Preparation for parenting: Developing a conceptual framework and strategies

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Bergeson, Candace
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Being unprepared for parenting is an almost universal experience that can affect parental competence, confidence, and result in lost opportunities to maximize early child development. Previous studies have identified parent characteristics, contextual factors, and child factors as determinants of parenting and parenting outcomes. Despite its direct applicability, the function of preparation as a determinant of parenting has been relatively unexplored, and similarly, there is a lack of understanding of how preparation may be improved. The purpose of this study was to explore, conceptualize, and prioritize what was needed to help people prepare for parenting. Purposive sampling was used to recruit 18 parents, 19 service providers, and 10 administrators living in Manitoba. Concept mapping, a participatory mixed methods approach, was used to engage participants in the co-construction of a conceptual framework identifying what would help people prepare for parenting. Using an online venue, participants generated ideas, sorted and rated the ideas, and provided reflections on the results. Three primary areas for helping people prepare for parenting emerged: Education, Support, and Parents Matter. Twenty-one strategies were identified and were used to develop four recommendations. The results of this study challenged the current view that prenatal and postnatal programs are sufficient for developing effective parenting skills. This study contributed to current knowledge about preparation for parenting by creating a conceptual framework. A key understanding that encapsulates these research findings is found in the strategy that participants rated as being the most important and the most feasible: Promote the message that parenting is learned, and we all need to learn how to parent. I believe this work will be of interest to those who work in the areas of primary prevention, parenting education, transition to parenthood, and positive human development. It is intended to have utility and application for those making policy and program decisions in Manitoba.
Preparation for parenting, Transition to parenting, Parenting education, Concept mapping, Preconception, Unprepared for parenting, Determinants of parenting, Parent support, Parents matter