Positive Outcomes for Families
One goal of Parents AnonymousSM is to prevent or end juvenile delinquency and child abuse problems in families. To reach this goal, parents learn that it is a sign of strength to ask for help. They learn to use appropriate community resources and to build supportive, positive peer relationships for themselves and their children. They learn to establish reciprocal relationships, which helps them maintain positive peer associations and avoid overburdening the friends and family members who make up their personal support system. Parents gain a sense of their own power and use it to improve their ability to care for their children, avoid violent reactions to their children, protect them from violence inflicted by other adults, and use parenting practices that promote healthy outcomes for their children.
Demonstrated Effectiveness of Parents AnonymousSM
Research suggests that Parents AnonymousSM is a promising approach to strengthening families and preventing child abuse and neglect, although only a small number of studies have been conducted. Behavior Associates (1976) administered a one-time survey to 613 program participants and asked them a range of questions about their self- esteem, feelings about parenthood and children, satisfaction derived from parenthood, knowledge of child development, social contacts and use of community resources, frequency and severity of abuse, perceived benefits of membership in the program, and background characteristics.
Participants reported improved parenting behavior, an immediate reduction in physical abuse, a positive change in physical and verbal interactions with their children, improved self-esteem, increased social contacts, more help seeking behavior, and greater use of community facilities for childcare. Also, it was found that participants' expectations of children's behavior became more developmentally appropriate. The findings suggest that these positive results are more pronounced as time spent in the program increases.
A second study found that Parents AnonymousSM is a key element in service delivery plans for parents (Cohn, 1979). This study used data collected from case managers who were asked a variety of questions about their clients when they began and terminated services. Case managers were asked to rate their clients on a variety of parental attitudes, situations, and behaviors thought to be causally related to child abuse and neglect (e.g., parental stress, having a sense of the child as a person, appropriate behavior toward the child, and knowledge of child development). At service termination, case manager reports indicated that parents who participated in Parents AnonymousSM were more likely to improve on these measures than those who did not participate. The researchers did caution that parents may self-select into this self-help service (the study was not able to study the effects of motivation), but also suggest that the nature of the service helps parents resolve important problems.
OJJDP and Parents Anonymous, Inc., have recognized the need to conduct an updated, rigorous evaluation of the program. In 1999, OJJDP will sponsor a national evaluation of Parents AnonymousSM and build on the findings of past research. Important advances in evaluating Parents AnonymousSM will include collecting information from multiple sources, conducting postprogram followups on participants, and using a comparison group.
Additional Relevant Research
Research on mutual assistance-shared leadership groups such as Parents AnonymousSM has revealed that such groups are a more effective intervention strategy than pure self-help or traditional therapy. For example, Yoak and Chesler (1985) found that mutual assistance groups with shared leadership enjoyed greater longevity than groups led by a single individual, either a professional or a parent member. Borkman (1990), one of the major theorists and researchers in the area of mutual assistance groups, stated that increased access to and availability of self-help groups are important to promote for the public, especially for ethnic/racial minority groups and the economically disadvantaged.