain a healthy parent-children relationship: "Because stressful times are inevitable for the single parent struggling to make ends meet, work problems out, and hold the family together, he or she needs someone to listen who will understand. And although it is important for children to be told when the parent is feeling upset and why (so they do not jump to false conclusions or wrongly implicate themselves), they should not serve in the role of major emotional confidante. If this occurs, the relationship becomes unhealthy. The roles start to reverse...." (p. 45). Behavioral Expectations. An even smaller number of the paragraphs (3, or 2%) in Keys to Single Parenting looked at Behavioral Expectations or parent's expectations for children's behavior. Pickhardt noted that single parents may have heightened expectations of children, particularly only children, "In this intensified relationship, it is easy for expectations of conduct and achievement to become exaggerated...." (p. 72), and emphasized that parent's should not expect "perfection", 92 "It is best to allow the child imperfection, expecting him or her to create and encounter problems when impulse betrays, choice miscarries, or unforeseen difficulties arise. When single parents can keep this perspective, they don't overreact and make recovery from inevitable problems more difficult... " (p. 47). Evaluation of Content on Structure The 147 paragraphs on structure in Keys to Single Parenting were evaluated according to the following five criteria— Source, Context, Complexity, Tone and Theory. Source. Although not one of the 147 paragraphs on structure in Keys to Single Parenting included any citation of a source, Pickhardt stated on the inside front cover of the book, "The material in this book is drawn from three sources: ten years of writing columns for The Single Parent Magazine, conducting numerous parenting workshops; and counseling many single parents in my private practice as a psychologist". Context. Although the focus of this book is on "single parenting", only slightly more than half of the paragraphs (79, or 54%) in Keys to Single Parenting presented information in the context of the single-parent family. For example, many of the paragraphs concerned with understanding children's behavior looked closely at feelings which arise as parents and children adjust to life in a single-parent family: "The child's recurrent complaints require parental understanding about the importance of repeated grieving when working through a loss....The single parent may find it difficult to see repetition as a path of progress, but progress it is" (p. 20). In addition, much of the information on rules focused on helping children adjust to different rules in different households. This information was specifically directed toward parents in single-parent families formed through separation or divorce: "Custodial parents, however, need to adhere to the family structure they have created, firmly asserting the rules and routines that govern their household. As a consequence of the child pushing for change, and the custodial parent enforcing the status quo, some conflict may occur immediately following reentry from a visitation..." (p. 137). 93 However, in 68 paragraphs (46%), particularly in paragraphs which looked at parental assertion of authority to gain compliance from children, the information did not appear to be specific to single parents and was not presented in the context of the single-parent family. For example, referring to the what it means to "assert authority" with children, Pickhardt stated, "To assert authority does not mean parents have to become harshly authoritarian, only that they must be willing to back up the beliefs they hold and the needs they have by the stands they take. They don't have to arouse fear or inflict harm, but they do need to be willing to put their popularity at risk, sometimes sacrificing being liked now for being respected later" (p. 59). Complexity. In the majority of the paragraphs (121, or 82%) in Keys to Single Parenting, the information was oversimplified and did not reflect the complexity of parenting. For example, very few of the paragraphs which focussed on teaching children skills acknowledged individual differences in children's ability to learn: "...single parents should model the manner of speech they want children to learn, and monitor family communication to keep it within bounds of consideration and respect. To remain adequately connected and sufficiently defined, however, each family member must be given the freedom, and take the responsibility, for speaking up on his or her behalf. The need to know and the need to be known are at stake" (p. 53). In addition, although Pickhardt looked closely at the period of adolescence, he portrayed teenagers as all alike in their development and behavior: "...The adolescent knows how he or she doesn't want to be, but has no clear idea of a positive image to happily inhabit....Opposed to the old definition, opposed to the old way of being treated, the adolescent becomes more oppositional to live with" (p. 93). In only 26 paragraphs (18%), did the information reflect the complexity of parenting. For example, Pickhardt acknowledged that not all single-parent families are formed in the same ways— some of are formed through "spousal death, divorce, or abandonment". He also noted that children in similar situations may not necessarily react in exactly the same ways. Referring to children's reactions to parental death, Pickhardt stated, "Readiness to mourn will vary among children Some begin right away to inventory their losses. Other children delay the experience of pain by denying feelings, or by acting them out through aggression (hostility), regression (insecurity), or depression (helplessness)...." (p. 147). Tone. In just over half of the paragraphs (81, or 55%) in Keys to Single Parenting the information was neutral in tone. For example, in most of the paragraphs which looked at teaching children skills such as responsibility, the information was presented in a straightforward manner, with no emotional language used: "...The best insurance against repeating a bad choice later is learning from a bad choice now. There are two major safeguards for children growing up. The self-protection parents can influence is responsibility. The one they cannot is luck. Given this reality, they should support development of all the responsibility they can" (p. 62). Of the remaining paragraphs, significantly more were negative (48, or 33%), than positive (18, or 12%) in tone. For example, the use of physical punishment was noted to lead to problems in the parent-child relationship and negatively effect children's relationships with others outside of the family: "...In the worst case, when anger carries physical punishment to extremes—parents spanking, whipping, or hitting to relieve personal frustration or to show the child 'Who's Boss,'~the lesson learned is not caring correction, but abuse" (p. 57). However, making the effort to understand children's feelings was described as a positive step in helping children adjust to life in a single-parent family after divorce: "Just because the single parent had the power to initiate divorce, thereby causing the children pain, doesn't mean he or she has the power to heal that pain...Only the child can heal himself or herself. At most, the single parent can help the child by patiently listening and by exploring the positive possibilities that family change has created" (p. 20-21). Theory. In just under two-thirds of the paragraphs (93, or 63%) in Keys to Single Parenting, the information did not reflect elements of systems theory. For example, in paragraphs looking at parent's assertion of authority, the relationship between parents and children was portrayed as uni-directional, with parents exerting control over children: 95 " A child learns parental values by instruction, by example, and from stands the father or mother takes by exercising authority. If after requesting, reasoning, and explaining what should or should not occur, a parent still finds that the child is reluctant to conform (to fit in) or comply (to go along), then authority may need to be asserted...." (p. 54). The information in 54 paragraphs (37%), however, did reflect elements of systems theory. For example, in paragraphs which examined birth-order effects on children's behavior, the relationship between parents and children was noted to be bi-directional. Parents tend to treat children differently depending on children's birth order which in turn contributes to certain behaviors in children. These behaviors then reinforce parent's treatment of children and the cycle continues. Birth order also has a strong effect on the relationship between siblings in the sibling subsystem: "Then, a mutual resentment builds between the two children. The bad child sees the good one as the family favorite, being better treated and better loved. The good child sees the bad sibling as the family focus, claiming much more parental attention, and being unfairly given special allowances and second chances for doing wrong. Envy of each other fuels the conflict between them" (p. 78). Summary In summary, Keys to Single Parenting, focussed primarily on the Control component of structure, in particular on the subtopic of "understanding children's behavior". Limited attention in the Control category was also given to the sub-topic of "asserting authority". The categories of Skills and Rules also received limited attention. Few paragraphs discussed Limits and Behavioral Expectations. None of the paragraphs included any citation of a source and just over one-half of the paragraphs presented information in the context of the single-parent family. The majority of the paragraphs did not reflect complexity and failed to acknowledge individual differences in parents and children. Just over one-half of the paragraphs were neutral in tone, and of the remaining paragraphs, significantly more were negative than positive in tone. Elements of systems theory were reflected in just over one-third of the paragraphs. 96 Case Study #5 Positive Discipline for Blended Families: Nurturing Harmony, Respect, and Unity in Your New Stepfamily (1997) Positive Discipline for Blended Families: Nurturing Harmony, Respect, and Unity in Your New Stepfamily (referred to from now on as Positive Discipline for Blended Families), was written by Jane Nelsen (a parent educator and marriage, family and child therapist), Cheryl Erwin (a single parent and marriage and family therapist) and H. Stephen Glenn (a stepparent and family psychologist). Based in part on the authors' "own mistakes as parents and as partners" (p. 184), this book was written to assist parents in building a successful blended family: It is the goal of this book~and the hope of its authors-that those who contemplate forming a blended family (and those already part of one) will discover ways to identify potential pitfalls and gain skills to avoid them. We hope that you will find real solutions to real problems, (p. x) The authors contend that stepparents and stepchildren can learn to "live together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and dignity" (p. xi) with "education, thoughtful planning, good communication skills, patience and commitment" (p. xi). This book consists of 14 chapters (192 pages) on a wide range of topics including "Dispelling the Myths and Fantasies about Blended Families", "Breaking Down the Walls: Feelings and the Art of Communication" and "Understanding Behavior: The Mistaken Goals in the Blended Family". It is one of a series of "Positive Discipline" books (e.g. Positive Discipline for Preschoolers, Positive Discipline for Parenting in Recovery) and includes a list of similar books, tapes and videos. The Nature of Content on Structure A total of 148 paragraphs on structure were found in Positive Discipline for Blended Families. The majority of these paragraphs were in Chapter 8, "Discipline in the Blended Family" (50 paragraphs), followed by Chapters 5 and 9, "Enter the Children" and "Building 97 Belonging: The Magic of Encouragement" (18 paragraphs each). In three chapters (Chapter 2, "What Exactly Is a Blended Family"; Chapter 3, "The New Couple: The Foundation of the Blended Family"; Chapter 14, "Tying It Al l Together: Building a New Family Identity"), no content on structure was found. As outlined below, the 148 paragraphs addressed 7 categories of structure. Four of these categories (Control, Rules, Behavioral Expectations and Follow-Through) had been deductively identified prior to analysis. Three other categories (Self-Esteem, Parenting Style and Skills) were also identified. Outline of Content on Structure Control (N=96, 65%); understanding children's behavior (n=51) discipline (n=43) other (n=2) Rules (N=16, 11%) Self-Esteem (N=12, 8%) Behavioral Expectations (N=l 1, 7%) Parenting Style (N=6, 4%) Skills (N=4, 3%) Follow-Through (N=3, 2%) Control. The great majority of the paragraphs on structure (96, or 65%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families discussed Control, or efforts to modify or influence children's behavior. Three sub-topics were identified: "understanding children's behavior", "discipline" and "other". The largest number of paragraphs in the Control category (n=51) focused on the sub-topic, "understanding children's behavior". These paragraphs looked at reasons why children misbehave and emphasized the importance of understanding the underlying causes of children's behavior (e.g. feelings, beliefs, developmental age and personality): 98 "The first step, though [in dealing with misbehavior], is always understanding. Make an effort to get into your child's world. Consider his developmental stage and his personality. Look at the world as your child perceives it, and check your own feelings and responses. Break the code, and see if you can discover your child's mistaken goal. If you can, you will be well on your way to handling misbehavior in a way that builds trust, understanding, and respect" (p. 130). Most attention was given to "feelings" as an influence on children's behavior, in particular, feelings which arise as parents and children adjust to living in a new blended family: "...But a number of emotions are common to members of blended families. Most adults (and most children) must deal with feelings of grief and loss. They usually experience jealousy, insecurity, or anger at times. And behavior—both children's and adults'—is often a plea to have those feelings recognized and understood" (p. 84). The authors encouraged parents to make an effort to understand children's feelings, and to help children "sort out" their feelings by using reflective listening, "Notice that reflective listening does not require that you agree with feelings or that you accept poor behavior. It simply provides a foothold of understanding and respect so that the people we love and live with (both adults and children) feel heard and can move on to cooperation and problem solving...." (p. 87), and by modeling appropriate expression of emotions, "It may be helpful to remember that, as with so many other things in life, children learn best by watching their adult role models. If you deal with anger by yelling, it shouldn't surprise you if your children yell, too. On the other hand, expressing what you feel in helpful ways will not only reduce the chance of conflict, it will provide children with a wonderful example of how to deal with emotions appropriately" (p. 88). Attention was also given to the influence of "beliefs" on children's behavior: "...Perhaps the most important part of dealing with a child's misbehavior is remembering that there is always a belief behind the behavior. We will be more effective parents when we can learn to change a child's perception of his world— his beliefs about himself and others—rather than just trying to change the behavior itself (p. 124). The authors claimed that children's beliefs often lead to four "mistaken goals" of misbehavior-undue attention, power, revenge and inadequacy—and they discussed three "clues" to help parents discover children's hidden beliefs: 99 "Parents can 'break the code' of a child's misbehavior by looking at three clues— your feelings, your reactions, and the child's response...." (p. 125). It was also noted that children's behavior can be influenced by their "unique development and personality". Parents and stepparents were cautioned to keep in mind that not all children's behavior is a result of adjusting to life in a blended family—some of children's behavior may actually be quite "normal" or developmentally appropriate: "Some of what your children are doing is certainly due to adjustments you all must make to be part of a blended family, but some behavior occurs just because they're at 'that age' or because they have the same needs and feelings that all children do...." (p. 120), The authors acknowledged, however, that blending families might entail certain adjustments, for example, re-arrangements in birth-order, which may influence children's behavior: "While birth order is certainly not a reliable predictor of a child's abilities or behavior, it does affect the way children see themselves and the way they define where they belong in their families. Why is it important to consider birth order? Because blending families together usually scrambles the birth-order arrangements—and children sometimes have difficulty adjusting..." (p. 58). A significant number of paragraphs in the Control category (n=43) focused on the sub-topic, "discipline": "It's important to look at exactly what discipline is. As it turns out, when people talk about 'discipline' they usually mean 'punishment.' In reality, the two concepts are not at all the same. The word 'discipline' comes from the Latin root disciplina— the same root from which we get the word disciple, which means one who follows truth, principle, or a venerated leader. Disciple also means to'teach--or to educate...." (p. 132). The authors stressed that for discipline to be effective, parents should model mistakes as "opportunities to learn" (p. 139), should avoid extremes such as "yelling, frowning and being unpleasant" (p. 140) and should consider children's development and unique personalities: "Be aware of your children's development, abilities, and limitations. Discipline is very different for toddlers than for children who have reached the age of reason (around four years old)...." (p. 137). 100 Several different discipline "tools" were described, with the most attention given to letting children experience the results of their choices through natural or logical consequences: "... .Natural consequences are those things that happen without adult intervention...." (p. 144); "When there is no natural consequence, however, parents may intervene with a logical consequence... The best consequences are those in which children have a hand in the design and that focus on preventing future problems" (p. 144). "Time-out", "distraction", "encouragement", "communication", "understanding", and "taking time for training" were also mentioned as effective discipline tools. The authors emphasized that parents should not use "punitive forms" of discipline (e.g. grounding, spanking, shaming), citing the harmful effects of punishment on children: "...Studies have shown that over time punishment creates young people who behave less well, who have fewer problem-solving skills, less self-confidence, and less successful relationships with others" (p. 134). Attention was also given to merging approaches to discipline in the newly established blended family. Dealing with discipline was cited as being a great source of "tension" for remarried couples although the authors acknowledged that dealing with discipline is not a problem unique to blended families—"virtually all couples experience some tension over the issue of discipline"(p. 38). Deciding who should be responsible for discipline, however, the parent or the stepparent, was noted to be particularly important in blended families: "...Still, because no other issue causes as much disagreement and stress in blended families as discipline, it is important to decide who is responsible for discipline and how it will be handled. Children—especially stepchildren—may perceive a lack of interest in their behavior (and unwillingness to discipline) as a lack of caring. On the other hand, overcontrol is threatening and may result in resistance and rebellion...." (p. 132). Parents and stepparents were encouraged to explore their own approaches to discipline and to work together to negotiate new approaches: 101 "Explore your approach to discipline. Think discipline through—and the sooner, the better!...Hold a couple's meeting sometime soon and put discipline on the agenda. Explore what each of you learned about discipline in your original families, how you handled it in the past, and what you might like to do differently...." (p. 135). The remaining two paragraphs in the Control category focused on "other" ways to influence children's behavior, specifically, the use of encouragement to empower children: "It's true: People (little ones and big ones) do better when they feel better. Encouragement nourishes children and helps them believe they belong and can succeed, and encouraged children behave better. Wouldn't we rather avoid misbehavior that have to deal with it later?" (p. 118). Rules. Sixteen of the paragraphs (11%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families, looked at Rules, or guidelines for children's behavior. Most attention was given to the process of establishing new rules in the blended family. Parents were advised to communicate with their partner about negotiable and non-negotiable rules, "...Talk with your partner and decide which issues must be dealt with kindly and firmly and which issues you can afford to handle more flexibly. Would you rather focus on chores or homework? Church attendance or hairstyle?...." (p. 138-139), and to involve children in the process of rule-setting, for example, through family meetings, "Have regular family meetings. Use these meetings to share compliments, have fun, and solve problems together in mutually respectful ways. Be open to hearing each child's perception of what is happening; sometimes minor adjustments to routines and chores can make life feel more 'fair' to all concerned...." (p. 64). Parents were encouraged to make rules as consistent as possible for all children in the household, "Work toward consistency. No one is consistent all of the time, but as much as possible, try to be sure that the rules you have are few, firm, and fair. Are the rules the same for all of the children—resident and visiting, stepchildren and birth children?...As much as possible, rules and boundaries in a blended family should apply to everyone's children, and all children and adults should be treated with respect...." (p. 136), and to set specific guidelines regarding "comfort zones" (e.g. entering bedrooms, bathroom behavior, nudity) and the nature of the relationship between stepsiblings, "It is not impossible for stepsiblings eventually to want to get married. If you talk about this while they are in complete denial, they will undoubtedly respond by saying, 'No way,' or 'Oh Moooooommmm.' Tell them, 'You may be right. However, let's establish guidelines in our family that help us maintain dignity and respect for everyone while you are teenagers—just in case you want to explore a romantic relationship after you are adults.'..." (p. 164). Limited attention in the Rules category was also given to creating family routines, for example, morning and bedtime routines. Family routines were noted to ease the transition into a blended family by promoting cooperation among family members: "Much of the upheaval in blended families comes from a lack of familiarity and routine. Everyone is new at living together, and often there is no established way of doing things—or everyone did it differently 'before.' Creating routines together is a great way to establish how things will be done in your new blended family, and there is no better place to create routines than in a family meeting" (p. 97). Self-Esteem. Twelve of the paragraphs (8%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families discussed self-esteem and focused on ways in which parents and stepparents can build self-esteem or a "sense of belonging" in children and stepchildren. Parents were advised to help children "manage their weaknesses and soar with their strengths" (p. 113). Parents were also encouraged to let children try new activities and to provide lots of opportunities for children to make decisions and to participate in family life: "Family meetings give children the chance to learn that their thoughts, feelings, and ideas are taken seriously—and may provide adults with insights they might otherwise miss. What better way to build confidence, self-esteem, and mutual understanding..." (p. 92-93). The authors directed parents to create an "encouraging atmosphere" in their blended family by doing such things as "giving hugs for no reason", "listening attentively and accepting children's feelings" and "celebrating successes-even little ones!". Encouragement was noted to be one of the most important tools in helping parents in blended families build children's self-esteem: 103 "Learning how to encourage is one of the most important skills of effective parenting—and stepparenting! Encouragement builds self-esteem, and those who study human development tell us that a healthy sense of self-esteem is among the greatest assets a child can have...." (p. 104). Behavioral Expectations. Eleven of the paragraphs (7%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families examined Behavioral Expectations or parent's expectations for children's behavior. Nearly all of these paragraphs stressed the importance of keeping one's expectations of children and stepchildren realistic, particularly in the early stages of establishing a blended family: "Remember, keep your expectations and standards realistic. Most of us take a while to learn new things; children are no different. Remember, too, that life in a blended family takes some getting used to.. ." (p. 117). Keeping expectations realistic was noted to be especially important for stepparents whose expectations of their stepchildren may be quite different than their expectations of their biological children: "...Many stepparents find they have acquired children with whom they have little in common. Their stepchildren may have grown up in a different environment with an entirely different style of parenting. The children's perception of life, their opinions, their behavior, their goals—all can be very different from what the adult has experienced with his or her birth children" (p. 106). The authors advised stepparents not to expect instant affection and trust from stepchildren and urged parents and stepparents to be prepared for stepsibling conflict: "It can help adults to keep their perspective to remember that all children occasionally disagree, compete with one another, and fight. Because family life rarely resembles a Norman Rockwell painting for long, expecting utter and total peace, harmony, and tranquility is unrealistic" (p. 63). Parents and stepparents were also encouraged to make expectations clear to children and in the case of divorce or separation, to support children in adjusting to changes in expectations between different households: "Many children have one position at Mom's house and another at Dad's....Is it any wonder that children sometimes feel confused about what is expected of them and by whom?" (p. 58-59). 104 Parenting Style. Parenting style was discussed in 6 of the paragraphs (4%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families. The authors stressed the need for parents and stepparents to work toward a "balance" between the two extremes of "permissiveness" and "control". However, as working out differences in parenting styles may not always be possible, they encouraged parents to present a "united front" to children and to work out any differences in private: "...It usually works best to support each other in the children's presence and work out differences in private. Let your children see that you and your partner love one another, consult with one another, and support one another. It will help you avoid manipulation and competition" (p. 43). Skills. A small number of the paragraphs (4, or 3%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families focused on teaching children specific skills, in particular problem solving and conflict resolution skills. "Don't play 'referee.' Teach children problem-solving and conflict resolution skills, then invite them to work out their own problems..." (p. 64). Follow-Through. An even smaller number of the paragraphs (3, or 2%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families discussed Follow-Through or parent's enforcement of rules or limits. The authors emphasized that follow-through should be "kind and firm": " . . . A l l children test boundaries, but believe it or not, children only think they want you to give in. Children need to know they can trust the adults in their lives to mean what they say, to act reasonably and consistently, and to provide security and safety. When adults follow through kindly and firmly, children learn trust and belonging" (p. 148). Evaluation of Content on Structure The 148 paragraphs on structure in Positive Discipline for Blended Families were evaluated according to the following five criteria- Source, Context, Complexity, Tone and Theory. 105 Source. In the majority of the paragraphs (139, or 94%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families, no source was cited. Of the 9 paragraphs (6%) where a source was cited, over half made vague references to research (e.g. "Studies have shown...","One researcher found..."). In these cases, however, specific studies were not named and no information was given regarding research participant characteristics or the researcher's background: "...One survey shows that the greatest source of tension between couples who remarry is dealing with discipline...." (p. 38). The remaining paragraphs made reference to specific books and/or authors, including "Rudolf Dreikurs, author of Children: The Challenge". In only one reference to a specific book, however, was the date of publication and the publisher's name included: "...The book, Soar with Your Strengths, by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson (Dell Publishing, New York, 1992), begins with a delightful parable about a duck, a fish, an eagle, an owl, a squirrel, and a rabbit who attended a school with a curriculum that included running, swimming, tree climbing, jumping, and flying.... A major point of the book is that 'excellence can be achieved only be focusing on strengths and managing weakness, not through the elimination of weakness—an excellent lesson for all of us!" (p. 113). Context. In just under one-half of the paragraphs (73, or 49%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families, the information was presented in the context of the blended (stepparent) family. For example, deciding on a common approach to discipline was noted to be especially difficult for remarried parents: " . . . A l l parents occasionally disagree about the best way to provide discipline, but in blended families, where each partner may have different experiences and beliefs about what discipline is and how it ought to be done, those disagreements can feel especially tense..." (p. 133). Other examples of attention to context include, "It isn't always necessary to do something with feelings; sometimes just letting ourselves feel them (and learn from them) is enough. But since feelings often motivate behavior for both adults and children (and since living in a blended family can stir up so many feelings), learning to accept and express them without causing harm to ourselves and those around us is important..." (p. 81), "Not every problem that faces your blended family requires a family meeting, but family meetings are wonderful places to teach children important life skills..." (p. 101). However, despite the focus of this book on "blended families", in 75 paragraphs (51%), the information was not presented in the context of the blended (stepparent) family and did not appear to be directed specifically toward parents and/or stepparents in blended families: "Parents often overlook one of the most helpful clues to understanding behavior. When we deal with a person who is younger or smaller than we are, we must remember to look at the world through that person's eyes. In the case of small children, those eyes are much closer to the ground and see the world in an entirely different way!" (p. 120-121); "Remember that exploration takes place when the child is invited to figure things out for herself. Timing is important. Children usually are not in the mood to explore the consequences of their choices when they are upset" (p. 144). Complexity. In most of the paragraphs (88, or 59%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families, the information was oversimplified and did not reflect the complexity of parenting. For example, referring to the issue of who should be responsible for disciplining children, parents were given a quick and easy solution to what was previously stated as a tough parenting problem: "[Using discipline] can be revolutionary for blended families where a great deal of discord stems from arguments about who should discipline the children—the 'real' parent or the stepparent. When punishment is eliminated, discord and arguments are eliminated...." (p. 133). However, in 60 paragraphs (41%), the information reflected the complexity of parenting. For example, attention was given to individual differences in parents and children: ".. .No two parents-whether they're first-timers or stepparents—will consistently agree on all aspects of parenting. You and your partner may have very different ideas about the best way to raise your children..." (p. 42); "It is important to note that different children develop different beliefs in similar situations...." (p. 129). Parents were also advised to tailor the information in the book to their own child and parenting situation: 107 "The following suggestions [for discipline] are just that—suggestions. You may need to try a variety of methods since nothing works all the time, and you may be comfortable with one idea and uncomfortable with another..." (p. 142); "...Consider the ideas in this book and see what 'fits' you and your children... " (p. 136). Tone. In the majority of the paragraphs (82, or 55%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families, the information was neutral in tone. For example, information was presented in the form of lists, "...Effective parenting means being willing to set boundaries, to teach, and to look for solutions to problems even when it might be easier (and feel better) to give in or to provide special service" (p. 141), and no emotional language was used, "When dealing with misbehavior, it is usually helpful to focus on understanding and solutions rather than reactions...." (p. 129-130). Of the remaining paragraphs, slightly more were positive (37, or 25%) than negative (29, or 20%) in tone. For example, taking the time to understand children's behavior was portrayed as a positive first step in dealing with children's misbehavior: "...When we have this perspective—this understanding of what behavior is all about-we can handle situations rationally and lovingly. We can begin to see every problem as a learning opportunity, for us and for our children" (p. 103). On the other hand, children's self-esteem was noted to be particularly at risk in blended families: "...Becoming part of a blended family may cause children to question whether they are 'good enough' and where they fit in this new family arrangement. Combined with the pressures young people already face at school and from their peers, the results can be devastating..." (p. 105). Theory. The information in just over half of the paragraphs (77, or 52%) in Positive Discipline for Blended Families reflected elements of systems theory. For example, the relationship between parents and children was portrayed as reciprocal or bi-directional in nature: 108 "Remember that children do what 'works.' If a child learns that throwing a tantrum, being disrespectful to his stepdad, or threatening to go live with Mom gets a reactive response, he will almost certainly do it again. How do you respond to your child's actions?..." (p. 139). Systems theory concepts such as rules and boundaries were also discussed: "Consider discussing 'comfort zones' so everyone feels respected and safe. You may want to talk with your family about sexuality and respect. Obviously, how you handle this will depend on the ages of your children, but it may be wise to agree on such things as entering bedrooms, bathroom behavior, nudity, and other sensitive topics...." (p. 168). Just under one-half of the paragraphs (71, or 48%) failed to reflect elements of systems theory. For example, parents were described as having a certain amount of "authority" over children and several paragraphs addressed the use of that authority to help children control their behavior: "Follow-through means that adults decide what they will do, then follow through with kind and firm action...." (p. 146). Summary In summary, Positive Discipline for Blended Families, focussed primarily on the Control component of structure, in particular on the subtopics of "understanding children's behavior" and "discipline". Limited attention was given to Rules, Self-Esteem and Behavioral Expectations. Three other components of structure—Parenting Style, Skills and Follow-Through—received only brief mention. The source of the information was seldom cited and just under one-half of the paragraphs presented information in the context of the stepparent family. Over half of the paragraphs failed to reflect complexity and ignored individual differences in parents and children. The majority of paragraphs were neutral in tone, and slightly more of the remaining paragraphs were positive, than negative in tone. Elements of systems theory were reflected in just over half of the paragraphs. 109 Case Study #6 Successful Step-parenting (1996) Successful Step-parenting was written by Bernardine Coverley, a freelance journalist and mother/step mother to six children. Coverley was inspired by her own experience in a stepparent family, and recognizing that stepfamilies "deserve recognition and support" (p. iii), she wrote the book "for everyone who wants to think about adults and children getting used to living together and then getting the best from it" (p. iv). While Coverley based the book primarily on "past experience and present reflection" (p. iv), she also "talked and listened to dozens of people, stepmothers, stepfathers, step-children, [and] step-grandparents" (p. viii). Successful Step-parenting consists of 14 chapters (182 pages), such as, "Facts, Myths and Stereotypes", "Combined Families" and "Step-parent and Birth Parent". This book includes several pages of drawings done by children and stepchildren depicting stepfamily life, and concludes with a list of "Useful Addresses" (e.g. single-parent and stepfamily support agencies, legal aid and welfare offices). Nearly all of the addresses listed are for organizations based in Great Britain. The Nature of Content on Structure A total of 60 paragraphs on structure were found in Successful Step-parenting, The majority of these paragraphs were in Chapter 7, "Home Rules" (23 paragraphs), followed by Chapter 3, "Stepfathers" and Chapter 5, "Visiting Children" (10 paragraphs each). In 8 of the 14 chapters (e.g., Chapter 11, "Support and Inspiration"; Chapter 13, "Responsibilities and Rights"), no content on structure was found. As outlined below, the 60 paragraphs addressed 4 categories of structure (Control, Rules, Limits and Behavioral Expectations), all of which had been deductively identified prior to analysis. Outline of Content on Structure 110 Control (N=37, 62%): discipline (n=14) understanding children's behavior (n=12) identifying ingredients of stepparent-stepchild conflict (n=l 1) Rules(N=18, 30%) Limits (N=3, 5%) Behavioral Expectations (N=2, 3%) Control. Nearly two-thirds of the paragraphs (37, or 62%) in Successful Step-parenting discussed Control, or efforts to modify or influence children's behavior. Three sub-topics were identified: "discipline", "understanding children's behavior" and "identifying ingredients of stepparent/stepchild conflict". Fourteen paragraphs in the Control category focused on the sub-topic, "discipline". Most attention was given to merging family styles of discipline in the newly established stepparent family. Parents and stepparents were urged to explore their own methods of discipline and evaluate how they feel about their partner's approach: ". . .And how do you feel about your partner's approach to bad behavior? Is it bearable to accept the odd outburst from a partner who is usually easygoing and tolerant? You may prefer this or the listening and exploring method toward discipline as above may suit you or you may feel comfortable with a partner who has very definite dos and don'ts..." (p. 80). Coverley emphasized that deciding on a common approach to discipline may not always be possible, "It is said time and again how important it is to have a common approach to discipline, to agree and to show the children this united front. If that works, terrific—I'm sure it does for some couples. But how many of us sit down and really talk through what we believe and how to put it into practice? Children have a way of upsetting these neat ideas by having strong ones of their own and there are always those other influences—the main one being the other parent... " (p. 88), however, she encouraged parents and stepparents to talk together about acceptable/unacceptable approaches to discipline, I l l "We may not automatically approve of our partner's attitude toward discipline and may be horrified by what seems unnecessary strictness or archaic ways of influencing behavior... It is essential to talk about what level of discipline you both feel comfortable with at a time when you are both relaxed...." (p. 79). Limited attention was also given to the role of the stepparent in discipline. Coverley noted that disciplining stepchildren may be particularly difficult for stepparents, thus, stepparents should leave "serious" discipline of stepchildren to stepchildren's "natural" parent: "...But step-parents do not have to take on everything, and it is sensible to say, 'You know the child best and I'm going to leave big issues to you. If you're not there, I'll do things my way'" (p. 82). Twelve paragraphs in the Control category focused on the sub-topic, "understanding children's behavior". These paragraphs looked at reasons why children misbehave, including "attention seeking", "Getting attention is a big issue and children are forced to use quite complicated ways and means to get what they need if that attention is not on offer...." (p. 109), and "acting out feelings", "...Children can be angry, cruel, manipulative, even mentally disturbed. However, they are still children. Even if they are not encouraged to articulate their feelings, these feelings will be 'acted out'...." (p. 103). Coverley invited parents to look beyond children's behavior and encouraged parents to use such methods as, "listening without interruption, listening without reacting to the words and avoiding blame phrases such as 'don't annoy me or why do you always have to shout'...." (p. 80). These methods help parents discover the emotions behind children's "rudeness, whininess or anger" (p. 80). The remaining 11 paragraphs in the Control category focused on the sub-topic, "identifying ingredients of stepparent-stepchild conflict". Coverley stressed that identifying ingredients of stepparent-stepchild conflict may help parents deal more effectively with stepchildren's negative behavior toward stepparents: "...When you have identified the ingredients for potential conflict in your stepfamily and you realize that they exist in other stepfamilies, you can at least look for strategies, rather than blame yourself or look for someone else to blame" (p. 29). Several ingredients of stepparent/stepchild conflict were cited including stepchildren's feelings of jealousy and resentment toward the stepparent as well as stepchildren's loyalty to the other parent. For example, referring to the relationship between stepfathers and stepchildren: "Different standards apply to new members of an established family. A child may look and compare the new person to Daddy or an idealized Daddy. We all have faults and opinions and the stepfather may find that however charming, human and fascinating these attributes may be to the mother, they can be seized upon and mercilessly examined by a stepchild of any age except, of course, the tiny baby..." (p. 28). Although children's age and gender were noted to effect the intensity of conflict, with stepfathers and oldest stepdaughters experiencing the most friction, stepchildren of any age may have difficulty adjusting: "It is easy to assume that the younger the child the more accepting of a new man as a father figure, however the opposite can be equally true..." (p. 32). Rules. Nearly one-third of the paragraphs (18, or 30%) in Successful Step-parenting discussed Rules or guidelines for children's behavior. Most attention was paid to establishing new rules in the stepparent family: "Becoming a stepfamily means we have to think about what once came naturally within the family. Several people have to adapt to each others' ways....The children do not always seem that lovable though and sometimes simple house rules help keep the peace" (p. 89). Coverley examined the process of merging rule structures, "What is an acceptable level of noise in one home will not be tolerated in another. One child may enjoy quiet hours alone, while another child sees that as strange and is used to being very much in a group. When two single parents get together a big readjustment has to take place but not necessarily all at once...." (P- 44), and encouraged parents to find a "...balance between two sets of customs which do not always fit neatly together..." (p. 51). Coverley emphasized that in developing new rules, parents and 113 stepparents should respect existing rules and customs and involve children in the process of rule-setting, for example, by having regular family meetings. Parents and stepparents were also advised to communicate with each other about rules for children and stepchildren: "...Talk to your partner about bedtimes and if the children are young decide on what kind of evenings you want. Some families enjoy the children's company in the evenings. That's the time when adults relax, especially if both are working, and can appreciate games and cuddles with the children but decide when the children's time stops and when the adults' evening begins...." (p. 92). Communication between partners was noted to be particularly important when visiting stepchildren are involved. For example, Coverley gave the following advice to stepmothers of visiting stepchildren: "...What you can do, instead of holding on tightly to your small bit of independent life or plunging in with total foolhardiness, is to talk about visits beforehand which will give you a chance to say what you want and what you will feel comfortable with" (p. 56). Stepmothers of visiting stepchildren were even encouraged to involve the custodial parent in helping to set rules for children: "Be grateful it isn't full time. Don't be afraid to ask the other parent how he or she copes in these situations. The parent who has main care and residency will have gone through it all and hopefully will say what is acceptable and why and what isn't. You can do things differently but gain some free wisdom from the conversation. Don't be too proud to ask for advice" (p. 60). Limited attention was also given to the role of the stepparent in setting rules for children and stepchildren. Stepparents were advised not to "...impose new rules too quickly on household jobs..." (p.40), and were encouraged to leave rule-setting to the child's natural parent, particularly in the beginning stages of the stepparent-stepchild relationship: "The other side of this is feeling excluded when the parent, she or he, does want to spend time alone with the children and lets them do things you would not do in your home or spend money you regard as joint income. There isn't a fixed answer but there is a real pay off to trust. And it doesn't becoming an arguing issue then if you leave it to the parent...." (p. 56). 114 Limits. A small number of the paragraphs (3, or 5%) in Successful Step-parenting discussed Limits or boundaries. The importance of creating physical boundaries in the stepfamily household was stressed, especially in stepfamilies where a new baby has arrived: "Another reason for creating a boundary is when there is a new member of the stepfamily, the baby who has two parents in one home, the one whom others may have mixed feelings about....It is easy to fix things so you can say, I tried, but it is more of an effort to make respectful agreements and physical boundaries effective" (p. 52). Parents and stepparents were also advised to respect children's boundaries regarding personal space: "Older children and young people often stake out their room or their shared space with a prominently displayed sign. This usually includes 'knock before you enter'. It is a good way for the ones who did not choose the stepfamily to make their wishes known and have some effect. They want privacy too. Adults take it for granted they deserve some peace and quiet and time in their own bedroom" (p. 51-52). Behavioral Expectations. An even smaller number of the paragraphs (2, or 3%) in Successful Step-parenting discussed Behavioral Expectations or parent's expectations for children's behavior. Both of these paragraphs focused on stepparent's expectations of stepchildren. Coverley noted that expectations for stepchildren should not be different than expectations of "any other children" and cautioned stepparents to keep expectations of stepchildren developmentally appropriate: "When the children arrive they can bring a natural injection of energy and make a renewed, expanded family. Or your life may undergo a brief but radical change. Just take the opportunity to do something as an individual and leave the parent some time with their child, one to one. It depends on the age of the child, as well as your inclinations, on how much you want to be involved. The younger the child, the more inclination to expect them to fit in with you. . . " (p. 56-57). Evaluation of Content on Structure The 60 paragraphs on structure in Successful Step-parenting were evaluated according to the following five criteria— Source, Context, Complexity, Tone and Theory. 115 Source. Only 3 (5%) of the 60 paragraphs in Successful Step-parenting offered any citation of a source. In two of these paragraphs, focusing on dealing with children's difficult feelings, reference was made to ".. .books by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish which describe the listening methods and the concepts behind this approach to children's behavior" (p. 80). However, despite this reference to Faber and Mazlish's "books", the titles of their books as well as other information such as the foundation for Faber and Mazlish's work (e.g. clinical or empirical research) were not noted. Rather, Coverley interprets Faber and Mazlish, stating, "...Faber and Mazlish believe parents can defuse tensions and repeat clashes by saying, for example, 'I know it's hard to share a room. Think for five minutes and tell me what will make easier'. Then listen again giving the child full attention. Other parenting exercises include not moving in to sort out children's problems for them but supporting their efforts and sticking to agreements such as no sweets before tea, homework before television...."(p. 80). The remaining paragraph made only a vague reference to a source. Coverley stated, "Accepted wisdom has it that the parent is responsible for discipline...." (p. 78). Although she claims this advice to parents is based on "accepted wisdom", she does not indicate whether this accepted wisdom refers to insights derived by researchers from empirical studies or to insights of stepparents gained through their own experiences in a stepparent family. Context. In over two-thirds of the paragraphs (44, or 73%) in Successful Step-parenting, the information was presented in the context of the stepparent family. For example, discipline was described as "...different in a stepfamily because initially the child may not recognize the step-parent as equal to the parent..." (p. 81). Other paragraphs on discipline also presented information specific to parents/stepparents in stepparent families: "Don't talk about conflict while on the battlefield. Wait until later and then, even if discipline is left to parent and child, the step-parent can talk about how a child's behavior affects him or her. The stepparent needs a reassuring message when a child who is disturbed by family changes appears to take all the partner's attention" (p. 83). 116 However, despite the focus of this book on "stepparent families", in 16 of the paragraphs (27%), the information was not presented in the context of the stepparent family: "The older child will have a lifestyle and tastes that are already set. These may be mysterious to you or may even provoke powerful memories of excitement—all those late night parties and deep conversations—or danger, drugs, coming home late, and unreasonable requests to be collected from far-flung events" (p. 59). Complexity. In the majority of the paragraphs (47, or 78%) in Successful Step-parenting, the information was oversimplified and did not reflect the complexity of parenting. For example, Coverley focuses almost entirely on stepparent families formed as a result of divorce with little attention paid to stepfamilies formed in other ways such as through death or abandonment: "...The mother may lack a man and may want a husband but the children do not lack a father even if he is not there in the home every day...." (p. 26). Complexity was reflected in only 13 paragraphs (22%). For example, Coverley acknowledged that not all parents and stepparents have the same approach to raising children, ".. .Each adult needs to feel the support and approval of the other, and that may not always be there because few of us have exactly the same approaches to bringing up children" (p. 79), and noted differences in children depending on their developmental age: "Children change, sometimes bewilderingly. What a six-year-old likes in an adult will not do for a sixteen-year-old..."(p. 87). Tone. Although 22 of the paragraphs (37%) in Successful Step-parenting were neutral in tone, "Think back to what worked for you as a child. Don't think only in terms of parents and step-parents but the kind of approach taken by adults in your life when you were young and behaving badly...." (p. 87), just over half of the paragraphs (35, or 58%) were negative, focusing predominantly on the problems encountered in stepparent families and painting a bleak picture of stepfamily life. For example, visiting stepchildren were described in the following way: 117 "Most part-time steps feel obliged to show their interest and commitment by being there and make an effort to join in and being nice to them while they [visiting stepchildren] wreck, if not your home, wreck your nerves, wreck your relationship, as you see the love of your life behaving in a strange, unrecognizable manner" (p. 56). In addition, relationships between stepparents and stepchildren (particularly stepfathers and stepdaughters) were portrayed as conflictual and fraught with problems: "So what happens when the parent is away and the step-parent is left in charge? That's the moment when everyone can behave out of character...." (p. 78). Disciplining stepchildren was even compared to being in a "war" with comments made such as, "Don't talk about conflict while on the battlefield" (p. 83). Only 3 of the paragraphs (5%) were positive in tone, emphasizing parent's ability to provide structure in a way which improved the parent-child relationship. For example, referring to listening to children as an important discipline tool, Coverley stated, "This listening method sounds time consuming at first and self-conscious. Selma [parent] described it similar to learning a new language, exchanging the negative 'Why can't you...You never...' for the positive 'I know you can...'" (p. 80). Theory. Nearly all of the paragraphs (54, or 90%) in Successful Step-parenting reflected elements of systems theory. For example, the relationship between parents and children or stepparents and stepchildren were portrayed as bi-directional in nature: "...But how many of us sit down and really talk through what we believe and how to put it into practice? Children have a way of upsetting these neat ideas by having strong ones of their own..." (p. 88). Only a small number or paragraphs (6, or 10%) did not reflect elements of systems theory: "...Children whether stepchildren or not are not wild animals to be controlled and kept quiet. They respond, as we adults do, to simple requests and to people who are genuine and straightforward ...."(p.81). 118 Summary In summary, Successful Step-parenting focussed primarily on the Control component of structure with nearly equal attention given to the sub-topics of "discipline", "understanding children's behavior" and "identifying ingredients of stepparent/stepchild conflict". Significant attention was also paid to Rules. However, Limits and Behavioral Expectations were only briefly discussed. Only a few of the paragraphs made reference to a source and over two-thirds of the paragraphs presented information in the context of the stepparent family. The majority of the paragraphs did not reflect complexity and focused almost exclusively on stepparent families formed through divorce or separation. Just over half of the paragraphs were negative in tone and of the remaining paragraphs, significantly more were neutral, rather than positive in tone. Elements of systems theory were reflected in nearly all of the paragraphs. Overview of Findings Due to the amount of information on structure found in each of the books examined, it is useful to provide a brief overview of the nature of content on structure (see Table 1) and the evaluation of content on structure (see Table 2). The data presented in these tables is for summary purposes only and not for purposes of statistical analyses. 119 Table 1 Nature of Content on Structure - Summary (percentages) Case Study Category #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 Control 33 86 64 70 65 62 Rules 22 7 10 9 11 30 Limits 4 1 2 4 - 5 Behavioral Expectations 1 3 1 2 7 3 Follow-Through 4 3 10 ~ 2 Skills 23 - 6 15 3. Family Type 8 Self-Esteem 3 — 6 — 8 — Values 2 ~ - -Parenting Style ~ ~ 1 ~ 4 120 Table 2 Evaluation of Content on Structure - Summary (percentages') Case Study Criteria #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6_ Source yes no Complexity yes no Theory yes no Context yes no 11 19 7 0 6 5 89 81 93 100 94 95 19 32 14 18 41 22 81 68 86 82 59 78 Tone neutral 50 64 63 55 55 37 positive 18 6 24 12 25 5 negative 32 30 13 33 20 58 33 69 70 37 52 90 67 31 30 63 48 10 20 54 49 73 80 46 51 27 121 CHAPTER 5 Discuss ion, Conc lus ions a n d Implicat ions The purpose of this study was to assess, using methods of content analysis, the scholarship and relevance of selected parenting books written for parents in traditional (two-parent) and non-traditional (single-parent and stepparent) families. More specifically, this study examined content pertaining to the theme of structure (one of three themes about parent-child relationships which provide a framework for discussing parent education programs and materials) and attempted to determine: 1) whether the information on structure presented in the books reflected contemporary theory and research (scholarship) and 2) whether the information on structure reflected the experiences of the specific group of parents toward whom the books are directed (relevance). Although it was not the intent of this study to compare books for parents in two-parent, single-parent and stepparent families, where appropriate, similarities and differences between the books will be noted. Discuss ion Before focussing the discussion on the specific criteria of scholarship and relevance, several comments are useful regarding the content on structure found in the books. First, although the number of paragraphs varied from book to book, significant attention was given to the theme of structure in all six of the books examined in this study. Interestingly, each of the books placed the greatest amount of emphasis on only one component of structure~control~with the percentage of content on control ranging from a low of 33% (Kids Are Worth It!) to a high of 86% (Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care). Some attention was also given to rules in all of the books examined, but, only limited or no attention was given to the components of limits, behavioral expectations and follow-through. Moreover, although several new categories were identified, with the exception of Skills (23% of the paragraphs on structure in Kids Are Worth It! discussed teaching children 122 specific skills), very little emphasis was placed on these categories (e.g. Self-Esteem, Parenting Style). This emphasis on some components of structure over others suggests that the authors of the books in this study may not be providing readers with sufficient information about structure in the parent-child relationship. While these books may be especially helpful to parents wanting to learn more about ways to influence children's behavior or about rule-setting, little or no help is provided to parents with regards to other important aspects of structure such as how to set limits or boundaries or how to follow-through and enforce rules and limits. The disproportionate amount of attention given to different components of structure in these books is of concern given that research on parent's perceptions of the usefulness of printed parenting materials suggests that the information and advice parents receive in popular books may influence parent's interactions with their children. Thus, one could suppose that because parents are receiving only part of what they need to know about structure, their relationship with their children may be compromised. In their 1996 study of popular parenting magazines, Bigner and Yang voiced concern that the writers of popular literature were failing to share with their readerships the complex challenges facing parents raising children in the 1990's. The findings of this study echo this concern. Criteria of Scholarship One of the principles of family life education is that family life programs and materials should be based on contemporary scholarship. Thus, the content of parent programs and materials should reflect up-to-date theoretical and research information. Brock, Oertwein and Coufal (1993) identify the integration of family systems theory into parent education as one of the major issues currently facing parent educators. Interestingly, even though none of the authors in this study acknowledged "systems theory" as a guiding theoretical perspective, the presence of some elements of systems theory in all of the books examined suggests that the authors may recognize the role of the family system in determining child and 123 parent behavior. In four of the six books, over 50% of the content on structure reflected elements • of systems theory. This finding is somewhat surprising given the criticism that most parent educators have failed to integrate family systems understanding into the content of parent education programs and materials (Brock, Oertwein & Coufal, 1993). Yet, as Brody (1994) asserts, systems theory is still "relatively new" in parent education (p. 359). The evidence from this study suggests that parent educators may in fact be increasing their efforts to incorporate elements of systems theory into current printed parenting materials. This is an important step in helping parents understand more fully the interaction between child and parent behaviors and in improving the quality of the printed materials available to parents. Not surprisingly, evaluations of Source revealed that the authors in this study seldom documented the source(s) used to inform the content on structure in the books examined. Other studies have also found a lack of documentation concerning the basis of content in popular printed materials for parents (e.g. Carlson & Crase, 1983; Clarke-Stewart, 1978). It may be that the authors of popular parenting literature are reluctant to overwhelm readers with typical academic citations. Academic citations may also be inappropriate in literature directed toward a lay audience. According to Hughes (1994), few guidelines exist concerning the citation of research findings in family life programs and materials. However, some description regarding the basis of the information would be helpful. In this study, although several authors made reference to research "studies", very few details about these studies were provided. If the information is based on empirical research, it may be helpful to readers to know which studies were consulted, the year the studies were conducted, and basic characteristics of the study participants (e.g. age, social class). This would assist parents in determining whether the information is applicable to their own parenting experience or situation. 124 It is also important for writers of popular literature to document any other sources used (e.g. clinical or personal experience). It is interesting to note that although the authors seldom documented their sources, more references were made to other popular parenting books or to personal experience than to empirical research. Perhaps these authors found it easier to cite sources other than empirical research, especially given that educators continue to struggle with how best to present research findings in family life education programs and materials (Hughes, 1994). However, the popular literature has been criticized in the past for failing to reflect "professional research" (Lagoni & Cook, 1985). Thus, increased documentation of all sources, but particularly research sources, would not only be helpful to readers of popular parenting books but would also strengthen the information provided to parents. There is a substantial amount of research information available about structure and the parent-child relationship to provide the scholarly foundation for discussing structure in popular parenting books. Still, the authors of the books in this study gave only minimal attention to several important findings on structure highlighted in the research literature. For example, Clarke and Dawson (1989) maintain that structure varies with children's developmental age and stage. During each stage of development, children are busy with age-specific tasks which help determine parent's behavior toward children and the type of structure they provide. Although all of the authors in this study acknowledged children's development as an important influence on children's behavior, only one-half of the books (Kids Are Worth It!, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, and Keys to Single Parenting) included any age-specific information. While it is recognized that the authors in this study did not set out to provide parenting information specific to each stage of children's development, parents may benefit from increased discussion regarding age-appropriate behavioral expectations and the ways in which structure changes as children grow older. Further research on family diversity suggests that family type may also influence how parents provide structure to children. And while scholars acknowledge that family type may 125 necessitate changes to the parent-child relationship, they also emphasize that different types of families are themselves heterogeneous. Evaluations of Complexity revealed that for the most part, the authors of the books in this study failed to recognize individual differences in parents or children. The percentage of content on structure which reflected complexity ranged from a low of 14% (Positive Discipline for Single Parents) to a high of 41% (Positive Discipline for Blended Families). While this may reflect an assumption on the part of the authors that parents will tailor the information in the books to their own child and parenting situation, this assumption has been challenged in the past as the popular literature has been criticized for "oversimplifying" research findings and providing only general guidelines and suggestions which may not be particularly useful to parents (Clarke-Stewart, 1978; Griffore, 1980). Hughes (1994) notes that family life educators are faced not only with decisions concerning which research findings to present in family life programs and materials but also how to present these findings most appropriately. In this study, evaluations of Tone revealed that in all but one of the books examined (e.g. Successful Step-parenting), the majority of the information on structure was neutral in tone. These authors appeared to be more concerned with providing straightforward information to parents than discussing problems or strengths in the parent-child relationship. This finding is somewhat surprising given that research on single-parent and stepparent families has been predominantly approached from a deficit- or problem- focussed perspective (Ganong & Coleman, 1994; Hanson, Heims, Julian & Sussman, 1995). Yet, although two of the books for single-parents and stepparents (Keys to Single-Parenting and Successful Step-parenting) included more negative than positive information, the opposite was true in Positive Discipline for Single Parents and Positive Discipline for Blended Families. It is only in recent years that researchers have turned their attention to studying family strengths in single-parent and stepparent families. Thus, these findings on Tone appear to reflect the state of current research, with some authors (and researchers) taking a more positive approach than others. 126 It is also interesting to note that in both of the books directed toward parents in two-parent families, although most of the paragraphs were neutral in tone, significantly more of the remaining paragraphs were negative in tone than positive. It may be that it is the concept of structure itself which presents certain problems for parents (e.g. discipline), regardless of family type. For example, in one book, it was noted that "all couples", not just couples in remarried families, may experience problems disciplining children (Nelsen, Erwin & Glenn, 1997). In another book, the authors stated, "Single parents are just that—parents. They deal with same mundane but often bewildering issues that all parents (including married parents) deal with" (Nelsen, Erwin & Delzer, 1994, p. 5). And while it is important that the authors of popular parenting literature present realistic information to parents (including discussion of problems and strengths), it may be especially important to present parents with practical, straightforward information. Criteria of Relevance It is also a principle of family life education that family life programs and materials should be relevant to the needs of the individuals and families that they serve (Arcus, Schvaneveldt & Moss, 1993). Relevance may be particularly important when parent programs and materials are directed toward specific populations with specific needs and experiences. When Context was evaluated in the books directed toward parents in single-parent and stepparent families, it was found that the books varied widely in the number of paragraphs presenting information in the context of the single-parent and stepparent family, respectively. For example, while 54% of the paragraphs in Keys to Single Parenting reflected context, only 20% of the paragraphs in Positive Discipline for Single Parents did the same. Researchers of family diversity maintain that all parents, regardless of family type, share some of the same parenting concerns. Thus, it may not be necessary in books directed toward single-parent and stepparents to present all of the information in the context of family type. However, it is important that the 127 content in these books reflect those issues that are most relevant to parents in single-parent and stepparent families. For the most part, the books directed toward single-parents in this study considered many of the issues previously identified by researchers as particularly relevant to parents in single-parent families. For example, although minimal attention was given to rule-setting in the book, Keys to Single Parenting, Pickhardt (1996) emphasized the importance for custodial and non-custodial parents to work together in helping children adjust to different rules in different households following parental separation or divorce. Pickhardt also singled out adolescence as being an especially trying time for single parents- a finding which has been reported in the research literature (Kissman & Allen, 1993). Yet, although the authors of the single-parent books in this study addressed several issues pertinent to parents in single-parent families, other important issues were largely ignored or overlooked entirely. For example, although researchers stress that "blurring" of role boundaries is not uncommon in single-parent families, very few of the paragraphs on structure in either of the single-parent books in this study addressed the importance of maintaining healthy parent-child boundaries. In addition, both of the books acknowledged the impact of children's developmental age and stage on single parent's interactions with their children, but neither of the books explored gender differences in single-parent mother and single-parent father headed families. Research has shown that single-parent mothers may have very different experiences than single-parent fathers (Bigner, 1994). By ignoring important gender differences, the authors of the books in this study may not be providing relevant and accurate information to all single parents. The authors of the stepparent books in this study also addressed several issues of concern to parents in stepparent families. For example, although both of the books emphasized control, some attention was also given to establishing new rules in the stepparent family. Research suggests that a major task for stepfamilies is the negotiation of new rules and routines (Bigner, 1994). In 128 addition, length of time since remarriage was considered in both of the books as an important factor in children's adjustment and in stepparent's ability to adopt a "disciplinarian" role with stepchildren. Research suggests that stepparents should assume the role of disciplinarian and enforce rules and limits only after a foundation of mutual respect and affection are established (Pasley, Dollahite & Ihinger-Tallman, 1993). However, other important issues were given only minimal attention in the stepparent books examined in this study. For example, although research suggests that the enforcement of rules and limits with stepchildren may be particularly challenging for stepparents, only one of the books (Positive Discipline for Blended Families) included any discussion of follow-through. This discussion was extremely limited and did not acknowledge that follow-through may be different for stepparents than for natural parents. In addition, only one of the books (Positive Discipline for Blended Families) mentioned that changing birth-order arrangements may influence children's adjustment to a stepparent family. Changing birth-order arrangements have been noted in the research literature to be an important influence on children's behavior in stepfamilies, particularly in newly blended families (Hildebrand, Phenice, Gray & Hines, 1996). Summary- Scholarship and Relevance In summary, the authors in each of the books in this study attempted to reflect elements of systems theory, but they were less successful in reflecting current research findings. The authors seldom documented the sources used to inform the content on structure and few of the books included any age-specific information. Little attention was given to the complexity of parenting and individual differences in parents and children were largely ignored. While the majority of the information on structure was neutral in tone, several of the books included more negative than positive information. When Context was evaluated in the books directed toward parents in single-parent and stepparent families, it was found that only part of the information on structure was presented in the context of the single-parent and stepparent family, respectively. Moreover, 129 although these books addressed several relevant issues to parents in these types of families, other important issues were given only minimal or no attention. General comments and impressions A number of other observations about the books and concerning content analysis methodology are also worthy of discussion. One of the challenges in conducting content analysis research is accurately presenting the perceptions of others in the most forthright manner possible (Berg, 1995). However, some confusion may be caused by the use of different "language" by the authors of the materials being analyzed and the researcher conducting the analysis. For example, Coloroso's (1994) use of "family type" appears to reflect Baumrind's model of authoritative parenting with "brick-wall" families reflecting the authoritarian parenting style, "jellyfish" families the permissive parenting style, and "back-bone" families the authoritative parenting style. Although such metaphors may be interesting and easy to understand, there is also some concern that the use of metaphors, rather than "research-based" terminology may be confusing or offensive to some parents. Parents who may be willing to acknowledge that they have a permissive parenting style, for example, may be less willing to accept that they are what Coloroso calls a "jellyfish" parent. Inconsistencies in the meaning of words used in the research and popular literature may also be confusing to parents. For example, although this study was concerned with content on structure, it was interesting to note that only two of the books referred specifically to "structure", and in both of these books, the meaning of structure was slightly different. In Kids Are Worth It!, structure was used in reference to family type with brick-wall families characterized by "rigid" structure, jellyfish families by "inconsistent" structure and back-bone families by "firm yet flexible" structure. In Keys to Single Parenting, structure was referred to as the "power of punishment". Studies on parent's use of printed materials suggest that parents who use popular literature for parenting information and advice may in fact, consult more than one parenting book 130 (Clarke-Stewart, 1978; Geboy, 1981). Thus, while it may be important for authors of popular parenting books to use the same words and word meanings as in the research literature, it may also be helpful for writers of popular literature to adopt similar words and word meanings across parenting books. Although the books in this study were not evaluated for such factors as "attractiveness" and "general interest", Hughes (1994) maintains that family life programs and materials must also be judged according to overall design and layout. And while it is recognized that in this study, these judgements are entirely subjective, they are also important to discuss. In general, all of the books, with the exception of Successful Step-parenting, were relatively easy to read and understand. Successful Step-parenting contained numerous grammatical errors throughout the book and there appeared to be very little order to the topics discussed within each chapter. In contrast, Positive Discipline for Blended Families and Positive Discipline for Single Parents were by far, the most organized of the books examined with clear chapter and topic headings. Interestingly, both of these books were written by two of the same authors which may account for the similarity in the presentation of the content. The book, Keys to Single Parenting was also well organized. However, unlike other books in this study, very few examples were provided to highlight the information given. Coloroso (1994), on the other hand, made use of numerous quotes, anecdotes and examples throughout her book, Kids Are Worth It\ which made this book particularly interesting to read. Spock and Rothenberg (1992) also used examples in their book, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care. Given this book's emphasis on practical aspects of childrearing such as illness and first aid, it is not surprising that versions of Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care have been among the top parenting books for over 50 years. However, while this book may be especially helpful to new parents, the sheer volume of the information may overwhelm some readers. 131 Limitations Several limitations of this study should be noted. First, although the books were carefully selected for this study according to specified criteria, they may not be representative of popular books currently available for parents in traditional and non-traditional families. Thus, the results of this study are not generalizable to other parenting books. Second, given the volume and variety of popular parenting books currently available in bookstores and libraries, the sample of books examined in this study is relatively small. Although in-depth analyses such as those carried out in this study may only be possible with small sample sizes, additional research on larger and different samples of books is needed. In addition to looking more closely at parent education adapted for parents in single-parent and stepparent families, future research should also focus on programs and materials targeting other groups of parents such as adoptive parents, parents of teenagers or gay and lesbian parents. Third, only content pertaining to the theme of "structure" was examined in the books in this study. Brock, Oertwein and Coufal (1993) assert that two other themes—nurturance and patterns of interaction—should also be addressed in parent education programs and materials. Thus, future studies of parent education should consider all three themes, either singly or in combination. Fourth, although the use of a deductive approach in this study permitted a clear linking of the data to the theme of structure, a different view of these books might have been obtained had an inductive approach been used (allowing major themes or ideas to emerge). Thus, it may be important in other studies to examine parenting materials using both deductive and inductive approaches. Finally, some of the categories used in this study, which were identified in the parent education literature as distinct tasks of parenting, were not as clearly delineated in the popular parenting books examined. In particular, there was considerable overlap between paragraphs discussing rules and limits. In these cases, paragraphs were placed in the category which best 132 reflected the information. However, although every possible effort was made to ensure reliability and validity, it is possible that another researcher may have slightly different results. Conclusions and Implications This study has provided a snapshot of popular parenting books currently available for parents in two-parent, single-parent and stepparent families that can be useful to researchers and educators as they work toward improving the quality of future parent programs and materials. The results of this study highlight the need for continued monitoring of parent education offered to a mass audience and support the development of specific guidelines to govern the presentation of research and theoretical information in the popular literature. As Hughes (1994) notes, "The family life educator is faced with many judgements in regards to what findings to present and how to present these findings most appropriately. There is considerable need to provide more direction to family life educators about how to make those decisions" (p. 75). Despite widespread use of popular parenting books for parenting information and advice, to date, most research on the popular literature has focussed on women's magazines. This is one of the few studies to have looked specifically at parenting books. Moreover, this study is one of only a handful of studies to have examined printed education materials directed toward specific parent populations. Given that the trend toward specificity is likely to continue in parent education, future research needs to focus on these modified programs and materials. Studies such as this one not only contribute to the literature on family life and parent education, but may help writers of popular literature in their quest to provide the best information to parents. The ultimate beneficiaries will undoubtedly be parents and their children. 133 References Abrahamson, M . (1983). Social research methods. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Arcus, M . (1995). 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A P P E N D I X A Letter to Bookstores A P P E N D I X B Lists (Bookstores and Parent Educator) 141 List #1: Parenting books avaible at Duthies Bookstore (January, 1997 to January, 1998) in order of most to least sold Focus on: Date Published Author (s) Title No. sold in last year General parenting 1994 B. Coloroso Kids are worth it: Giving your child the gift of inner discipline 28 General parenting 1992 Dr. B. Spock Dr. Spock's baby and child care 8 General parenting 1995 S. Gookin Parenting for dummies 7 General parenting 1990 A. Faber, E. Mazlish Liberated parents .Liberated children 5 General parenting 1993 J.Nelson, L.Lott, S. Glen Positive dicipline A to Z: 1001 solutions to everyday parenting problems 4 General parenting 1997 D. Dinkmeyer et al. Parent's handbook: Systematic trainingfor effective parenting 3 Single-parenting 1994 J. Nelson, C. Erwin, C. Delzer Positive discipline for single parents 3 List WI: Parenting books available at Chapters Bookstore ('January, 1997 to January, 1998) in order of most to least sold) Focus on: Date Published Author (s) Title General parenting 1994 B. Coloroso Kids are wortli it: giving your child the gift of inner discipline General parenting 1992 B.Spock Dr. Speck's baby and child care General parenting 1995 S. Gookin Parenting for dummies General parenting 1993 R. MacKenzie Setting limits: How to raise responsible, independent children by providing reasonable boundaries General parenting 1996 C. Adams Why children misbehave and what to do about it General parenting 1997 B. Connor Parent's journal guide to raising great kids General parenting 1994 K Joslin Positive parenting from A to 2 General parenting 1990 A. Faber, E. Mazlish liberatedparents, liberated children General parenting 1997 B. Sandoz Parachutes for parents: 12 new keys to raising children for a better world General parenting 1997 R. Peters Don't be afraid to discipline General parenting 1997 S. Shapiro, K. Skinulis Parent talk: SO quick, effective solutions to the most common parenting challenges Single-parenting 1996 L. Foust Single parent's almanac Single-parenting 1996 Pickhardt Keys to single parenting General parenting 1995 A.E. Wolf It's not fair: Jeremy Spencer's parents let him stay up all night A guide to the tougher parts of parenting General parenting 1993 J.Nelson, LLott, S. Glenn Positive discipline A to Z: 1001 solutions to everyday parenting problems General parenting 1995 P.J. Favaro Smart parenting General parenting 1990 F.G. Gosrnan Spoiled rotten: Today's children and how to change them General parenting 1994 E. Crary Magic tools for raising kids General parenting 1994 P.J. Favaro Parent's answer book: over lot solutions to everyday parenting problems General parenting 1997 P. Holt Don't give in, give choices General parenting 1997 J, Dobs on Dr. James's Dobson on parenting General parenting 1997 J. Dobson Solid answers General parenting 1997 R. Rolfe Seven secrets ofsuccessful parents General parenting 1996 S. Rimm Dr. Sylvia's Rimms smart parenting: how to raise a happy, achieving child Step-parenting 1996 B. Coverly Successful stepparenting General parenting 1996 D. Dinknteyer Raising a responsible child: How to prepare your childfor today's complex world General parenting 1997 D. Dinknteyer et al. Parent's handbook: Systematic training for effective parenting General parenting 1997 W. Coleman If I could raise my kids again 143 List #3: Parenting books recommended by parent educator Focus on: Date Published Author (s) Book Title General parenting 1994 B. Coloroso Kids are worth it: Giving your child the gift of inner discipline General parenting 1990 A. Faber, E. Mazlish Liberated parents, liberated children APPENDIX C Original Data Assessment Form 1. Two-parent intact Data Assessment Form - Original II. Step-parent HI. Single-parent Title: Author: Chapter: Page number(s): Line(s): Data Topic(s) and/or sub-topic(s) discussed: Comments (1) Source- Citation (2) Source- Documentation (a) Documentation: (b) Qualification of source: (c) Current information: (3) Context (4) Complexity (5) Tone (6) Theory i) personal experience ii) clinical experience iii) empirical research iv) unclear i) stated ii) implied iii) unclear i) stated ii) not stated iii) n/a i) yes ii) no iii) n/a i) yes ii) no iii) n/a i) yes ii) no (oversimplified) i) positive ii) negative iii) neutral iv) unclear i) reflects systems theory ii) does not reflect systems theory iii) unclear Appendix D Revised Data Assessment Form 1. Two-parent intact Data Assessment Form - Revised n. Step-parent HI. Single-parent Title: Author: Chapter: Page numbers): Line(s): Data Topic(s) and/or sub-topic(s) addressed: Comments (1) SOURCE CITED (1) no (2) yes (i) personal experience (ii) clinical experience (iii) empirical research (iv) unclear (2) CONTEXT CONSIDERED (1) no (Family Structure) (2) yes (3) unclear (3) COMPLEXITY ACKNOWLEDGED (1) no (2) yes (3) unclear ( 4 ) TONE (5) THEORY (1) neutral (2) positive (3) negative ( 4 ) unclear (1) does not reflect systems theory (2) reflects systems theory (3) unclear 

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