This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Examining Changes in Parenting Behaviors Among a Diverse Sample of Marriage Education Participants




Calligas, Alexandra

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


Research has shown that the quality of the couple relationship is a critical factor in the environment in which children develop, in that it affects parent involvement and parenting practices. This spillover process suggests that conflict in parent-child relationships is associated with conflict in the couple relationship. Therefore, it appears that educational efforts to strengthen the couple relationship may positively affect the co-parenting relationship and dimensions of parenting. The current study utilizes a spillover framework and the linkages between couple functioning and parenting to determine the extent to which several parenting dimensions (co-parenting conflict, parental involvement, and positive parenting practices) change after participation in relationship/marriage education (MRE), whether these changes are related to changes in dimensions of couple functioning, and whether these changes differ by gender, race, and marital status. Based on a sample of 582 adult parents, diverse in gender, race, and marital status, positive changes were found in the parenting dimensions over time. However, the lack of a comparison or control group prevents the ability to assert that positive improvements in the parenting dimensions are due to program participation. Using structural equation modelling, changes in the couple domain were found to be associated with the amount of changes in the parenting domain over the same period of time. For the whole sample, a pattern of stronger links was found between conceptually similar dimensions of couple functioning and parenting. The strongest predictor of positive parenting behaviors and parent involvement post-program, accounting for baseline levels, is positive couple behaviors. The strongest predictor of co-parenting conflict is negative/conflictual couple behaviors. Lastly, examinations were conducted of whether changes in parenting, relative to changes in dimensions of couple functioning, differ by gender, race, and marital status. Differences were found based on gender for the link between change in negative couple interactions and change in co-parenting conflict: fathers had a negative relationship between the two; mothers indicated a strong positive relationship. Differences were found based on race for the link between change in negative couple behavior and change in parent involvement: European Americans had a negative relationship between the two variables; African Americans did not have a significant path. Delta-chi square tests did not reveal significant differences between married and non-married adult parents.