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Better opportunities for parents and children

The Chair of Psychological Diagnostics evaluates a federal programme on parent counselling

Parents only want the best for their children. This is where the federal programme “Elternchance ist Kinderchance” (Parents’ opportunities are their children’s opportunities) comes in: specialised counsellors will inform families with a low income and parents with a migratory background about educational and learning opportunities for their children. FAU’s Chair of Psychological Diagnostics, in collaboration with the German Youth Institute (Deutsches Jugendinstitut, DJI), will evaluate the programme’s success.

The background: as early as in the first years of a child’s life, crucial decisions are made with regard to their future education. A fair chance in life is closely connected with early education and support in the family. For this reason, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has launched the programme “Elternchance ist Kinderchance – Elternbegleitung der Bildungsverläufe der Kinder” (Parents’ opportunities are their children’s opportunities – Parents guiding their children’s education). It aims to get parents more involved in their child’s education and to improve their knowledge on the educational system so as to enhance children’s chances for successful learning and education. “Elternchance ist Kinderchance” deliberately targets families with low levels of education and families with a migratory background to alleviate social inequality. Children from these backgrounds have to overcome especially high hurdles within the education system.

The programme consists of two parts
Part 1: Approximately 4000 specialists from across Germany who are currently already employed in parent and family education and counselling will receive further training qualifying them as ‘Parent Guides’. They will receive training on development psychology and media literacy, domestic violence, and the diagnostics of disorders in early child development which will enable the ‘Parent Guides’ to assess children’s abilities, convince parents of the value of a good education and to inform them about financial support.

“What is new about this counselling concept for low-income families is the fact that parent guides address parents directly,” says Prof. Dr. Mark Stemmler. Parent Guides will get in touch with parents via playschools and daycare centres. Parent Guides will teach parents how to use media more effectively and show them how important reading to children is for a child’s linguistic development. Likewise, Parent Guides will offer advice on how to create learning incentives at home, for instance, when cooking or baking and having their children name the tools used or letting them measure some of the ingredients.

Part 2: Over 100 institutions which employ Parent Guides will be chosen as role models and receive funding from March 2012 till the end of 2014 as part of the ‘Elternbegleitung Plus’ status. They will collaborate with other early education institutions and put into practice low-threshold support programmes.
The study will focus on how parent counselling will be realised in practice with FAU researchers and the Munich-based DJI concentrating on different aspects:

Under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Mark Stemmler and Dr. Daniela Runkel, FAU psychologists will assess whether and to what extent children and their parents benefit from the ‘Elternchance ist Kinderchance’ programme. Researchers will compare families who receive counselling with families not benefiting from this service. At the same time, they interview parents on education awareness and their perceived levels of stress. When discussing the children’s physical, linguistic, and motoric development as well as their social skills with Parent Guides and playschool teachers, they gather further information on the children’s progress.

Supervised by Prof. Dr. Sabine Walper and Dr. Karin Jurczyk, the DJI focuses on the effect of the specialised training of the parent guides and the improved collaboration between the institutions in the transitional stages.

A special feature of the programme is that the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs has implemented a mechanism to evaluate the programme following its launch. “The Ministry asks for practical evidence of whether funds are being spent sensibly and what can be improved in the future,” says Prof. Dr. Mark Stemmler. The team from FAU and DJI succeeded in the multi-stage public application process against two competitors. The award represents a great honour; at the same time, the acquired third-party funds will allow two members of staff to write their PhD theses.

The first phase of the programme will run until 2014 with funding from the qualification initiative ‘Aufstieg durch Bildung’ (Advancement by Education). “If funding is extended, one might examine how the children cope in primary school and how many of them proceed to a higher school afterwards,” says Prof. Dr. Mark Stemmler. “This would be a very interesting question indeed!”

Further information for the press:

Prof. Mark Stemmler, Ph.D.
Tel.: 09131/85-64020
mark.stemmler@psy.Phil.uni-erlangen.de

uni | media service | research No. 26/2012 on 29.6.2012

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