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Parenting Skills with Conduct Disordered Pre-Adolescents
Parenting Skills with Conduct Disordered Pre-Adolescents

Section 18
Community, Technology, & Support Networks: Effects on Parenting

CEU Question 18 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Parenting
Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs, Nurse CEUs

Community infrastructure and basic amenities
A strong community will have in place policies and services that support families in meeting members' needs and raising healthy children (Bowes and Hayes 1999; Brennan 1999; McGurk 1995). Each of the three groups of parents emphasized the importance of the availability and accessibility of community infrastructure and services:

"We live in an area where we're close to public transport and shops. It's great in terms of being a mother living here because you don't feel isolated." (Anglo parent)

"Now I can leave my child at child care to attend English class - have a chance to improve my English, meet people, go out ..." (Vietnamese mother, 7 years residence)

"Child care is too expensive and difficult to find." (Vietnamese parent, 13 years residence)

"Recreation facilities are far away from where we live. Because community houses are laid out in a ribbon shape, people at one end are a fair way from the other end where various recreation places like basketball court and volleyball courts are located." (TSI parent)

With the lack of secondary educational facilities on the Islands, Torres Strait Islander parents had little choice but to send their children "down south". This was a major concern to some parents who missed being with their children, worried about their inability to monitor their children's behavior, and expressed concerns about the problems faced by the children themselves in handling multiple and major transitions -from an island to a mainland culture, from childhood to adolescence, and from primary to secondary school:

"If kids go away they come back different - different teaching and discipline. It's not the parents' fault, they [the children] go to get an education - the houseparents [at boarding schools] are not as tough, kids here [on the islands] follow their parents." (TSI experienced father)

"The kids mix with the wrong type of people. The teenagers might learn to smoke and drink and all that type of thing. It happens when some of them are away at boarding school." (TSI key informant)

Some Torres Strait Islander parents highlighted the absence of very basic amenities that mainstream Australians would take for granted. To Garbarino and Kostelny (1995) such services are essential "passive" prevention measures, requiring no action on the part of parents to protect their children. According to these authors, lack of basic services creates inequities in child health, given variations between the private resources of families and between parental skills and motivation:

"People are still living in them holes, coconut leaf and crumpled iron and bamboo shack building, and it's not healthy for the kids, but they're [the parents] trying their best to grow up kids in that house." (TSI key informant)

"Some of the young families just live in a house only just got a stove. There's no electricity connected to it so you just depend on your next door neighbor and all that, and it doesn't give you that self esteem or that confidence in yourself to call yourself a good parent." (TSI experienced mother)

"When the barge comes in, and the kids, they look forward to fresh fruit, bread and they love their fruit and they love their veggies. So we just don't get enough of that here. Not enough unless you're going to be first-in-first-served sort of thing when the barge comes in, so that's difficult." (TSI mother)

The bane of modern technology
Reflecting a general worldwide trend, watching television and videos were becoming popular forms of recreation, not only for children but also for the whole family. According to some Islander parents, the introduction of television and videos was responsible for the demise of activities that were seen as important in nurturing community spirit and sense of community belonging by taking away the opportunity to get together and "yarn". This was seen as one vital way of passing on traditional beliefs and values:

"Before when we finish tea we move from one house to another to have a yarn. Now television - people stay home and watch TV." (TSI parent)

"More disruption came in when you got the TV. Like before, we go and sit with grandfathers out on the beach. Our grandfathers were telling us stories and myths and legends and all that. That's why we have some in our heads, and the younger generation haven't. They go to watch videos." (TSI key informant)

In addition, Torres Strait Islander parents expressed concern about the impact of television violence on their children. While several studies have highlighted a concern about the effect of television violence on children's development (Ambert 1997), in the Parenting-21 study this matter was raised only by Islander parents:

"Children are watching a lot of violent videos these days ... and when they go outside they tend to be playing with those sticks pretending they are guns or something, and all are more aggressive than before." (TSI experienced mother)

"One kid hit another one with a broom handle and nearly killed him. Just because they watched a kung fu video. And the kids called it the chop." (TSI key informant)

Support networks
The availability of support networks was a dominant theme across the three communities. Access to informal and formal support has been widely recognized as fundamental to positive outcomes for both children and parents (Cochran 1990), and as a potentially fruitful coping resource in relation to parenting children (Crnic and Acevedo 1995).

Formal sources of support identified by the three communities included community agencies and professionals as well as literature on child care and parenting, while informal sources of support included extended family and friendship networks. The type of support mentioned covered material, practical and emotional help as well as the provision of information. However, more than any form of help, what emerges from the data is an appreciation of practical help, particularly babysitting, received from informal sources:

"We have lots of family close by as well ... M's mother comes every week to look after the children, they're not in formal care." (Anglo parent)

"If you don't have a babysitter, they're [extended family] always there. They don't mind, and most aunties and uncles you don't have to ask, you just come and drop them off." (TSI mother)

"If I needed to take someone to the doctor at night I could rely on a neighbor to watch the kids for me." (Anglo parent)
"I have put a lot of effort into developing a network of people with children of a similar age, so that's made it easier to have a child." (Anglo parent)

"I'm still getting heaps of community support - the school, the church, the shire and my GP." (Anglo parent)

"Like many of my friends [newly arrived in this country with no family support] we received help from Vietnamese community workers who specialized with migrant resettlement, and this includes family matters and child rearing." (Vietnamese parent, 4 years residence)

While Anglo and Vietnamese parents used formal and informal sources of support concurrently, in the Torres Strait, the family was typically the first port of call before formal support was sought:

"They seek support among themselves, family first, brother and sister of the parents." (TSI key informant)

"I talk to my husband or his family or, if it gets out of hand, to a social worker." (TSI mother)

Moreover, in seeking out formal support services, Islander parents emphasized the need to approach people they could trust with a particular emphasis on people with experience. "Experience" was defined by the parents according to age, professional background (doctors, child welfare workers, social workers, teachers, priests and counselors, as well as community leaders versed in the "Ilan" way), or earlier exposure to similar familial circumstances as themselves:

"I always talk to my older sisters and their husbands and find it out because I don't have experience." (TSI young mother)

"The priest is always there, to give you counsel." (TSI elder male)

"Someone who is in the professional area that deals with students, like maybe the school teacher." (TSI young father)

Despite their emphasis on informal networks, some parents in the Torres Strait mentioned the need for programs/workshops that can support parents in fulfilling their tasks either on a continuing basis or as an early intervention program such as: the need for a parental workshop on helping children with homework and encouraging them to go to school; a workshop for newly married couples or young parents to teach them skills about raising children and about budgeting and nutrition; a health education workshop for all parents; and a workshop for fathers to enhance communication skills ("because of lack of communication, fathers don't sit and talk about their problems, but rather go drinking"). While sources of support were typically viewed as helpful, some sources were occasionally seen as ineffective (for example, given the clash in old and new cultures) or detrimental:

"Knowledge about child rearing and parenting from family members may not be appropriate to new country" (Vietnamese parents, 16 years residence)

"Older people, for example, uncle drinks and says 'I want you to be like me'." (TSI mother)

"If you smack the kids the grandparents'll say 'ah', and if the kids cry they'll say 'here lolly here' when you're trying to teach them not to eat much sweet and stuff." (TSI young mother)

"Teachers - to be seen drunk in public and shouting and carrying on because that's very important role that them fella have in the children's school." (TSI experienced mother)

- Soriano, Grace, Weston, Ruth & Kolar Violet; Meeting the challenges of parenting; Family Matters; Autumn 2001; Issue 58.

Personal Reflection Exercise #4
The preceding section contained information about community, technology, and support networks effects on parenting.  Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 18
What are the three formal sources of support identified in this article? Record the letter of the correct answer the CE Test.

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