Adventures in parenting: a comparison of child-directed parental affect and interest during an adventure-based activity and a typical family activity

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, Big Idea Foundation.; Haworth, Brian D.
Social; Psychological; interaction; Family; Psychology; child; Parent; 181911401; Affect; aspects; recreation
thesis / dissertation description
In the past 50 years, parents are working longer hours and there has been an explosion in the availability of passive, media-based entertainment, such as watching television. These two societal changes pose a serious threat to families spending time in active participation with each other at home. Boyum and Parke (1995) have pointed out the significance of this family engagement, suggesting that this is where children develop rules about how to recognize and respond to emotional cues. In an attempt to bolster active family interaction, the Big Idea Foundation, a charitable arm ofBig Idea Productions, designed a set of activities based on the principles of experiential education to engage families in social and physical ways. This pilot study represents an attempt to investigate whether the experientially-based, family-building activities designed by Big Idea are associated with positive parental affect and observed interest in their children's activities. These two variables were measured using an English translation of a Finnish observational coding system that was developed to study parenting styles (Mestapelto,Pulkkinen, & Poikkeus, 2001). A second purpose of the study was to test whether levels of parental positive affect and observed interest in their children's activities would be greater during Big Idea family activities than during a typical family activity. The sample for this study included 20 families from the Chicago area (N= 20). Results from the study suggest no significant differences between the mean scores for the fathers' level of positive parental affect or level of interest in the child's activity across the two activities (Typical family activity and Big Idea adventure-based activity). However, fathers who were observed while participating in electronic-media related activities were found to display significantly less interest in their children's activity, compared to fathers participating in more interactive activities (including both Big Idea Activities and Interactive Typical Family Activities). While the Big Idea activities appear to be comparable to typical family activities, as opposed to superior, in yielding positive affect and interest in children, they do appear to provide additional, novel, and beneficial alternatives to non-engagement and media engagement. Results and implications from the study are discussed.