Getting Fathers to Parenting Groups (without really trying)

Parent Effectiveness Training in the News: A summary of findings of a research project on men attending P.E.T. courses have recently been published in the Fatherhood Research Bulletin. This is an occasional publication of the ARACY Fatherhood Research Network, produced by Dr Richard Fletcher of the University of Newcastle. The published article is below. To see the poster from which this research was summarised, please look at our research and resources page.

Getting Fathers to Parenting Groups (without really trying) – my experience with Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.)

Larissa Dann I have been teaching Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) in Canberra for the past 16 years. During that time I have noted a high attendance rate (35%) of men (fathers, step-fathers and foster parents). Intrigued, I sought to examine possible reasons for the interest of men attending P.E.T. courses in Canberra, and to look at some outcomes for participants over time. P.E.T. takes a Rogerian, relationship-based, democratic approach to parenting (in contrast to a behavioural approach). The 24-hour course (over 8 weeks) teaches relationship skills in the form of respectful communication. P.E.T. helps parents empathise with their children, to look beyond the child’s behaviour to their need, thus aiding a change in attribution of intent.

I designed a10-question survey designed using the on-line tool “Surveymonkey”, and sent it to 61 men who had participated in P.E.T. courses from 2008 to 2010. The survey was anonymous, and responses could not be linked with participants. Thirty-two (53%) of the men surveyed responded. 90% of the respondents had attended the course more than six months previously.

Active listening was the skill most commonly retained and utilised by the participants (90%). Participants reported they:

  • had better communication with their children, through utilising the skills of active listening and conflict resolution (taught in P.E.T).
  • had better insight into the other’s perspective/behaviour, and greater empathy.
  • were “less authoritarian” Participants found:
  • they had calmer, more peaceful, cooperative and harmonious households
  • there was a benefit of a consistent P.E.T. approach to parenting with their partner.
  • They had a better relationship with their children.

It was clear that these fathers wanted an alternative to being, or being seen as, authoritarian or the ‘disciplinarian’. Survey participants valued the P.E.T. approach, with its emphasis on relationship skills and listening skills. Interestingly, respondents retained many of the communication skills taught in P.E.T. – well beyond six months. Fathers emphasised the significance of relationships with their children (and partners). These survey results support the importance of a course such as P.E.T. being available to fathers. For contact: