KIPS Blog: Parenting Assessment in Practice & Research

Seeing is Believing: Assessing Parenting Requires the Right Tools

Posted by Phil Gordon on Fri, Aug 16, 2013 @ 03:36 PM

Evaluating our own behavior in any situation can be challenging.  Often times it takes someone outside the situation to help identify and assess behavior.  Anyone who has had an effective coach recognizes the great value of having someone knowledgeable and committed to your improvement watch you in action and then provide helpful guidance.  One of the most difficult things for parents to do is distance themselves sufficiently to accurately appraise their interactions with their children. A parent-child assessment can identify strengths and areas where we can help parents be more nurturing.  An accurate and valid assessment can map the path to success for parents and children.

Limitations of Impression and Questionnaires

parenting measureMost often parenting service providers rely only on their impression of the parent-child interaction to guide their goal planning and intervention.  However, those who have been trained to use an observational parenting assessment find it surprising how far off the mark their clinical impressions often are.   

The ones that I thought were going to score low really surprised me. My mouth was open when I saw the scores, and this was both ways - both high and low. -Early Head Start Home Visitor

Some programs assess parenting using self-report questionnaires or interviews because they are easily administered and low cost.  However, the accuracy of this type of assessment has been found to be biased regarding actual parenting practices.  A review completed by the Centre for Population and Health Sciences in Glasgow concludes that self-reporting was fairly accurate for beliefs and attitudes.  Yet for behavioral practices and parent/child relationships, observational assessment was far more accurate.  Furthermore, observational assessment provides specific examples that can be used to provide feedback. 

If I Can See It, I Can Change It.

If the parent observation includes the use of video, the feedback can be even more powerful when parents see themselves and reflect on their own interactions with their children.  Accurately assessing the parent-child interaction is crucial to identifying specific areas of strengths and weaknesses.  For the Keys to Interactive Parenting Scale (KIPS), videotaping a parent interacting with their child for 15 minutes of play and 5 minutes of clean-up provides the framework for assessing and scoring the interaction accurately. Without an accurate and valid assessment, it can be very difficult to identify the specific areas that will lead to significant improvement.  In his article, Unlocking the Potential, Robin Balbernie talks about the importance of videotaping play in assessing parents in their intervention program.

This use of coded video provides clear, easily understood, examples of behaviour that have different consequences for future development. The observable interpersonal dynamics are now up front, and what may be found behind them can then be reflected on and discussed. – Robin Balbernie, Parent Infant Partnership UK

Utilizing a practical observational assessment allows a quick and accurate method to see what a parent and child are actually doing as they interact, which not only provides insights for guiding the parent, but also serves to monitor progress toward a goal. 

We use a lot of the KIPS stuff that we score, ‘cause it tells you a lot about the parent-child interaction and the bonding. It opens up the doorway to talk about things that the parent might not be getting – and those are topics that you wouldn’t necessarily approach if they weren’t scored. – Healthy Families Supervisor

Balbernie also claims that assessing parenting not only provides clinical value, but can help provide the evidence needed to satisfy reporting needs and funding proposals.  Showing your program is making a difference in parenting can help you compete for funding .   Parenting assessment therefore provides great value on both the clinical and program levels. 

Parent behavior strongly impacts a child. Parent-child interaction is often complex and multifaceted.  In the KIPS training we present the 12 KIPS behaviors as different facets of the precious gem of quality parenting.  In the paper, KIPS: A Practical Observational Assessment of Parenting Behavior, we report how KIPS was developed. The 12 parenting behaviors were selected based on research proving they are key in nurturing children’s development.  By assessing these 12 domains observed during parent-child interaction, the practitioner can partner with a parent to reflect and develop a plan that sets goals to improve his or her parenting skills.  In future videotaped assessments, a parent can see and celebrate progress towards these goals, which benefits both the parent and the child. 

Observational parenting assessment and coaching with video are powerful tools to help parents see and believe they can change for the better.  Let's help parents be the best parents they can be in supporting their children's lifelong health, learning and well-being. 



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Tags: Parenting Assessment, measuring parenting, parent-child interaction, assessing parenting