Summary Evaluations of the
Exploring Together Primary School Program

 


Two comprehensive studies of the effectiveness of the Exploring Together Program have been conducted (Littlefield, L., Burke, S., Trinder, M., Woolcock, C., Story, K., Wilby, A., Falconer, B., Dunkley, T. (2000). Hemphill, S.A. & Littlefield, L (2001). In the Hemphill, S.A. & Littlefield, L, 2001 study, a total of 106 parent-child dyads from Victoria were studied. The Littlefield et al (2000) study comprised 149 parent-child dyads from across Australia.

Victoria-wide evaluation

One hundred and six dyads completed the Exploring Together Program and 39 dyads comprised the control group. Multiple outcome measures were administered to the children and parents participating in the program, as well as to the children’s classroom teachers, to estimate the treatment effects of the program. Measures of children’s behaviour problems and social skills, parenting behaviour, parental depression, and participant satisfaction with the program were included in the study. Parents were also asked to complete questionnaires at 6- and 12-months follow-up. The parents of control group children completed an abbreviated version of the questionnaire package that comprised of measures of children’s behaviour problems and social skills, as well as demographic information. The teachers of the control group children completed the Teacher’s Report Form of the Achenbach Child Behaviour Checklist.
The results showed statistically significant improvements in a number of areas including the children’s behaviour, parenting skills, parent-child interaction, and parent’s characteristics.
The reported changes in the children’s behaviour included:

  1. Statistically significant decreases in children’s anxiety/depression, social problems, attention problems, delinquent behaviour and aggressive behaviour at home. At a broader level this involved significant decreases in children’s internalising and externalising behaviours and overall behaviour problems at home, relative to those of a control group.
  2. The maintenance of post-treatment gains in children’s anxiety and depression, social problems, attention problems, delinquent behaviour, and aggressive behaviour at home at 6-month follow-up. At a broader level this involved maintenance of significant gains in children’s externalising behaviours and overall behaviour problems at home at 6-month follow-up. In addition, further gains were achieved in children’s internalising behaviour at home at 6-month follow-up.
  3. The decrease in children’s anxiety and depression, social problems, attention problems, delinquent behaviour, and aggressive behaviour at home were maintained at 12-month follow-up. At a broader level, improvements in children’s internalising behaviour, externalising behaviour, and overall behaviour problems at home were also maintained at 12 month follow-up.
  4. Statistically significant improvements in children’s parent-reported social skills from pre- to post treatment, and maintenance of these gains at 6 and 12 month follow-up.

The results showed that parents used more limit-setting, were less permissive of aggression, and used less control through emotion. There was a decrease in parental depression and an improvement in parent-child interactions. The latter included improvements in parent/child communication, parents feeling more capable as child-rearers, the children behaving age-appropriately, and improvements in the parents’ and children’s understanding of each other, and of their thoughts and feelings toward each other. Finally, the qualitative feedback from participants was positive. The program was conducted in a way that was acceptable to both the children and their parents.

Nationwide evaluation

In the National study, (Littlefield et al., 2000), a total of 149 families throughout Australia participated in programs run by recently trained leaders. Measures of children’s behaviour problems and self-concept, parenting styles, and participant satisfaction with the program were included in the evaluation of these Programs. Measures were completed by participating parents, children, and teachers of the children included in the groups.
Statistically significant improvements were reported in a number of areas including the children’s behaviour, and some parenting skills. The reported changes in the children’s behaviour included

  1. Significant decreases in children’s anxiety/depression, delinquent and aggressive behaviour, withdrawn behaviour, somatic problems and social problems both at home and at school.
  2. Significant improvements in children’s attention at school
  3. Significant decreases in children’s internalising and externalising behaviours and overall behaviour problems at home and at school.
  4. Significant improvement in children’s overall self-concept after participation in the 10-week Exploring Together Program.

Changes in parent measures included

  1. Significant reduction in the dysfunctional parenting practices of overreactivity and verbosity. More specifically, after the program parents were less inclined to overreact to perceived misbehaviour in their children and instead were more inclined to use appropriate consequences. After the group, parents were also less likely to over-use commands when trying to manage their children’s behaviour.

Finally, consumer satisfaction reports were extremely positive, with the vast majority of the parents reporting a positive overall feeling about the program (94.1%). Eighty nine percent of parents reported being satisfied with their child’s progress, and 86.8% reported improvements in the major problems that originally prompted them to begin the program. A majority of parents also reported an improvement in the child’s problems that were not focussed on in the group (45.4%) as well as with other general personal or family problems not directly related to their child (79.2%). The children reported similar positive impressions of the 10-week Exploring Together Program. In general, the majority of children liked coming to the group and felt that the group helped them. A total of 73.1% of the children felt that the leaders helped them a significant amount.

 

Littlefield, L., Burke, S., Trinder, M., Woolcock, C., Story, K., Wilby, A., Falconer, B., Dunkley, T. (2000). Exploring Together Program Final Internal Evaluation Report. The Department of Health and Aged Care under its Supporting Families: National Parenting Initiative. Unpublished report.

Hemphill, S.A. & Littlefield, L (2001). Evaluation of a short-term group therapy program for children with behaviour problems and their parents. Behaviour Researach and Therapy 39, 823-841

 

 

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