Just in Time Parenting Information ~
Keyed to the Age of Each Parent's Child
What are age-paced newsletters?
Cooperative Extension faculty in land-grant universities throughout the nation have developed and evaluated an unusually parent-friendly series of educational newsletters. Capitalizing on the "teachable moment," monthly "just in time" newsletters are delivered -- keyed to the age of each parent's child. The newsletters are simply written; yet the content is not diluted. The newsletters are available at http://www.extension.org/parenting
A matrix of topics covered in each Just in Time Parenting issue was developed by Dr. Diana DelCampo, Extension Child and Family Specialist, New Mexico State University.
Written at a 4th - 5th grade reading level, the issues cut to the core of knowledge that is needed to help children thrive:
- Promoting positive/optimum growth and development -- socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually -- using developmental milestones and progressions. Key childhood obesity prevention messages (framed as developing healthy habits and routines) is one of the features of Just in Time Parenting
- Reinforcing positive parenting behaviors
- Affirming healthy interpersonal and family relationships.
The excitement and challenges surrounding the birth of a baby provide a window of opportunity to engage parents. Manageable amounts of information addressing the challenges parents are facing arrive in their mailbox. Age-paced newsletters, with valid research-based information, can be read by all the adults caring for a child to help dispel child-rearing myths and misinformation. Because the cost per family is small, newsletters provide a method to reach all families with parenting information and support. The newsletters are especially useful for at risk parents who do not want to (or cannot) attend face-to-face programs. Home visitors and pediatricians often use them as part of their parenting education. Age-paced newsletters deliver!
Cooperative Extension has a well-established track record in delivering information parents find useful. Evaluations of the newsletters show they really work.
- Parents rate the newsletters as highly useful for childrearing advice more often than any other source of information, including physicians, nurses, relatives, and other printed materials. (1)
- The newsletters are shared and discussed within the parents’ social networks, averaging two readers per newsletter. Married mothers discuss them with their husbands; single mothers share and discuss the newsletters with their own mothers. (2)
- In studies in CA, DE and WI, those who report they change their behaviors and attitudes most – as a result of reading the newsletters – are youngest, poorest and least educated. (1)
- Parents receiving the newsletters for a year (compared to control group parents who do not) have beliefs significantly less like those of child abusing parents. They also report spanking or slapping their babies significantly fewer times in the previous week. (3) In a study of a high risk group of parents in Nevada, none had substantiated reports of child maltreatment after receiving the newsletters for two years. (4)
- Parents receiving the newsletters for a year, compared to control group parents who did not, provided a significantly more intellectually stimulating home environment for their infants and toddlers. Parents also report reading to their babies more often. (3)
- Hispanic mothers in an Oregon home visiting program rated the newsletters as more useful than any other parenting information, and reported positive changes in 6 areas of parenting practice. Home visitors reported using the newsletter as a teaching tool that could be left with the families. (5)
- Rural Appalachian parents were strongly supportive of age-paced newsletters. Members of their Child Care Coalition believe that parenting newsletters are more appropriate than group educational sessions where there is no public transportation and families can’t afford to drive to meetings – or they feel uncomfortable meeting with “outsiders.” (6)
We are striving to develop a sustainable system (funded at the national and local levels) for disseminating these age-paced resources.
- We are completing the development of a core national newsletter that will be regularly updated with the latest research and recommended practices. This core national newsletter will be available nationwide to adapt and customize for the special needs of states and/or localities. The newsletters are available electronically for parents at http://www.extension.org/parenting. Printable copies of the newsletters for mass distribution can be downloaded from http://www.parentinginfo.org/
- Concurrently, we are seeking mechanisms and/or funding to help distribute the newsletters to as many parents as possible.
Those who need age-paced newsletters the most cannot afford to pay for them, and they do not have dependable computer and/or Internet access.
If you would like more information – or if you are interested in becoming a partner in this project, please contact: Patricia Tanner Nelson, Ed.D., Extension Family and Human Development Specialist, University of Delaware firstname.lastname@example.org (302) 831-1329.
1. Cudaback, D., Darden, C., Nelson, P., O’Brien, S., Pinsky, D., & Wiggins, E. (1985). Becoming successful parents: Can age-paced newsletters help? Family Relations, 34, 271-275.
Dickinson, N. & Cudaback, D. (1992). Parent education for adolescent mothers. Journal of Primary Prevention, 13, 23-35.
Nelson, P. (1986). Newsletters: An effective delivery mode for providing educational information and emotional support to single parent families? Family Relations, 35, 183-188.
Riley, D., Meinhardt, G., Nelson, C., Salisbury, M., & Winnet, T. (1991). How effective are age-paced newsletters for new parents? A replication and extension of earlier studies. Family Relations, 40, 247-253.
2. Riley, D., & Waterston, T. (2002). Helping teenage mothers with child rearing advice: Report on an intervention. Paper presented to Parent-Child 2002 International Conference, London, April 19, 2002.
Walker, S. & Riley, D. (2001). Involvement of the personal social network as a factor in parent education effectiveness. Family Relations, 50, 186-193.
3. Riley, D. Using local research to change 100 communities for children and families. American Psychologist, 52, 424-433.
4. Martin, S. and Weigel, D. (2001). Age-paced parenting materials and child maltreatment: Can newsletters make a difference? Paper presented at the 2001 National Council on Family Relations,
5. Weatherspoon, J. & Bowman, S. Reaching High-Risk Hispanic Families In A Home Visiting Program With Age-Paced Newsletters. Proposal submitted to the National Council on Family Relations, 2003.
6. Gnatuk, C. & Powell, P. Age-Paced Newsletters in Rural Appalachia., 2003 Natl. Council on Family Relations
The Cooperative Extension System (CES) is a publicly funded, non-formal educational network that links the resources and activities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), 75 1862 and 1890 (Historically Black Colleges) land-grant institutions, 30 1994 institutions (Tribal Colleges) and more than 3,000 county administrative units. Land-grant colleges and universities are located in all 50 states, the U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia.