Thanks for your questions. Parent training is a particular interest of mine so I definitely have some resources and/or ideas you might be interested in. When it comes to parent training in ABA, the Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) model fits ABA practices very nicely within families and their community. Also, the Triple-P model is getting a lot of attention in terms of parent-training. ABA theories fit nicely into that model as well.
Otherwise, when it comes to parent training and follow-through, you may need to look outside the ABA literature to discover other factors that effect the quality and implementation of parent training resources. Key areas to research as possible mediating and moderating factors in parent follow-through are the roles of parental well-being, parent stress, parental self-efficacy and parent empowerment. Demspy & Dunst (2004) reported that the following help-giving styles are preferred by parents (and their relationship to ABA training/programming - my thoughts)
- Being family-centered; understanding the family’s belief system, values and priorities (If the family did not identify the need or goal as a priority for them and their family, they are probably not invested in generalizing the programming you are trying to do with their child)
- Collaborating with the family on what to do; avoid the “expert model” (Parents do not like to be told what to do or how they should run their household. Follow-through with ABA strategies is best when the parent has a say in which strategy to use and it has been accommodated for the home environment, family routines etc.)
- Encouragement of family having the final say (We offer the resources and tools but the parent tells us what gets implemented and what does not).
- Reinforcing parent’s good decision making (In my experience, many parents report a lot of doubt and guilt in their parenting actions and decisions. Parents are human and also need reinforcement - especially if the beginning of implementing a behaviour change program is variable)
Some good stress and coping models I feel are relevant/applicable are Hastings (2002) and Perry (2004). My framework is a blending of the two models. Parent training is great but it may not be accessible or taken at full value if parental resources are limited (e.g., social, emotional, financial, respite, child care etc.) and/or parent stress is high. Until these areas are addressed, parent training may not be as valuable or beneficial to the parent or child.
Finally, some other things to consider is the dual role parents have to play. Parents did not sign up to be therapists; yet, ABA professionals can put a lot of expectations on parents that even your most highly trained behaviour analyst can have a difficult time with. For me, the biggest eye-opening experience was realizing that parents are not “non-compliant”; rather, they are doing what works for them. The contingencies or the ABCs of ABA we speak of regarding the behaviours of the clients we work with also hold true for parents. The role of the negative reinforcement trap on parents is not to be overlooked. If the “correct ABA thing to do” is more work and not giving the parent the outcomes they need or want in a given moment, then they will do what is easiest and has worked for them in the past just to make the difficult situation go away. Much like how we create plans for our clients, their parents and other caregivers (e.g., support staff) also need support plans. What antecedent strategies will set-up a family for success? What are the family member’s replacement behaviours when, for example, their kid is yelling and banging on the table and all they want to do is have dinner with the family? Parents have many responsibilities and being an ABA therapist is not one of them. At the end of the day, if the parent has “lost interest” in the program, it means it is not working for them. The alternative way of doing things has not been reinforced enough for their efforts to continue.
I hope this leaves you (and others reading this) with some food for thought or some possible areas to explore further with respect to the motivational factors involved in parent training. In the end, it’s not enough to say “Here is parent training for the taking”; but rather there needs to be more of an analysis of the dimensions and ways in which they are delivered that results in optimal benefits for the parents. Good luck on your paper and feel free to come back with any of your findings, ideas.
Dempsey, I. & Dunst, C.J. (2004). Help giving styles and parent empowerment in families with a young child with a disability. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 29 (1), 40-51.
Hastings, R.P. (2002). Parental stress and behaviour problems of children with developmental disability. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 27(3), 149-160.
Perry, A. (2004). A model of stress in families of children with developmental disabilities: Clinical and research implications. Journal on Developmental Disabilities, 11(1), 1-16.