Handbook of Parenting: Theory and Research for Practice


Edited by: Masud Hoghughi & Nicholas Long

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    Author Biographies

    Melissa Caldwell is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her primary research interests concern the developmental antecedents and consequences of peer victimization among children and adolescents. She is also currently involved in research that examines the transactional relation between individual characteristics of children and the generation of stressful experiences.

    Colleen Conley is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research centers broadly around developmental trajectories of stress and psychopathology in children and adolescents. Most recently, she has been examining the roots of gender differences in depression that emerge in adolescence.

    Shannon Dorsey, PhD is a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center. Her clinical training has emphasized child and family interventions, and her research has focused on parenting and its relation to child and family adjustment.

    Linda Drew, PhD is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Andrus Gerontology Center, University of Southern California, USA. Her research interests are in intergenerational family relationships and the impact of society; specifically, the grandparent-parent-child relationship as affected by divorce and/or geographical separation; bereavement within the family; and the role grandparents play within society. She has co-authored with Peter Smith the chapter on ‘Grandparenthood’ in Marc Bornstein's Handbook of Parenting, 2nd edition, as well as several articles on grandparents and great-grandparents.

    Thyde Dumont-Mathieu, MD, MPH is a Fellow in general academic pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Her areas of research interest include parenting and child health in minority communities, cultural and social issues in child behaviour and development, child advocacy, issues in doctor-patient communication, and health promotion and education in diverse contexts.

    Alison Dupre works as a Project Co-ordinator in the Family Studies Laboratory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She graduated in psychology from the University of Illinois. Her research interests emphasize adolescent development and stress and coping processes in peer and family relationships.

    Megan Flynn is currently a Visiting Research Specialist in the Family Studies Laboratory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She graduated in psychology from Yale University and will soon begin her doctoral work in clinical psychology at the University of Illinois. Her research focuses on the role of stress sensitization in the onset and progression of psychopathology.

    Rex Forehand, PhD is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Vermont, and a Regents Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Georgia. His research has focused primarily on parenting and child psychosocial adjustment, and he is regarded as one of the field's leading experts on parenting interventions.

    Stephen Frosh, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Centre for Psychosocial Studies in the School of Psychology at Birkbeck College, University of London. He was previously Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Vice Dean in the Child and Family Department at the Tavistock Clinic, London. His most recent books are The Politics of Psychoanalysis, Young Masculinities (with Ann Phoenix and Rob Pattman) and After Words.

    Harriet Heath, PhD is a licensed developmental and certified school psychologist. She founded and directs the Parent Center at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. For more than 30 years she has worked with parents in public and private schools, religious settings, and mental health clinics, ranging from the Alaskan bush to Philadelphia's city center and the American School in Tel Aviv. Working with her husband her principal research has been a longitudinal study following the effects of parenting on healthy adults over a 40-year time span. She has published numerous articles for the popular press and is a columnist for parenting educator's newsletter, Pep Talk. She is author of the recently published award winning book, Using Your Values to Raise Your Child to Be an Adult You Admire, as well as a manual for parents, Planning: A Key to the Challenge of Parenting and a curriculum for students, Learning How to Care: Education for Parenting. She is past chair of the National Parenting Education Network.

    Martin Herbert, PhD, FBPsS is Emeritus Professor at Exeter University. He was previously Professor of Social Work and Director of the School of Social Work, and later Professor of Psychology at the University of Leicester. He has served as a Mental Health Act Commissioner and worked as Director of Mental Health Services for children and as a consultant clinical psychologist in child and adolescent psychology. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and was awarded the Monty Shapiro Prize for distinguished contribution to Clinical Psychology in 1994. He is the author of Typical and Atypical Development: From Conception to Adolescence.

    Masud Hoghughi, PhD, FBPsS is Professor in the Department of Clinical Psychology, University of Hull and Professor of Parenting and Child Development at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle. He has spent his professional life in parallel academic and clinical settings. For years, he developed and directed Europe's largest specialized facility for the assessment and treatment of severely disordered adolescents and their families. His publications are concerned mainly with troubled and troublesome children and their families.

    Judy Hutchings, PhD has worked in north Wales for the past 25 years, mainly with children who have significant behavioural problems. She currently works with a range of parents, children, specialist services and other educators concerned with children and families. Her current aim is to establish the Incredible Years programmes for parents and children across a range of settings in north Wales.

    Jennifer Jenkins, PhD is Professor in the Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology at the University of Toronto. She trained as a clinical and developmental psychologist. She has carried out research in the area of developmental psychopathology, environmental risk and family interaction in clinical settings with children and families. She co-authored the book Understanding Emotions with Keith Oatley, and Human Emotions with Keith Oatley and Nancy Stein.

    Carole Kaplan, FRCPsych, FRCPCH is Senior Lecturer and Consultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Newcastle upon Tyne and the Fleming Nuffield Unit, Newcastle. Her special interests are in the areas of child neurotic disorders, and parenting. Other appointments include member of the Advisory Board on Family Law, Children Act Sub-committee and NHS Litigation Authority.

    Beth Kotchick, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Loyola College in Maryland. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Georgia, with a specialization in child clinical psychology. Her research has generally focused on parenting and its impact on child and adolescent psychosocial adjustment.

    Nicholas Long, PhD is Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Pediatric Psychology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children's Hospital. He is also Director of the Center for Effective Parenting. The primary focus of his clinical and research activities is in the area of parenting and family functioning. He is a co-author with Dr Rex Forehand of the books Parenting the Strong-Willed Child and Making Divorce Easier on Your Child.

    Susan McGaw, PhD is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist, who founded the Special Parenting Service for parents with intellectual disabilities (ID) in 1988, the first of its kind in the UK. This service is well known for the development of assessment tools, theoretical models and innovative practices for use with ID parents and has published extensively in this area. She is the British Psychological Society's spokesperson on this topic.

    Fiona Miller, PhD received her doctorate in School and Child Clinical Psychology from the University of Toronto in 2001. She is currently a staff psychologist in the Child Psychiatry Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health–Clarke Division. Her research focuses on the role of parenting in the development and prevention of psychopathology, with a particular interest in emotion and attention regulation as factors that may mediate this connection. One current project is designed to investigate the effectiveness of community-based parent training programs for families of young children with externalizing difficulties.

    Kevin Moore, PhD is Clinical Director of Community Programs and a Research Associate at the Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC). Prior to this association, he was Director of Specialized Treatment Programs and National Director of Treatment Foster Care at Father Flanagan's Boys' Home, Boystown, Nebraska. His research interests include the use of single-subject methodologies to help guide clinical decision-making, pooled time-series, and the care and treatment of traumatized children in community-based settings.

    Julie Owens MB, BS, MRCPsych is Specialist Registrar in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, based at the Fleming Nuffield Unit, Jesmond, Newcastle.

    Lee Pachter, DO is Professor of Pediatrics and Anthropology, and Head of the Division of General Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. He is a pediatrician at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. His areas of research interest include understanding the role of ethnic and cultural beliefs and practices in child health, health care, child behavior and development, minority parenting, ethnomedicine, racism and child development, and social science research methodologies.

    Charlotte Patterson, PhD is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where she teaches Developmental Psychology. Her research focuses on social and personality development among children and adolescents in the context of family, peer and school environments. She is known for her studies of children with lesbian and gay parents.

    Jan Pryor, PhD is Senior Lecturer in Developmental and Family Psychology in the School of Psychology at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She is also Director of the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families. Her major research interest is in family processes and transitions and their impact on children. She is an independent consultant to the judiciary in family matters.

    Christine Puckering is Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow. She is also Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow and Honorary Lecturer in Forensic Psychology, Glasgow Caledonian University. She has developed and runs the ‘Mellow Parenting’ programme with John Rogers. Her research and clinical interests are mainly in the areas of child and family psychology.

    Gillian Pugh is Chief Executive of the London-based charity Coram Family and was previously Director of the Early Childhood Unit at the National Children's Bureau. She has published extensively, including Contemporary Issues in the Early Years; Confident Parents, Confident Children; Preventive Work with Families; and Training to Work in the Early Years. She is a visiting professorial fellow at the University of London Institute of Education, and a member of the Children's Task Force for London. She is Chair of the Parenting Education and Support Forum, a trustee of the National Family and Parenting Institute, and she works in an advisory capacity with the UK Government's Sure Start Unit and Children and Young People's Unit.

    Alan Ralph, PhD is Adjunct Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at The University of Queensland. Over the past 15 years, he has held several clinical positions, conducted research in the area of adolescent and family problems, and written numerous articles and chapters on related topics. He has developed programs to assist teenagers and their parents to manage problems commonly encountered during the transition into adolescence and adulthood and trained practitioners to implement these programs.

    Karen Rudolph, PhD is an Associate Professor of Clinical and Developmental Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on the development of psychopathology in childhood and adolescence. In particular, she studies how characteristics of children and their environments interact to create a risk for the emergence of depression and other disorders, with a specific focus on stress and coping processes in relationships.

    Matthew Sanders, PhD is Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the Parenting and Family Support Centre at the University of Queensland. Over the past 25 years, he has conducted major research into the family-based treatment and prevention of behavioural and emotional problems in children. He has written extensively on parent training and evidence-based family interventions, and authored several books on the treatment of children's behaviour problems, including the popular parenting book Every Parent: A Positive Approach to Children's Behaviour.

    Anne Shaffer is a doctoral student in clinical and developmental psychology at the University of Minnesota. Her research has focused on issues germane to child and adolescent development, with a special emphasis on child and family adjustment to stress.

    Dana Smith, PhD is a research associate and clinical interventionist at the Oregon Social Learning Center. Her work focuses on prevention and intervention with adolescent female delinquent populations. Dana is also interested in the dissemination and replication of evidence-based interventions, and is involved in training and dissemination of the Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care model.

    Peter Smith, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Head of the Unit for School and Family Studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London. His research interests are in social development, grandparenting, play, bullying, and evolutionary theory. He is editor of The Psychology of Grandparenthood, co-author of Understanding Children's Development, and co-editor of Theories of Theories of Mind, The Family Systems Test and The Nature of School Bullying.

    Elizabeth Soliday, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology at Washington State University at Vancouver, having gained her doctorate from the University of Kansas. Her primary research area is in child and family adjustment to chronic illness. Her projects have been funded by the National Kidney Foundation, the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.

    Peter Sprengelmeyer, PhD is the Assistant Director of OSLC Community Programs and a Research Associate at the Oregon Social Learning Center. He is also a licensed psychologist. Currently, he is working with projects within the center dealing with substance use as a co-occurring disorder and with the dissemination of empirically validated treatment approaches.

    Randi Streisand, PhD is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Pediatrics at the Children's National Medical Center and the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC. Her research interests are in pediatric psychology, parent-child stress and coping with chronic illness, and behavioral interventions to promote parent-child health and well-being. Dr Streisand, a pediatric psychologist, is also the author of a recently published book on child health assessment.

    Erin Sutfin is a doctoral student in Developmental Psychology at the University of Virginia. Her research interests include social and emotional development during childhood and focus especially on children's gender role development. She has presented her research at the Society for Research in Child Development and at the American Psychological Association.

    Kenneth P. Tercyak, PhD is a pediatric psychologist and Assistant Professor of Oncology and Pediatrics at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. Dr Tercyak's research addresses the interface of cancer control, behavioral science, and pediatrics, with special interests in bio-behavioral aspects of tobacco use and genetic testing for hereditary cancers among high risk children, parents, and familes.

    David Utting is a writer on social policy and an Associate Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He is author of the Foundation's report on Family and Parenthoodas well as the co-author of Crime and the Family and a national survey of secondary school students, Youth at risk? Other publications include Reducing Criminality among Young People and co-authorship of What Works with Young Offenders in the Community? He and Gillian Pugh are co-authors of Better Results for Children and Families, a report on involving communities in planning outcome-based services. He led the Rowntree Foundation task group that adapted the Communities that Care programme for use in Britain and was seconded in 1998–1999 to help establish the UK Government's Sure Start initiative.

    Sally Wade, EdD is the Director of the Florida Partnership for Family Involvement in Education. She is also director of Family-Centered Projects at the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System Center at the University of South Florida. She is a nationally recognized parent advocate who has consulted with community-based agencies regarding family-centered care and schools regarding family-friendly practices. Her professional interests include family-centered care, family support systems, family involvement policy and legislation, and training in family involvement practices.

    Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD is a clinical psychologist and Professor of Nursing at the University of Washington, Seattle. She is a two-time recipient of the National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Award for her work in developing and researching violence prevention programs. She has published extensively. Her programs have been identified as a ‘Blueprint Programme’ for the prevention of violence and by the US Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and by the American Psychological Association as one of only two effective treatments for conduct disorder. She has developed training programs for teachers, parents and children as school and community-based interventions.

    Chapter Summaries

    1 Parenting–An Introduction

    Masud Hoghughi

    This chapter introduces the concept of parenting in its widest sense. It addresses the history and evolution of parenting, its emergence into public consciousness and policy, and as a focus for research and academic interest. The author presents a comprehensive overview of parenting, encompassing its essential processes, areas of application and prerequisites.

    2 The Social Context of Parenting

    David Utting and Gillian Pugh

    This chapter discusses the social and policy context in which a significant and growing interest in parenting has developed during the past 20 years. The authors present an overview of the public debate about families and parenting and policy initiatives. The chapter also includes a discussion of such issues as the role of research in drawing attention to parenting as a skill that can be improved and the role that voluntary/non-profit organizations have played in the spread of parenting services. The authors conclude the chapter with a discussion questioning whether sufficient public and political consensus exists to ensure the current level of services and interest in parenting are sustained.

    3 Parenting in Social and Economic Adversity

    Christine Puckering

    This chapter has a primary focus on the link between poverty, parenting and the outcome for children. Other topics examined include teen parents and incarcerated parents. The author also discusses intervention with parents who face social and economic adversity. The chapter concludes with suggestions regarding policy and practice.

    4 Parenting Across the Lifespan

    Martin Herbert

    This chapter focuses on the role of parents in socializing their children across the lifespan. The author discusses the various stages of development, from the prenatal period through to adulthood, and issues related to parenting at each stage. Specific areas covered include developmental tasks, attachment, and identity development. The author also briefly discusses issues pertaining to ‘older’ mothers. The author concludes the chapter by presenting a number of specific guidelines for use by parents through the lifespan.

    5 Parental Influences on Vulnerability and Resilience

    Carole A. Kaplan and Julie Owens

    A major challenge for professionals working with parents and children is to help them enhance their resilience and reduce their vulnerabilities. This chapter presents a predominantly clinical perspective regarding vulnerability and resilience. The authors present a brief historical background for this topic and then go on to discuss various family factors, child factors, and environmental factors that impact vulnerability and resilience. The authors also examine the cumulative and interactional processes of such factors.

    6 Parenting in Culturally Divergent Settings

    Lee M. Pachter and Thyde Dumont-Mathieu

    This chapter presents a view of parenting that posits that successful parenting styles and practices are relative to the specific context within which the family lives. The chapter primarily focuses on the variables that are either specific to, or have different effects on those who are parenting in culturally divergent settings, including those who have recently immigrated to another country either voluntarily or under duress, as well as ethnic minorities. Specific topics discussed include how culture affects child development, acculturation, social position factors, minority status and parenting, and challenges of the transitional process for immigrant families.

    7 Religious Influences on Parenting

    Stephen Frosh

    This chapter examines the relationship between religion, with an emphasis on Judaism and Islam, and parenting. Although, as the author acknowledges, there is paucity of research in this area, religion has an influence on many parenting practices. The chapter discusses such influences. The author also examines the division between professional and religious views of the treatment of children and the implications of this division for practice.

    8 Parenting in Reconstituted and Surrogate Families

    Jan Pryor

    This chapter examines issues faced by families who are not ‘intact’ in the biological and structural sense. The author begins with an overview of the history of families, families after divorce, stepfamilies, adoptive families, foster families, and families formed by artificial reproductive technologies. The chapter then focuses on what we know about parenting in such ‘non-traditional’ families and conclusions that can be drawn. In the final section of the chapter the author summarizes implications for practice and policy.

    9 Sexual Orientation and Parenting

    Charlotte J. Patterson and Erin L Sutfin

    This chapter begins with a review of the historical context in which lesbian and gay parenting has emerged. The authors then provide an overview of lesbian and gay parenthood today, including information about the prevalence and diversity of lesbian and gay parenting, and about the legal contexts in which these families currently live. The authors also discuss the research on lesbian and gay parents and their children as well as the implications of these research findings. The chapter concludes with a discussion of future directions for research, service, and advocacy relevant to the needs of lesbian mothers, gay fathers, and their children.

    10 Grandparenting and Extended Support Networks

    Peter K. Smith and Linda M. Drew

    This chapter begins with a discussion of some of the major conceptual issues in studying grandparenting as well as a historical perspective on issues pertaining to the role of grandparents. The core issues examined in the chapter include the nature of contacts between grandparents and grandchildren, the issue of proximity, characteristics of grandparents and grandchildren, and direct and indirect influences of grandparents on grandchildren. The chapter also presents an overview of the various roles of grandparents and how these roles are impacted by various factors including culture and parental divorce. The chapter concludes with the authors' summarizing implications for practice related to grandparenting.

    11 Parenting and Children's Physical Health

    Elizabeth Soliday

    This chapter synthesizes the available literature documenting the relationships between parenting factors and children's general health. The author discusses the relationship of various demographic variables and parenting process variables with children's health. The chapter also includes an overview of cognitive behavioral health interventions that involve parents. Other topics covered include family process variables, family systems interventions, and attachment. The author concludes the chapter with a discussion of implications for practice and research.

    12 Parenting Chronically Ill Children–The Scope and Impact of Pediatric Parenting Stress

    Randi Streisand and Kenneth P. Tercyak

    This chapter examines specific issues in parenting that arise when infants, children, and adolescents experience chronic and/or life-threatening illnesses. The authors also review cross-cutting themes in parent-child stress and coping that offer multiple frameworks in which to understand such complex issues. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the practical implications of this knowledge base.

    13 Parenting Influences on Intellectual Development and Educational Achievement

    Sally M. Wade

    This chapter provides an overview of the impact of parenting on children's intellectual developmental and academic achievement. Specific areas discussed include examples of legislation to promote parent involvement in children's education as well as a detailed discussion of the influences of parenting on early cognitive development, academic achievement, and vocational choices. The author concludes the chapter with a discussion of implications for practice, including a list of specific ways parents can promote their children's academic success.

    14 Parenting Exceptional Children

    Susan McGaw

    This chapter describes the struggle of adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) to establish the right to become parents and to raise their children within the community. The ability and capacity of ID parents is discussed, including how their parental competency is assessed, measured and compared to that of the general parent population. The plight of their children is examined, as is the question of whether they receive ‘different’ or poor parenting which result in an ‘exceptional’ childhood. Methodological difficulties involved in conducting research on ID parents and the interpretation of findings are discussed.

    15 Parenting and Antisocial Behavior

    Dana K. Smith, Peter G. Sprengelmeyer and Kevin J. Moore

    This chapter provides an overview of the role of parenting practices in the development, maintenance, and treatment of antisocial behavior. The role of individual child and parent factors, environmental factors, and contextual variables are discussed in the context of the impact each has, both individually and collectively, on parenting practices during early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence. The authors conclude the chapter with a brief discussion of implications for intervention.

    16 Parenting Antisocial Children and Adolescents

    Beth A. Kotchick, Anne Shaffer, Shannon Dorsey and Rex Forehand

    This chapter begins with a historical overview of how parents became involved in the treatment of child antisocial behaviors. The authors then discuss several core issues central to parent training, including a discussion of developmental and contextual variables. The chapter also presents an example of a well-established behavioral parent training program. The authors conclude the chapter with a discussion of challenges frequently faced by providers in accessing and implementing these parenting interventions, as well as issues related to the future direction of parent training from the clinical, research, and policy perspective.

    17 Parenting and Mental Health

    Colleen S. Conley, Melissa S. Caldwell, Megan Flynn, Alison J. Dupre and Karen D. Rudolph

    This chapter summarizes theory and research on the impact of parental mental health, broadly construed, and associated circumstances on parenting. A brief overview of historical trends and theories in the domain of parenting research is provided, followed by a review of relevant research on personal and contextual influences on parenting. The authors conclude the chapter with a discussion on how intervention programs and social policy can be directed toward mental health promotion in the context of parenting.

    18 Parenting Children with Mental Health Problems

    Fiona K. Miller and Jennifer M. Jenkins

    This chapter focuses on issues related to parenting children with internalizing disorders such as anxiety and depression. The authors begin with a historical overview of the perceived role of parents in children's internalizing disorders. Core issues are then discussed including a review of major internalizing disorders, child and parent effects, bi-directional influences, moderation effects, and the role of parents in the amelioration of internalizing symptoms. The authors conclude the chapter by summarizing implications for practice.

    19 Assessing and Delivering Parent Support

    Harriet Heath

    This chapter defines support and documents the importance of having support to the well being of parents and their children. It traces the history of providing support to parents and families. It describes the functions of support and identifies potential sources of support using Bronfenbrenner's ecological framework. The chapter then turns to looking at methods for identifying and assessing parents' support systems for the purposes of developing and assessing programs and of further researching support systems and their influence.

    20 Community-based Support for Parents

    Judy Hutchings and Carolyn Webster-Stratton

    This chapter discusses some of the challenges parents face and describes a number of interventions that have been developed to support parents and children within their own communities. The author discusses programs that support parents of young children, parents of children with behaviour problems, and parents of adolescents. A detailed overview of Carolyn Webster-Stratton's program ‘The Incredible Years’ is provided.

    21 Towards a Multi-level Model of Parenting Intervention

    Matthew R. Sanders and Alan Ralph

    This chapter outlines the conceptual and empirical basis for the development of a multi-level approach to parenting education, parent training, and family intervention that focuses on the prevention and treatment of behavioral and emotional problems in children and adolescents. The authors discuss the historical context within which behaviorally oriented family interventions developed, review the evidence supporting their efficacy and effectiveness, and discuss implications for policy makers, service providers and consumers. The authors also present an overview of their Triple P–the Positive Parenting Programme.

    22 e-Parenting

    Nicholas Long

    This chapter discusses the concept of e-parenting and the profound impact that emerging technologies will have on parents, children, and providers. The author provides a historical background of the impact of electronic technology on parenting. Core issues discussed include accessibility, potential benefits, concerns about technology dependence, concerns about privacy, the reliability and validity of information, and ethical concerns. The chapter concludes with a discussion of various issues related to implications for practice.

    Epilogue: Towards a Parenting Society

    Nicholas Long and Masud Hoghughi

    This chapter presents a brief overview of anticipated family trends and societal issues that will impact on parenting in the 21st century. The authors then conclude the Handbook with a discussion of their thoughts on what it will take to move society towards being more supportive of parenting.


    Parenting, as a process, is as old as humanity. While parenting is not rocket science, it is probably the most overwhelming and important endeavour many of us undertake in our lifetime. It would be reasonable to expect that so primordial an activity would have accumulated implicit knowledge and explicit practice as to become bullet-proof by the 21st century. It has not.

    We recognize that in a rapidly changing world, there are children who are badly affected by neglectful, inappropriate and sometimes abusive parenting. We are also aware that the increasing pressures on families and the growing complexity of our social environments are creating new and additional turbulence which parents must weather. The impact of many such influences on parenting is negative, with serious long-term consequences both for the families themselves and the wider society.

    Given the difficulties that parents face, it is little wonder that growing attention has been paid to parenting in recent years, including a vast number of publications for both parents and professionals. From the professional perspective, the area of parenting has traditionally been considered not a separate discipline, but rather an area of interest embedded within various disciplines such as psychology, sociology, nursing, social work, anthropology, paediatrics, child development and others. However, in recent years we have witnessed the early stages of what we believe to be the acceptance of parenting as a distinct discipline. The recognition of this newly emerging discipline was perhaps marked with the publication of the distinguished four-volume Handbook of Parenting, edited by Marc Bornstein in 1995 and published by Laurence Erlbaum. While acknowledging the importance of that handbook (and the five-volume second edition published in 2002), especially to academics and researchers, we have taken a different route. This Sage Handbook of Parenting is primarily concerned with considering theory and research evidence as a basis for practice–to be used by practitioners and students wishing to increase their understanding of parenting issues and help parenting figures who face a range of difficulties or, indeed, for those unusual parents who might wish to make use of it themselves. It is a single-volume handbook meant to provide a more general review of issues related to parenting, written primarily for the non-researcher.

    This focus on practice is responsible for our decision to ask authors to include the minimum number of references in the text, so that it reads easily and coherently and can be used practically as a handbook. That the chapters are authoritative should not be in doubt; they reflect the distilled knowledge of the topic by renowned workers in the field rather than pernickety and unhelpful recourse to drowning the text in references.

    Although the chapter authors were given a standardized structure for their chapters, they have each modified it to fit the content of their chapter, and we have respected their wishes in presenting the material as they saw fit. We have also kept the spelling differences between our American and other authors.

    The first editor wishes to thank those parents, friends and family members who read and commented on his chapter, particularly in relation to what both it and the handbook as a whole should cover. The second editor would like to thank his colleagues and his family not only for their insights and wisdom but also for their unwavering support and encouragement.

    Since the first editor has had the task of ‘putting to bed’ the final product, he wishes to thank his secretary and closest collaborator Doreen Kipling, to whom this public acknowledgement is, as always, but a meagre tribute.

  • Epilogue: Towards a Parenting Society

    This book has brought together evidence to show that every aspect of a child's functioning–physical and mental health, intellectual and educational achievement and social behaviour–are all fundamentally affected by parenting practices. Chapters have also set out a fairly comprehensive overview of the prerequisites of ‘good enough’ parenting, both in general and specific areas and what happens when they are not met.

    And yet, at the beginning of the 21st century we are witnessing high levels of family problems such as poverty, homelessness, infant mortality, malnutrition, drug and alcohol abuse, family and youth violence, child and adolescent mental health problems, and youth suicide in many countries around the world. Such ills are not confined to developing countries but are starkest in the most ‘powerful’ or ‘rich’ nations, by virtue of the differences between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. These difficulties show that, judged by their results, many significant efforts put into parenting assistance still goes awry.

    As previous chapters have shown, parenting does not occur in isolation but rather within a larger framework of interdependent elements. It is influenced by numerous factors encompassing individual characteristics of children and parents, families, and the societies in which they live. When working with families, we typically focus attention on individuals, often losing sight of the wider ecological perspective. However, it is important to remember that parents and children often reflect the problems of the wider society and that families do not develop independently of the prevailing culture. In this final chapter we will briefly discuss family trends, social issues, and our recommendations for moving toward a society that is more supportive of effective parenting. Our predictions of family trends, and our subsequent recommendations, have been gleaned over the years from our own experiences and observations and the writings of many others (e.g. Louv, 1992; Garbarino, 1995; Walsh, 1995; Rickel and Becker, 1997; Hewlett and West, 1998; Matathia and Salzman, 1999; Freely, 2000; Golombok, 2000; Bumpass, 2001; Garbarino and Bedard, 2001; Kaslow, 2001; Westman, 2001).


    In the 21st century we will probably witness a continuing shift from multigenerational family units to individual family units, particularly in the West. This will result in greater isolation and perhaps alienation from the extended family, decreasing both the practical and emotional support available to parents. Due to issues such as the lack of time, parents are becoming less likely to join organizations and become active in their communities. The trend is for parents to live increasingly isolated and unconnected lives.

    In recent decades we have also seen the amount of time parents spend interacting with their children gradually decline. Parents have less and less time to devote to active parenting. Stressed-out parents have to survive in an increasingly competitive society. They are spending more of their time working to provide the basic necessities of food, shelter and leisure for their children and less time providing for their emotional needs. As a result, many are becoming disengaged from their children, though the primeval, physically protective tendencies remain.

    The structure and composition of families is changing. There is consequently growing dilution and confusion in defining what constitutes a family and who is a parent. The ‘traditional’ family consisting of a mother and a father who naturally conceived their children and who are ‘satisfactorily’ married, though still the norm, is becoming less common. Thus, new terms have emerged to describe different types of families. Terms such as ‘nuclear’, ‘extended’, ‘single-parent’, and ‘blended’ have become integrated into our language.

    As previous chapters have indicated, growing trends in the diversity of family structure and composition include trends such as the increasing numbers of grandparents serving as their grandchildren's primary parents and an increasing number of gay and lesbian couples raising children. Changes in patterns of conception also make defining ‘family’ more difficult. As a growing number of couples turn to artificial reproductive technologies to help them have children, a child may end up with a biological father (sperm donor), a biological mother (egg donor), a surrogate mother, and a social mother and father who rear the child. The picture becomes even more complicated if the parents who are rearing the child divorce and re-marry and step-parents are introduced. The net result is that during the 21st century it will become progressively more difficult to define ‘family’ and ‘parent’. As a society we will increasingly struggle both emotionally and legally to make sense of this confusion, though the basic needs of children for secure attachment, nurture and guidance will remain.

    In the most developed industrial societies, it seems that the interplay between increasing individualism and pressures of the market economy have fuelled many of the family changes we are witnessing. Often individuals are judged by their job, their productivity and how much they are paid rather than their commitment to their children and community. Material values and media-driven trends increasingly shape personal relationships, which strain under the wider availability of choices even in partners, and the pressure towards getting the most out of one finite life. As a consequence, we become more self-centred, placing our own needs above those of others, including our children, though paradoxically our concern for the poor and dispossessed of other countries is at an all-time high. Within such a cultural framework, parenting is at best passively valued and often has to be actively defended by parents and others. The market economy and corporate voracity which place the focus on survival through profit, use people as production units, creating time and financial pressures which are at the core of many adults' struggle to be better parents.

    Most business leaders have moved away from the informal ‘social contract’ that employers had with employees in past generations. These often meant that as long as the employee performed well in the job then the employer would look after him in terms of job security and benefits. In many ways, such a relationship utilized family values such as commitment, caring and trust. Times have changed. In the US, there are now companies that hire individuals at 49 per cent time so they do not have to give them benefits such as health insurance that would be required at 50 per cent. In the United States, Western Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, although workers are better protected than in many other regions of the world, we still see large corporations laying off groups of workers at the same time as they provide huge bonuses to executives. Given their prominence and impact, we should not be surprised that cynicism and self-centredness percolate down to families and other social institutions.

    Government polices also often add to business practices and cultural influences in working against parents. Proportionate to their income, the rich are taxed less than the poor. Although in most countries the state acknowledges and to some extent compensates parents for children's expenses, the economic burden on parents seems to be growing. This points to a critical contemporary dilemma: as a society we expect parents to invest huge amounts of time, energy and expense in child-rearing, but it is society at large that reaps the much greater material benefits. In developed societies, children are now rarely a source of economic benefit to parents. Therefore an argument could be made for proposing that the necessary survival and educational costs for children should be borne by the state, out of equitable taxation, so that at least this major pressure on parents is removed.

    At the heart of much of the divided political debate on government support for parents and children is the basic issue of how families are viewed. Are families basically private domains for whose care the role of government should be minimal? Or, are families the core unit of society and thus the prime focus for any attempts at improving it? Most developed nations appear to be moving in directions that contain elements of both positions, while remaining wary of committing themselves. The closest approximations to the latter position can be seen in Nordic countries, where family welfare is at the core of the political agenda and kept above party politics.

    One of the most significant trends in recent decades has been the tremendous increase of single-parent families. This is one consequence of growing divorce rates and the trend for women to have children outside marriage or a stable relationship. As discussed elsewhere in this handbook, children who are reared by one parent tend to have more problems than those reared in two-parent families. It appears that the greatest risk comes not from the absence of a second parent per se but from the difficulties that are associated with it, such as decreased income, lack of partner support in child-rearing issues and parental practices.

    The increasing formal and legal equality between men and women has perhaps been the most significant positive social change of the last century. However, it has had a downside in terms of parenting. In the past, within traditional families in many Western cultures, mothers often stayed at home to care for their children while fathers worked outside the home financially to support the family. As, under economic and social pressures, more women have pursued jobs outside the home, at least two major difficulties in regard to child-rearing have become prominent.

    Firstly, for the most part, women continue to carry the major burden of their traditional responsibilities for child-rearing and housekeeping, in addition to working outside the home. Thus, we witness the changing role of women but relatively unchanging role of men. While there has been some recent shifting toward a more equitable sharing of parenting responsibilities between mothers and fathers in dual-income families, there is the need for much more. The second difficulty arises from the loss of vast amounts of unpaid labour previously devoted to the care and nurture of our children. With both parents in the workforce, we are struggling as a society to find effective substitute care for children and how to pay for it. In most Western countries, there is variable assistance with provision and cost of childcare, but rarely enough. The issue of whether childcare should be paid for by the government or employers remains very much alive.

    In recent years, there has been a growing debate on the relative importance of the influence of parenting versus the influence of genes on children. While it is important to recognize that genes have a significant influence on many child characteristics including personality features, future debates in this area will probably focus more on the interaction between genetic and environmental factors rather than whether a particular child characteristic is the result of ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’. A related area of research that will see growth is the genetic influences on specific parenting behaviors. Do genes influence the type of parent one becomes, such as authoritarian or permissive? Such research will be greatly facilitated by the Human Genome Project, which recently achieved a major breakthrough in developing a map of the human genome. Research will now move swiftly from examining gene sequencing to gene function. The ability to identify everyone's genetic fingerprint will also eventually become possible, making it possible to identify those persons, both parents and children, who are most at risk genetically for adverse reactions to environmental influences. How we respond to such knowledge will be complex and as yet unpredictable. Will we look to providing additional support to those at most risk or will we look to genetic engineering for help?

    Other Trends
    • The amount of time parents spend interacting with their children has been declining in most countries over recent decades and may well continue.
    • Families will continue to face mounting economic pressures in trying to parent their children effectively.
    • Society will become more multiracial.
    • Economic pressures will result in a growing number of infants to be cared for outside the home at younger ages, in order to allow parents to return to work.
    • Most of the population movement in the past decades has involved people moving from rural areas to large cities for jobs. Electronic technologies are allowing more individuals to work from their homes or facilities outside large cities. This trend will have, as yet, unpredictable consequences for parenting.
    • Children are becoming sexually active at earlier ages and parents need to play an increasing role in sex education. This will be so, particularly because of social and political resistance in some countries to introducing sex education at younger age levels in the schools.
    • The entertainment media will have an increasing influence on the lives of children as new technologies and methods of accessing them are developed. Parents' messages about violence, sex, drugs and other issues will need to be correspondingly more powerful in order to compete with movies, television, music, video games, the Internet, targeted print media and other yet-unknown technologies.
    • There is also a trend in how parents are portrayed in the media. Television and the movies used to celebrate families and show strong models of parenting. We are now increasingly exposed to parenting models that are dysfunctional.
    • There is a trend for children in their early twenties to continue living, or return to live, with their parents. Whether this is good for either party is as yet an unanswered question.
    • Due to parent work schedules and economic pressures, more children at younger ages are being left alone, especially after school hours, to care for themselves. Studies of young teenagers show that the more hours that they are left alone after school, the greater the risk of alcohol and drug use. These unsupervised after-school hours are also a prime time for sexual activity.
    • The legislative liberalization of soft drug use, already evident in parts of Europe, will spread.
    • Advances in genetic engineering will provide the technology for parents to create ‘designer babies’, notwithstanding current prohibition. Society will have to sort out the ethical and legal implications.
    • Due to various stressors, parents are not supervising their children and adolescents as closely as in the past. This is a problem as it decreases the level of control necessary to curb youth problems such as drug and alcohol use, delinquency and unsafe sex.
    • Neighbourhood ties among families have been eroding as families have become increasingly mobile and isolated.
    • In recent decades there has been a trend in many countries indicating that children's emotional and behavioral problems are becoming more frequent and severe.
    • The significant impact of problems with alcohol and drug abuse will continue and perhaps grow.
    • Surveys in Europe and the US indicate that parents' greatest concerns for their children are related to safety (crime/violence), exposure to drugs, need for quality schools, declining morals and negatively changing values in society. There is no indication that any of these concerns will become less serious.

    Although there are some positive trends, such as healthier and educationally more competent children, most of the trends described above are negative. Fortunately, both parents and children are quite resilient. Most of the time they are able to cope effectively with the many issues and stressors that they confront in their daily lives. However, we are also learning that there are limits to resiliency and coping. Individuals are typically able to cope with a limited number of stressors but as the number of stressors they are exposed to increases, their ability to cope effectively decreases. As a growing number of parents confront multiple stressors, especially in the absence of adequate support, their effectiveness as parents is compromised.

    Moving toward a Parenting Society

    We use the term ‘parenting society’ to denote a number of component approaches and also to imply that such a society is a good and desirable one. A parenting society not only promotes the care, control and development of all citizens at a macro-strategic level and organization of relevant structures, but also helps individual parents and families to look after their children optimally.

    The need for a parenting society is based on two fundamental premises:

    • No society can survive without order. Although order can be imposed, it will only endure if citizens are imbued with a sense of its necessity and are supportive of legally enforced structures created to maintain it. Parenting is the most powerful, life-long means of inculcating respect for social order in children.
    • A society with order but lacking in appropriate values to animate it is arid and not fit for humanity. Most social legislation is based on a macro projection of the chief values such as co-operative care, loyalty and commitment, which animate most families. Parenting is the strongest possible single influence, shaping the values children adopt and enact.

    It therefore seems to us that a society that does not actively promote parenting is likely to undermine the very foundations of its own progressive enrichment and even survival. If such survival and enhancement are the overarching goals, what should we do to optimize the prospects of a parenting society? There are three broad areas of enablement:

    • reducing the number and impact of those factors that undermine ‘good enough’ parenting;
    • supporting the status quo in those areas that are adequate and appropriate and do not warrant changing;
    • promoting those areas that, although already positive, would benefit from further opportunities for enhancement.

    These three sets of interrelated activities can be brought together and addressed in a number of overarching objectives.

    Given the wide range of factors that influence parenting, it is obvious that if we are to move society toward being more supportive of it, strategies must be multifaceted and address a wide range of issues. We must above all regard ‘family’ as broadly as possible to include any setting that provides opportunities for care, control and development of the child. This will embrace all those adults who engage in the ‘primary parenting’ of the child, whether they are biological parents, grandparents, or other persons. The ‘extended’ family should include all those outside of the immediate family who are actively involved in caring for the child, including teachers. It is important to recognize the important and interactive role that teachers and others play in a child's development.

    We need to redefine the traditional parenting roles of men and women. There needs to be more flexibility with child-rearing responsibilities within families. In families where both parents are employed outside the home, this will mean that responsibilities will be shared more equitably. However, specific roles will vary from family to family and we as a society should strive to accommodate more flexible parenting responsibilities. We can think of policies, such as those in Sweden, where paternity leave has to be taken alternately with maternity leave, to ensure that fathers have equal opportunity for parenting in the early years and are seen by society at large to have a facilitated responsibility in this area.

    To be successful we must aim toward a convergence of political, business, service, and research ideas regarding parenting. Convergent messages from various segments of society including the government, businesses, entrepreneurs, scientists, journalists, religious leaders, and parents themselves regarding the crucial importance of this process will be a prerequisite for developing comprehensive and effective strategies. They and we, after all, share the one common ‘connective tissue’ that we are all either parents or children of parents and no common interest is greater than ensuring the welfare of families.

    As we have suggested, one of the greatest issues facing parents in Western countries is their diminishing time spent interacting with their children. We know that effective parenting not only entails financial and emotional commitment but also requires an immense amount of time and focal energy. Given current and probable social pressures, time is an ever more scarce commodity. However, the greatest positive impact and richness of parenting is typically found in the ‘quality time’ parents and their children spend together, where attachment deepens. We need to encourage parents to slow down so that they may find and share the wonders of life with their children.

    How do we create more time for parenting? Several countries provide long-term paid maternity and paternity leave for new parents. Other strategies include laws that would allow a certain amount of flexible leave for parenting responsibilities, such as attending parent-teacher meetings at schools. Tax incentives could be offered to employers who offer flexi-time and compressed work weeks. Policies could be enacted that would allow employees to take compensatory time off instead of overtime pay for extra hours worked, as already happens in some enlightened enterprises. Other possibilities include policies that allow employees to take extra weeks of unpaid vacation during the year when their children are at home. Incentives, tax or otherwise, should be offered to family-friendly businesses that provide on-site child-care, which also allow parents more time with their children.

    Governments are the most influential force in parenting. The timid ones just respond to pressure. The enlightened ones lead and shape social attitudes. Their influence is exerted in a multitude of obvious and subtle ways. Recognizing the dangers of a ‘nanny state’ is not incompatible with active intervention.

    Fiscal policies can either strengthen or impede the parenting process. Parents need economic security of a kind and level that will not undermine their functioning. Many families face significant economic stressors that negatively influence their ability to parent effectively. Individuals who work need to be assured a ‘living wage’ that will allow them, and their children, to live above the poverty line. Those families in economic distress need assistance with housing. No family in a civilized country should be allowed to become and remain homeless, given the long-term corrosive effects of this status on both parents and children.

    The pressures of globalized market economies result in business plans that focus on the financial ‘bottom line’. In a parenting society, the time and effort that parents spend in child-rearing would be viewed as having a large economic value in producing productive tax-paying citizens for the future. Although the value of effective parenting should be recognized, it is critical that children are not viewed purely as capital and considered only in economic terms. Their emotional health and behavioural propriety according to core positive values is what will ensure their productive citizenship.

    Before enacting any public programme, its impact on parenting and children should be examined. Questions need to focus on whether the proposed measures will increase positive interaction between adults and children. As we have seen, a wide range of benevolent adults (such as grandparents) act as parenting figures. With the increasing break up of families, the importance of maintaining continuity of contact with such figures should be recognized and promoted.

    Community planning and development needs to take into consideration the impact on families. There is a growing recognition that many community development practices of the past decades have had a detrimental social impact. There is a growing and welcome return to town-planning traditions that promote sidewalks, front porches, shopping within walking distance and common grounds for children and families to interact. In a parenting society, developers and urban planners would design communities that encourage social interaction and connectedness for families, rather than isolate them.

    It is understandable that governments place so much importance on economic health (‘It's the economy, stupid’), because without it much else is imperilled. But we seem to have reached a point where a society's success seems to be measured more by financial indices than by the well-being of children and families. In the end, it may be possible to have both economic prosperity and family well-being. We may learn that greater co-operation between work and home can transform company culture and lead to healthier and better motivated employees. That in turn will benefit companies economically, through lower employee turnover and related costs, as well as more productive (because of increased stability and commitment) employees. Economic security may enhance family stability and its absence lead to greater family stress and child vulnerability. However, in Western societies, governments recognize the complexity of adult intimate relationships and keep clear of trying to legislate for them.

    In the face of ‘globalization’ and ‘market economy’, most Western governments seem to be fighting a rearguard and largely passive fight against influences that most agree are harmful to children's interests. Increases in the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, soft and some classified drugs and violent, antisocial films, video games and the like are examples of these. In the absence of countervailing forces, many children succumb to these influences, particularly those who seem to be particularly vulnerable.

    The most powerful countervailing force, as research has repeatedly demonstrated, is the quality of parenting. Most parents desperately express the need to know how best to counter such influences on their children, but do not know whom to ask. Government and social agencies' advice is often vapid and unhelpful, in being both generalized and weak.

    A parenting society, bringing together government, parents and social agencies, would unite in controlling the spread of commercially motivated damaging activity, by recognizing that any of the doctrinal and economic advantages of a ‘free market’ are vastly outweighed by its impact on vulnerable children. Such a society would also utilize the considerable amount of good knowledge and experience available to teach parents how better to insulate their children against adverse experiences. Many of the chapters in this book encapsulate such advice.

    Given the critical and formative influence of schools, as arenas for both teacher/parenting figures and increasingly powerful peers, a parenting society would enhance and project the role of schools accordingly. There is evidence of growing recognition of this, but not yet as the result of a focal policy in many countries. In a parenting society the government would sufficiently fund and support schools due to the recognition of the central importance of schools not only in terms of academic education but also in terms of broader child development.

    A parenting society would also provide comprehensive health care to all family members, irrespective of income, as is already done in many countries such as those in Western Europe. Parents who face serious or chronic illnesses for any member of their family should not be forced into financial ruin as, unfortunately, often happens in countries that do not have a government-supported universal health-care system.

    Given the complexity of parenting and the diversity of parenting roles, it is not surprising that numerous academic subjects touch on the study of and/or application of knowledge to parenting. Disciplines with interests in parenting include child development, family studies, psychology, education, social work, sociology, pediatrics, nursing, anthropology, religion, communication and many others. It is important to recognize that the study of parenting has not traditionally been considered an independent discipline, but rather an area of interest embedded within other disciplines. Although a distinct discipline of ‘parenting studies’ may be emerging, its absence is a major contributing factor to the fragmentation of the field and its poor impact. It would immeasurably help the move toward a parenting society if scholars from different disciplines collaborate, so as to gain a broader, multidimensional and better focused understanding of parenting.

    Practitioners in the area of ‘parenting services’ are also often isolated from others working with parents. Parenting support services are quite diverse and include intensive home-visiting programmes, parenting classes and support groups, clinical parenting therapy programmes, brief interventions in health care or social service settings. These practitioners have often been trained in different disciplines and at varying levels. Considerable fragmentation of approaches remains. Service providers who see themselves as part of a parenting society, like a good family, are more likely to co-operate and provide more co-ordinated and better focused services.

    The isolation between practitioners and scholars/researchers in the area of parenting is perhaps the most important. The roles of the scholar/researcher and the practitioner, while at times overlapping and complementary, often have conflicting goals that reduce the impact of their work. From the scholar/researcher perspective, a major goal is to understand more clearly, through basic research, the process of parenting or the effectiveness of parenting services. This often involves carefully controlled studies that address specific questions. Much of this research is complex and theoretically driven, its findings difficult to understand and not clearly relevant to service providers in the field. The motivation for such research is often the desire for valid findings that can be used as small building blocks towards a better knowledge base for parenting and parenting services. It would seem to us critical that grant-awarding bodies should insist that research into parenting should have practitioners involved as advisers and that studies clearly set out the potential practice/use implications of their findings.

    Other Characteristics of a Parenting Society
    • Recognition that children learn what they live.
    • Acknowledgement of the astonishing variety of effective family forms and parenting practices around the globe.
    • Grassroots movements and political action groups that advocate for parents.
    • A comprehensive, well-funded and co-ordinated approach to providing parent-support services.
    • A focus on the use of evidence-based parenting-support programmes.
    • Access to home-visiting programmes provided by appropriate professionals for all new parents.
    • Parenting education and support programmes that are readily accessible to all parents. These programmes should be fully integrated into communities, family resource centres, and placed where parents spend their time (such as workplaces, schools, churches, shopping areas). These centres should provide information and offer support and development programmes for parents.
    • Recognition that a single model for parenting education and support will not be appropriate or effective. Parenting programmes must be adapted to a community's needs and strengths, and should target the specific needs of individual families. A wide variety of programmes will be needed to address the varied needs of parents.
    • Provision of parenting programmes that are culturally appropriate.
    • Increased and appropriate access of parents to supportive social networks.
    • Better social detection systems that trigger help appropriate to need.
    • A mentoring system for new parents who do not have extended family members or friends readily available.
    • Professionals that really listen to concerns and suggestions of parents rather than behave as if they already know what the problems and best solutions are.
    • Widespread recognition of the importance of facilitating access to parks, libraries, museums, and open spaces.
    • Family-friendly employers.
    • Accessible and affordable high-quality child-care programmes.
    • Strong schools that encourage parental involvement.
    • Arriving at a core political consensus regarding the central importance of parenting support, that puts it outside party politics.
    • Recognizing the limits of influence of parenting; it is not sensible to blame parents for all their children's problems.
    • Recognition that children also impact parenting and that the parent-child relationship is bi-directional.
    • Development of an index of parenting support, to measure a country's success in supporting parents. While numerous financial indices exist to measure a country's financial prosperity, few indices exist to measure social capital and prosperity, and none that focus specifically on parenting. Such an index could be used to advocate for change.

    We are aware that many of the above recommendations may appear to be gratuitous advice to governments which daily struggle to curb the most corrosive forces in society and ensure that families are not exposed to them. However, we believe that the many government actions, as for example those against drugs and crime, are often ill-focused and ineffectual precisely because they do not place the creation of a strong and well-functioning family, and a parenting society that would support it, at centre stage.

    The parent-child bond is the heart of humanity. It is the most powerful of all human attachments and what keeps it going. When a society does not support this bond, its very existence is put in jeopardy. We must support parents in nurturing their children's physical, emotional, social, cognitive and spiritual growth. If we do not, their failure will be magnified in becoming ours.

    An African proverb, popularized in recent years by Hillary Clinton, says, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ But, this village appears to be crumbling, leaving parents increasingly alone to nurture their children–to ensure that they are safe, healthy, economically secure, and imbued with positive values. It is difficult to inculcate such socially necessary virtues as tolerance, helpfulness, fairness, caring, courage, respect, loyalty, honesty, responsibility, self-reliance, trustworthiness and self-discipline when wider political and corporate forces cynically flout them.

    It is evident from this handbook that effective parenting cannot occur in isolation. We, as citizens and professionals, must aspire to better times and move forward, however slowly, making better use of available and improving evidence. We can make a difference. As Margaret Mead said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ It should not be beyond our wit to elevate parenting to a central position in society, for our present sakes and the sake of all our future. There is, after all, little that is more important than raising the next generation and doing it better.

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