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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Leo Sandy
Plymouth State College

Parenthood remains the greatest single preserve of the amateur. – Alvin Toffler

The acquisition of knowledge about how to raise children to be well-adjusted adults is not something that a wise society would leave to chance. – Fine & Henry

You must be the change you want to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

Peace in society depends upon peace in the family. – Augustine

Course Description
Focuses on developing competency in a variety of areas surrounding parenting education including the following: understanding of parental issues and concerns within diverse family systems, understanding the dimensions of parenting from birth to adolescence, family literacy, and knowledge of multicultural perspectives in parenting.

Locke, D. C. (1998). Increasing multicultural understanding (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Web Page (for links to handouts, articles, and parenting sites)

Class Participation (includes attendance and punctuality) 25%
Panel Presentations (7/20, 7/27, 8/3) 25%
Interview (due 7/13) 25%
Service Learning Proposal (due 7/27) 25%

Course Format (flexible)
I. Small group discussion of readings (99:30am)
II. Small group reports to the class (9:3010:30am)
III. Break (10:3010:45am)
IV. Panel presentation or lecture/discussion (10:4512pm)
V. Lunch (1212:30pm)
VI. Video and follow-up discussion (12:301:45pm)
VII. Lecture/discussion (1:452:30pm)
VIII. Small group activity/paper presentations (2:303:00pm)
IX. Break (33:15pm)
X. Small group reports to class/papers continued (3:153:45pm)
XI. Video/discussion (3:455:00pm)

Incomplete grades are strongly discouraged and should only be requested for emergency situations. If an IC grade is given, students will have one full semester to complete the course requirements. After that, the registrar will record an F grade that will stand, and the course will have to be retaken if it is a requirement.

Students will maintain an informal weekly reading journal on the assigned weekly readings and bring it to class for use in the discussion sessions. The journal should include reflective comments as well as one or two open-ended discussion questions relative to the reading. The journal will neither be handed in nor graded. If you choose to use a structured format, the PMI system is useful (plus what you liked or agreed with about some aspects of the reading and why, minus what you disliked or disagreed with and why, and interesting what you found insightful, new, and provocative and why).

Students will also be placed in three teams to run parent panels around special topics. These teams will be responsible for putting a panel of parents together and organizing a presentation around parenting children of varying ages, parenting challenged children, and parenting within a nontraditional family context. A panel should consist of three to four parents so as to allow a sufficient opportunity for discussion within the allotted time. The panel presentations will be evaluated on designated forms by the presentation group members, the audience members, and the instructor. In some cases, a student may serve as a panel member.

The interview paper should be 8 to 12 pages in length in APA style. The purpose of this is for students to be aware of the diversity and complexity of the parental role. For the interview, the student may choose any type of parent, e.g., a young parent, older parent, single parent, parent of a child with special needs, stepparent, working parent, a parent who is gay/lesbian, a parent of a child who is gay/lesbian, a parent of a particular racial or ethnic background, a fundamental Christian parent, or a parent of a child at any place on the developmental continuum. The parent chosen may also be a panel member. The paper should be in six parts and these headings should appear on the paper:

I. Introduction (A description of the parent [with anonymity],why you chose this type of parent to interview, and what the focus of your paper will be, e.g., single parenting)
II. Interview (A summary of main points and key issues raised by the parent that are related to your main focus. Do not provide a verbatim account.)
III. Analysis (Interview content discussed in reference to course material, i.e., specific references to readings, etc., e.g., quote and/or paraphrase specific passages. Here it is important to keep your main focus in view.)
IV. Reflection (Personal thoughts)
V. Conclusion (Implications for social policy and personal advocacy)
VI. Appendix (List of approximately 10 interview questions)

Service learning involves learning through service—a way to gain insight into the course material by giving knowledge away to or sharing expertise with those with a need to know. For the Service Learning Project or Proposal, students will choose one or two course objectives and/or their own formulated objective(s) and develop a service learning project (or proposal for summer and winter sessions) that relates to the objective(s) (7 to 9 pages). The project must relate directly to the course material. The paper must use the following headers:

I. Objective(s)/Needs

  1. Personal: What you expect to learn from your service
  2. Course: How what you plan to do relates to the course
  3. Site: How your service will benefit the site

II. What? (Description of service provided—what you expect to do at the site in the form of service)

III. So What? (Analysis of the experience—how what you did or plan to do relates to the course material). Here you need tie together your personal objective(s), course objective(s), needs of the site, and related course material; state your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions relative to the experience; comment on how you know that this service learning project meets or has met a community need. If this is a proposal, then it becomes more research oriented and you must answer the question, Why? In other words, what is your justification or rationale for doing this service? What does research say about the merits of what you plan to do, e.g., parent education experts?

IV. Now What? (Action. What can you personally do to help meet the needs identified during the experience? Are there public policy implications of the needs observed?) If this is a proposal, then you must discuss future plans about building on this project and extending it.

V. Evaluations (Your performance through evaluations from site service recipients if applicable.) Services provided within a school or agency must have letters of verification on letterhead stationary. The assumption is that you will carry out this project the following full semester even if it is currently a proposal. Thus, you will need to discuss your plans with supervisory personnel at your intended site and provide a letter of documentation on letterhead stationary from a supervisor indicating that s/he has approved your service learning project. Your paper will not receive a grade without this letter of verification.

CHECK = Collaborative Holistic Experience Commitment Knowledge

Course Objectives

Students will:

  • Discuss developmentally appropriate parenting strategies relative to children between the ages of birth through adolescence (H,K)
  • Discuss problem-solving strategies that promote positive outcomes (K)
  • Describe childrearing approaches which promote and retard child development from birth through adolescence (K)
  • Identify the needs and problems which children typically have at various age levels between birth through adolescence (K)
  • Discuss the parenting implications of temperament (K)
  • Discuss parenting practices which promote the development of peace and justice (H,K,Com)
  • Define salient terms and concepts relative to the course (K)
  • Discuss problems and solutions relative to nontraditional parenting situations (K,E)
  • Differentiate among Newberger's stages of parental awareness (K)
  • Describe the traits of a healthy/effective family (K,Com)
  • Distinguish among self-concept, self-esteem, and self-worth (K)
  • Discuss the relationship between discipline and moral development (K)
  • Describe the seven steps of Gordon's mutual problem-solving technique (K)
  • Discuss those parenting practices specific to diverse families (K)
  • Formulate social policy implications with regard to parenting (K,H,Com)
  • Discuss the components and outcomes of family literacy programs (K)

Course Schedule

Course Introduction, Organization of Panel Teams, Development of Interview Questions, Planning Service Learning Projects, and What is Service Learning?

Lecture: Prenatal Period Through Preschool Age: Parenting Implications; Parental Impact on Common Growth Problems; and Temperament

Videos: Growing Together: Ages and Stages/Birth to Age 5; Flexible; Fearful and Feisty: The Different Temperaments of Infants and Toddlers; and Teach the Children

The Basics for Children
What is Service Learning
Panel Discussion Questions
Outline of Developmental Issues
Developmental Schema Chart
Ages and Stages: A Closer Look
Prenatal, Infancy, Toddlerhood, & Preschool: The Foundation for Healthy Development
Experts: Language Skills Start in the Crib
Lack of Maternal Love Can Affect Brain Chemistry
Parental Impact on Common Growth Problems as to Adaptive and Maladaptive Outcomes
Temperament and Child Behavior

No Class: Holiday weekend

Lecture: Format of the Interview Paper, The School Age Child and The Adolescent: Parenting Implications; and Self-Esteem, Self-Concept, and Self-Worth: Foundations of Social Responsibility

Activity: Presentation of Interview Papers

Text: Introduction, A Model of Multicultural Understanding, African Americans, and Old Order Amish, Intro to Ch. 3

Videos: Growing Together: Ages and Stages/Ages 5–8, What Makes Adolescents Tick?, and Drug Free Kids

Practical Parenting With Piaget
A Place in the Family
Family Focus: Parenting the School Age Child
Parental Influence on Academic Achievement
How to Raise Your Child's Self-Esteem
Self-Concept, Self-Esteem, & Self-Worth: The Foundations of Social Responsibility
The Characteristics of High and Low Self-Esteem
What Kind of Parent Are You?
Adolescent Developmental Needs: Implications for Promoting Growth
Surprise! Your Teen Cares
Communicating With Your Teenager
Getting Inside a Teen's Brain
Developmental Schema Chart: Tasks in Process

* Interview paper due

Panel #1: Parenting Across the Ages and Stages

Lecture: Service Learning Paper Format, Parenting Education: An Ounce of Prevention; Communication Skills; and Problem-Solving Strategies

Text: Native American Indians, and Chinese and Japanese Americans, Ch. 4-6

Videos: Walking in Both Worlds, Traits of A Healthy Family & Family Influences

Parent Education: An Ounce of Prevention
Parenting Our Children
Teaching Parenting and Basic Skills to Parents: What We Know
Family Literacy: Parent and Child Interactions
What Do Fathers Do?
Training Parents Helps Address Problems
Parental Influence Vs. Control
A Checklist for Parents

Panel #2: Parenting Challenged Children

Lecture: Stages of Parental Awareness; and Healthy, Productive, and Effective Families

Activity: Presentation of Service Learning Projects

Text: Korean, Vietnamese, and Mexican Americans, Ch. 7–9.

Videos: Families With Young Children with Special Needs: Understanding Families, & Stress and The Healthy Family

Parenting for Peace and Justice
If I Had to Live My Life Over
If I Knew Then What I Know Now
Healthy/Productive/Effective/Optimal Families (handout)
Stages of Parental Awareness
Communication Climates
Parenting Styles
Stress and the Healthy Family

* Service Learning paper due

Panel #3: Parenting in Diverse Family Configurations, & Course Evaluation

Lecture: Moral Development, Developmental Discipline and Prosocial Behavior, & Corporal Punishment

Activity: Presentation of Service Learning Projects

Text: Puerto Rican, Jewish, and Muslim Americans Ch. 10–12

Video: Blended Families and Single Parenting, & The Trouble with Evan

Ten Myths About Spanking Children
Plain Talk About Spanking
Childhoods of Violence
What Children Need
Suggestions for Parents
A Message for Fathers
The Moral-Cognitive-Developmental Theory of Lawrence Kohlberg
Going to Jail for Justice
Discipline and Child Development
Corporal Punishment: Violence by Any Other Name Is Still Violence

C is for Collaborative – Home, school, community, work and society-at-large must work as partners. So should this class.

H is for Holistic – The needs of people are best served by looking at the whole person—child or adult. We need to avoid single cause theory, surface views, and quick fix approaches.

E is for Experience – Subject matter, events, and life are connected. It is important to reflect on the relationship between classroom learning and personal experiences. Your course assignments, materials, and methods will help you make these connections.

C is for Commitment – Because educators (counselors) have the future of people in their hands, they must value learning and be lifelong learners. They must demonstrate scholarship, hold high personal standards and show patience, caring, kindness, and persistence. Educators- (counselors)-to-be need to see these virtues modeled by their professors. Helping is about affecting both hearts and minds.

K is for Knowledge – Knowledge includes facts, skills, techniques, ideas, concepts, insights, contexts, intuitions, perspectives, theories, models, philosophies, and methods of research and assessment. It also involves reading, study, practice, diligence, doubt, skepticism, playfulness, creativity, curiosity, questioning, analysis, and synthesis.


Interview Paper Guidelines

1. General

The paper should have/be the following: title page, numbered pages, typed, double-spaced, 10–12 point font, proper grammar, accurate punctuation, correct spelling, APA format for margins, citations, etc., 8 to 12 pages in length.

2. Headers of the Paper

Introduction: Here you need to provide a brief description of your interviewee such as age, marital status, educational background, socioeconomic status, etc. (with anonymity). You also need to describe your purpose in conducting the interview and what your main focus will be, e.g., parenting a child with special needs (about 1/2 page).

Interview Content: Highlights of interview only. Do not use verbatim questions and answers (about 3 pages).

Analysis: This is the most important part of the paper because it ties together your interview data, your main focus, and the related course material. Here you need to integrate what you are learning in the course with the interview material by citing related in class and/or external sources. You may also integrate some aspects of videos, guest speaker presentations, and/or lectures, etc. (about 4–5 pages). It is imperative to include research that relates to your topic, e.g., single parents, parents with children with special needs, parents with infants, etc. To do this, you may have to go beyond the readings for the course.

Reflection: Here you must describe your subjective thoughts and feelings about the interview and how it might relate to your personal experiences (about 1 to 2 pages).

Conclusion: Here you must discuss implications for personal advocacy and social policy, e.g., what you as a future educator/facilitator and schools/institutions can do to promote parenting effectiveness, tolerance for family diversity, and home-school-community relations (about 2 pages).

Service Learning Paper Guidelines

1. General

The paper should have/be the following: title page, numbered pages, typed, double-spaced, 10–12 point font, proper grammar, accurate punctuation, correct spelling, APA format for margins, citations, etc., 7 to 9 pages in length.

2. Headers of the Paper


  • Personal: State what you would like to learn from the experience.
  • Course: State how your experience relates to the course.
  • Site: State how your service will benefit the site (about 1–2 pages).

What (Description of Service): Describe what your role will be in the project and how it relates to the course, i.e., the kinds of functions you will perform and how these have the potential of extending your knowledge about the course material (about 1 page).

So What/Why (Analysis): This is the most important part of the paper because it ties everything together—the objective(s)/needs, service project, the related course material, and self-evaluation. Here you need to (1) restate the objectives/needs, (2) describe how what you did or will do enables you to learn what you expect or did not expect to learn, (3) show how it relates to course material directly pertinent to what you did or will do, (4) discuss your personal feelings, perceptions, insights, and regrets (what you would do differently if you had to do it over again), and (5) state how you feel you performed and how you know that this service project really meets a community need (about 4 to 5 pages). If this is a proposal, you need to provide rationale for undertaking this project and provide further justification from the literature. For example, if you are doing parent education, you must cite research on parent education indicating that your efforts meet an important need. In other words, for a proposal, this part of the paper relies heavily on research that extends course material.

Now What (Future Action): Here you must describe personal and public policy actions that would improve (if poor) or expand (if positive) the conditions you have witnessed, i.e., what could you and policymakers do to remedy the conditions or proliferate the helpful interventions currently used to address the issue (about 1 to 2 pages). If this is a proposal, then you need to discuss future plans to elaborate on and/or extend the service you are planning.

Assessment: Letter of Verification/Workshop Evaluation Forms: If you volunteer somewhere, it should be for a minimum of one hour per week for about 12 weeks (regular semesters only). In this case you need a letter on letterhead stationary from the agency in which you worked. It should state the length of your service, the dates of service, the number of hours you served, your duties, a telephone number of the contact person, and the quality of the work you did. If you give a one time workshop/presentation, then all of the participants must complete a workshop evaluation form. These are available from the course instructor and may be duplicated. If this is done within an agency, an additional letter from a site supervisor should be provided. If this is a proposal, evidence of collaboration with site personnel should be provided.

Free. Available online only.

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project