Knowledge of child development and perceptions of the parental role in younger versus older first-time expectant parents
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Research has demonstrated that knowledge of child development may be facilitative for the effective parenting of children. Age, education, and gender are reported in the literature as factors influencing the level of developmental knowledge parents possess as well as their childrearing beliefs. However, studies on parenting have generally failed to include parents from certain age and education levels and have frequently failed to include fathers. Furthermore, research results are generally inconsistent. For example, research examining the influence of age on parental knowledge and beliefs has focused primarily on comparisons between adolescent and young adult mothers. Older first-time mothers (i.e. 28 years and older), who comprise 25% of the childbearing population, have been excluded from these comparisons. Parents with higher levels of education (i.e. college degrees) are also frequently overlooked in studies on parenting. Finally, gender differences in parents' knowledge and childrearing beliefs have not been adequately addressed. The present study represents a further examination of the influence of age, education, and gender on expectant parents' knowledge of child development and perceptions of the parental role. One hundred and one first-time expectant parents (51 mothers and 50 fathers) participated in this study. Subjects were drawn from childbirth preparation classes in the extended Chicago, Illinois area. Within this sample, 51 parents were younger adults (20-25 years) and 50 were older adults (30 years and older). Fifty-one parents had college degrees and 50 had not completed college. Parents completed two self-report questionnaires: The Knowledge of Child Development Inventory and the Parenting Scale. Parents' scores on these questionnaires were analyzed in separate 2(age) X 2(education) X 2(gender) Multivariate Analyses of Variance (MANOVAs). Age was not found to be a significant factor in parents' developmental knowledge or their childrearing beliefs. Education was found to have a positive influence both on parents' knowledge of child development and the flexibility of their childrearing beliefs. College-educated parents reported higher levels of developmental knowledge and more flexible childrearing beliefs as compared to parents without college degrees. Results of the present research also showed clear gender differences in parents' developmental knowledge. Mothers reported higher levels of developmental knowledge as compared to fathers. The findings of this study suggest that parents possessing a higher level of education may be better prepared for the parenting role than those lacking college degrees. The findings also underscore the importance of education in facilitating effective parenting.