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The effects of parent education programs on the development of children aged between 60 and 72 months.

Early childhood is a time when children make significant advances in their cognitive, psychomotor, socioemotional, and linguistic development and start to acquire daily skills. Parents are the first educators in children's lives to help their development and teach them daily life skills such as hygiene, dressing, and toilet use. The quality of the future of a child relies on the confidence and life quality provided for him/her by his/her family (McCollum, 1999; Omeroglu, Yazici, & Dere, 2005; Tezel-Sahin & Ersoy, 1999). Previous researchers have maintained that good communication between parents and children contributes positively to areas of children's development and supports their academic success (McBride, 1990; McDonald et al., 2006; Reynolds, Mavrogenes, Bezruczko, & Hagemann, 1996; Stahmer & Gist, 2001).

Raising healthy individuals in a loving, trusting, and democratic family environment requires a good knowledge in families of child development and education, and the putting into practice of such awareness and knowledge. It has been stressed in previous studies that family education programs are effective in raising parental awareness (Leung, Sanders, Leung, Mak, & Lau, 2003; Mann, Pearl, & Behle, 2004; McBride, 1990; St Pierre & Layzer, 1999; St Pierre, Ricciuti, & Rimdzius, 2005). Parent education is defined as "systematic education given to parents by experts in order to contribute to their children's development" (Hoard & Shepard, 2005, p. 434). The main purpose of family education is to improve parents' self-confidence, change any negative behaviors, and assist parents and other family members with matters to do with childcare, child development, and children's education. By addressing these issues parent education programs are believed to improve the communication between parents and children (Mann et al., 2004).

Parent education has been found to help families not only to recognize their own importance in their children's education, but also to identify and improve their own interests, talents, and skills. The aim of parent education is to maximize their children's academic and life success, and to prepare them for life as contented and accomplished individuals (Kagitcibasi, Bekman, & Sunar, 1993; Omeroglu et al., 2005).

When researchers have examined parent education programs they have found that there are various effects depending on the program used. Madden, O'Hara, and Levenstein (1984) found that their parent education program in the form of home visits increased the verbal communication between mothers and children, and had positive effects on children's cognitive development. Kanisberg and Levant (1988) found positive effects from a parent education program in the form of group meetings on children's self concept. Findings in other studies have included an increase in children's social and language skills, and a decrease in their negative behaviors (McDonald et al., 2006; Zembat & Polat Unutkan, 2000). Parent education programs were also found to create positive changes in family relationships and to increase parents' empathy levels (Kurtulmus, 2003; Unal, 2003).

In Turkey, parent education programs are generally designed for and implemented with the parents of children who do not attend preschool. These programs, which are designed and run to support all areas of the development of children, rely on the premise that both children and the people around them need to be involved and have been shown to have both short-and long-term positive effects on parents and children. To illustrate, the children who take part in such programs have been shown to possess more advanced verbal and numerical skills and to be better prepared for school; their mothers adopt more positive discipline methods and exhibit increased self-confidence; and these effects were found to be long-term (Bekman, 1998; Sucuka, Ozkok, & Vardar, 1997). Even though preschool education involves children and their families as a whole, the family training endeavors included within preschool education are neither as comprehensive nor as adequate as parent education programs. Thus, it is important that parent education studies are designed to include the parents of children who attend preschool, not just those whose children do not attend preschool. In this study we assessed the influence on the development of those children of a parent education program offered to the parents of 5 to 6 year old kindergarten children.



Children attending the kindergartens of 9 elementary schools located in central Ankara in Turkey and their parents were selected via random sampling to take part in this study. The parents of children aged from 60 to 72 months, who were attending these kindergartens were contacted. There were 104 parents who volunteered to participate in the parent education program and their children were assigned to the experimental group, while another 104 randomly selected parents who stated that they would not be able to participate because of their work commitments but who agreed to provide data for the study were assigned, along with their children, to the control group. As the parents who could not attend the full parent education program (a total commitment of 8 weeks) for various reasons were excluded from the study, there were 68 parents who completed the program to provide both pretest and posttest data. To equal to this number, 68 parents and children were identified who had taken the pretest in the control group and the posttest was completed with them. As a result, data from 68 experimental and 68 control parents and children were evaluated.

The majority of the experimental and control parents who participated in the parent education program were aged between 30-39 (experimental: 60.3%, control: 67.6%); mothers were generally elementary or high school graduates; fathers were generally high school or university graduates; and the majority came from nuclear families (experimental: 76.5%, control: 91.2%). The ratio of girls to boys in the experimental and control groups was similar; 54.4% of the experimental and 42.6% of the control children were first graders, and the majority of experimental (61.8%) and control (57.4%) children had one sibling. Among the children in the experimental group, 35.3% had been attending kindergarten for between 7 and 12 months and 79.4% of the children were in the control group.


Data were collected from the children and their families using a general information form and children's development was assessed using the Brigance Early Development Inventory II, originally developed by Brigance (2004) and adapted for use in Turkey by Aral et al. (2008).

The Brigance Early Development Inventory II (Brigance, 2004) is designed to evaluate the development of children from birth to age 7. It includes the following five subdimensions: motor skills, receptive and expressive language skills, academic/cognitive skills, social emotional skills, and daily life skills. Each correct answer is awarded 1 point, while incorrect responses receive no points. The total score for the inventory is calculated by adding a separate score for each subdimension and the sum of the scores obtained from the subdimensions. The higher the subdimension and total scores the more advanced are the general development skills. The inventory takes from 20 to 55 minutes to complete, depending on the child's age (Brigance).

The Brigance Early Development Inventory II was adapted for use in Turkey by Aral et al. (2008) with a study sample comprising 464 Turkish children under the age of 6. Correlations among all subdimensions were significant (p < .01); internal consistency reliability coefficients varied between .67-.98; test-retest correlation revealed consistent results over time (r = .72-.96); concurrent validity results were consistent (p < .05,p < .01); lower 27% and upper 27% item analysis showed the items of the inventory had acceptable levels of discriminant validity.


Before implementing the parent education program, parents in the experimental and control groups completed a general information form and children of parents in both groups completed the Brigance Early Development Inventory II individually as pre-and posttests. Control parents did not receive parent education. All the same both control and experimental children attended kindergarten during the parent education program.

The parent education program was designed to support child development in different areas. Accordingly, the program topics were chosen by considering parent needs and included the following: personality development for child development and education, language development, cognitive development, sexual development, social development, motor development, parent-child communication, sibling relationships, behavioral disorders, discipline, games-toys-books, accidents, home activities, childhood illnesses, and nutrition. The program was then evaluated by nine field experts and the program was finalized in line with their feedback. The parent education program was implemented in the experimental group as informational sessions once weekly for a duration of 8 weeks. In order to assist parents in supporting their children's development, relevant brochures were distributed to parents, and they were given tasks to carry out at home with their children. In addition, there were sessions held to discuss the topics of behavioral problems, sexual development, parent-child communication, and discipline.


We assessed only those project results that involved children. Therefore, the significance of the difference in pretest scores of children in experimental and control groups for the Brigance Early Development Inventory II was tested using an independent groups t test. As the pretest scores of children in the experimental group on the motor skills subtest were significantly different from the scores of children in the control group, an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was utilized to test the effectiveness of the experimental design (Buyukozturk, 2002).


Children in both experimental and control groups obtained similar scores on all Brigance Early Development Inventory subtests, except motor skills. The t test performed on the motor skills pretest scores showed a significant difference in favor of the experimental group ([t.sub.(133)] = 2.788,p < .01); however, no significant difference was found between the pretest scores of the children in the experimental group and those in the control group for the other subtests or for the Brigance Early Development Inventory II total scores (p > .05). This suggests that, except for the motor skills subtest, children's pretest scores obtained from the other subtests were independent of their group (control or experimental).

Table 1 shows that the mean pretest scores of children in both experimental and control groups were lower than corrected mean posttest scores. The ANCOVA revealed that, regardless of the group, there was a significant difference between the pretest and corrected posttest scores of children for motor skills [F(1, 133) = 139.608,p < .00, [[eta].sup.2] = 0.512], receptive and expressive language skills [F(1, 133) = 32.940,p < 0.01, [[eta].sup.2] = .199], academic-cognitive skills [F(1, 133) = 210.940,p < .01, [[eta].sup.2] = .613], daily life skills [F(1, 133) = 186.013,p < .01, [[eta].sup.2] = .583], social emotional skills [F(1, 133) = 193.476, p < .01, [[eta].sup.2] = 0.593], and for the total inventory score [F(1, 133) = 248.760, p < .01, [[eta].sup.2] = .652]), and that the children's subtest and overall scores on the Brigance Early Development Inventory II increased over time. On the other hand, no significant difference was found between the pretest and posttest scores of children in the experimental group compared with the control group for motor skills [F(1, 133) = .038,p > .05, [[eta].sup.2] = 0.000], receptive and expressive language skills [F(1, 133) = 0.065,p > .05, [[eta].sup.2] = 0.000], academic-cognitive skills [F(1, 133) = .002, p > .05, [[eta].sup.2] = .000], daily life skills [F(1, 133) = 1.958, p > .05, [[eta].sup.2] = .015], social emotional skills [F(1, 133) = 0.487, p > .01, [[eta].sup.2] = 0.004] or for the overall Brigance Early Development Inventory II [F(1, 133) = .001, p > .05, [[eta].sup.2] = .000].


Family involvement in education has been said to be the most important factor in order to support children's development and give them a positive personality (Hoard & Shepard, 2005). However, in the present study it was found that the parent education program that was implemented did not have an effect on child development. This may have been because the program was limited to 8 weeks, and this was not long enough for effects to be observed in children, or, more importantly, it may have been because these children were already attending a preschool. There are also many studies in which researchers have concluded that parent education programs have significant positive long-term effects. Omeroglu, Aksoy, and Turla (1997), Serbin and Moxley-Haegert (1983), and Sucuka et al. (1997) showed that family education provided for the parents of children who did not attend a preschool positively affected the development of these children. It has been documented that opportunities offered during early childhood affect children's motor development (Zaichkowsky & Larson, 1995); biological and environmental factors affect linguistic development (Brooks-Gunn, 1990); and children's characteristics, the way they were brought up and their preschool experiences affect cognitive development (Morrison & Cooney, 2002). Oates and Grayson (2004) showed that children's language development changed with their cognitive development, and Ozbek (2003) found that children who attended preschool had more advanced social development than those who did not. In the studies cited here, parent education was extended over a long period and it took time for the effects of the education to surface. Most of the parents who took part in those studies came from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and their children did not attend preschool. In the present study, it is likely that the limitation of the parent education program to 8 weeks and, more importantly, the fact that all children were attending preschool prevented the parent education program from making a significant contribution to supporting children's development.

In line with the findings gained in the current study, it may be suggested that parent education programs should be designed in line with parent needs and interests; the number of topics should be limited and issues should be discussed in greater depth, case studies should be used, and the studies should be longitudinal to determine the long-term effects of parent education on the development of their children.

DOI 10.2224/sbp.2011.39.2.241


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Ankara University, Ankara, Turkey

Neriman Aral, Gulen Baran, Professor, Figen Gursoy, Professor, Aysel Koksal Akyol, Professor, Aynur Butun Ayhan, Associate Professor, Mudriye Yildiz Bicakci, PhD, and Serap Erdogan, Assistant Professor, Department of Child Development, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ankara University, Ankara, Turkey.

This study was part of the Family Education in the Preschool Period project, which was supported by Ankara University Scientific Research Projects.

Appreciation is due to reviewers including: Z. Fulya Temel, Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey, Email:; Remziye Ceylan, PhD, Primary Education Department, Ahi Evran University, Kirsehir, Turkey, Email:; Nathaniel R. Riggs, PhD, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, Alhambra, USA, Email:

Please address correspondence and reprint requests to: Neriman Aral, Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Child Development, Ankara University, Ankara 06080, Turkey. Phone: +90-3123191450/1149; Fax: +90-3123-197016; Email:


Development areas       Group       n       M        SD

Motor skills         Experimental   68    66.47      7.32
                     Control        68    62.59      8.85

Receptive and        Experimental   68   146.47     10.26
expressive           Control        68   148.51      5.37
language skills

Academic/cognitive   Experimental   68    92.53     20.51
skills               Control        68    94.41     20.19

Daily life skills    Experimental   68    56.97      2.19
                     Control        68    56.57      2.21

Social emotional     Experimental   68    41.41      2.33
skills               Control        68    41.25      2.31

Brigance Early       Experimental   68   403.85     31.13
Development          Control        68   403.34     32.00
Inventory II

                                              Posttest       posttest

Development areas       Group       n       M        SD          M

Motor skills         Experimental   68    69.24      5.03       68.00
                     Control        68    66.94      8.88       68.18

Receptive and        Experimental   68   149.87      4.85      150.13
expressive           Control        68   150.59      4.71      150.32
language skills

Academic/cognitive   Experimental   68   103.18     15.35      103.85
skills               Control        68   104.62     21.37      103.94

Daily life skills    Experimental   68    58.44      1.62       58.33
                     Control        68    58.47      1.59       58.58

Social emotional     Experimental   68    41.79      1.43       41.76
skills               Control        68    41.62      1.27       41.65

Brigance Early       Experimental   68   422.51     23.81      422.34
Development          Control        68   422.24     30.18      422.41
Inventory II
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Author:Aral, Neriman; Baran, Gulen; Gursoy, Figen; Akyol, Aysel Koksal; Ayhan, Aynur Butun; Bicakci, Mudriy
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:7TURK
Date:Mar 1, 2011
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