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Peer and professional online support for parents

Authors:
  • University of Amsterdam & Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

Abstract

The Internet provides a popular and convenient source of information and support on parenting, offering many opportunities for both peer and professional support. Recent studies have shown that parents and children can benefit from online parenting support. In this chapter, we describe the current variety of online services for parents, distinguishing between peer support and professional support. We focus on the design characteristics of these web-based resources. Since Internet technology is still rapidly developing, many new opportunities for social networking are available. The provision of multilayered interaction (many-to-many, one-to-many, one-to-one) and the use of multiple components in websites may enhance the way parents feel supported. Also, training can be added to online programs, which aims to change parental knowledge, behavior and attitude. Further, we discuss experimental results from recent meta-analytic study on the effects of online parental education. Overviewing the past decade, we discuss two major trends which give direction to future research and development: missing aspects of research on online social networking and inspiring opportunities for online professional support for parents.
Nieuwboer, Fukkink
2 Peer and Professional Online Support for
Parents
Abstract: The Internet provides a popular and convenient source of information and
support on parenting, offering many opportunities for both peer and professional
support. Recent studies have also shown that both parents and children can benefit
from online parenting support.
In this chapter, we describe the current variety of online services for parents,
distinguishing between peer support and professional support. Specifically we will
focus on the design characteristics of these web-based resources. Since Internet
technology is still rapidly developing, many new opportunities for social networking
are available. The provision of multilayered interaction (many-to-many, one-to-
many, one-to-one) and the use of multiple components in websites may enhance the
way parents feel supported. Also, training can be added to online programs, which
aims to change parental knowledge, behavior and attitude. Furthermore, we discuss
experimental results from recent meta-analytic study on the effects of online parental
education.
Providing an overview of the past decade, we discuss two major trends which
give direction to future research and development: missing aspects of research on
online social networking and inspiring opportunities for online professional support
for parents.
2.1 Parenting and Social Networking
Today’s parents are known to be frequent users of the Internet in search of both
information and support (Plantin & Daneback, 2009; Nieuwboer, Fukkink, &
Hermanns, 2013a). The Internet is available to many families, especially in developed
countries, (www.internetworldstats.com), and in recent years, its accessibility
and availability has increased through the use of tablets and smartphones (www.
pewinternet.org). Interestingly, reviewing the scholarly literature of studies on peer
and professional parenting support on the Internet (Nieuwboer et al., 2013a, and
complementing this study with 11 more recent studies up to October 2013), we found
that the focus of studies is on pregnancy, first time parenting and young children, as
well as on health related topics.
Professional support on the Internet is described with many different terms, like
web-based therapy, e-health, online counseling, or cybertherapy; and practitioners
in many disciplines are involved in providing support to parents, like psychologists,
counselors, pediatricians and nurses. Peer support is often initiated by parents with
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16 Peer and Professional Online Support for Parents
specific experiences, like children’s mental or physical health problems (such as
autism, spina bifida, or cancer), or stages in parenting (like pregnancy or caring for
young children), offering a social network for receiving and giving emotional support
anonymously.
Web-based services include several components of online communication. More
specifically, communication technology offers opportunities for multilayered mutual
contact between other parents as well as with professionals (Barak & Suler, 2008).
Examples of one-to-one communication are email and (video-)chat: a parent may
submit a parenting question on a professional website concerning specific topics.
One-to-many communication takes place in both information pages and email
lists. Finally, discussion boards and forums are typical examples of many-to-many
communication, in which peers support each other, sometimes moderated by a more
experienced peer or professionals.
The relatively recent rise of broadband Internet and the increase in multimedia
platforms offer even more opportunities for online communication. For example:
an avatar can be used to provide the parent with daily tips and tricks, a parent may
participate in an online test, troublesome parenting scenes from daily life can be
logged or recorded and uploaded to a tutor, who can consequently live-coach the
parent through an earpiece to handle the situation differently. Professionally designed
training modules are mostly self-guided, with integrated in-between tests to assess
progress. Blended forms of online support with face to face support have also been
reported. For instance, pediatric hospitals have combined the usual check-ups of
children with email consultation or a reference website. Hospitals have provided new
mothers with online videos on breastfeeding, which they could access during and
after their hospital stay. In some reports an online parenting course was combined
with interaction with a therapist. Furthermore, as parenting practitioners have begun
to acknowledge the opportunities of web-based communication, several well-known
traditional parenting programs, such as Incredible Years (Taylor et al., 2008), Play
and Learning Strategies Program (PALS, Feil et al., 2008) and the Positive Parenting
Program (Triple P, Sanders, Calam, Durand, Liversidge, & Carmont, 2008) have been
adapted for online dissemination and new services have been developed.
All these possibilities are available through Internet-based platforms, changing
not only parenting but also professional parenting support. From the parents’ point
of view, these services are mostly free of cost, easily accessible, anonymous and
beneficial, while also contributing to emotional well-being, confidence and self-
efficacy (e.g., Bellafiore, Colón, & Rosenberg, 2004; Braithwaite, Waldron, & Finn,
1999; McKenna, 2008). Satisfaction reports show good results, without exceptions.
From the professional perspective many advantages have been claimed such as how
many target groups can be reached, content can be easily tailored, and services
seem cost-effective (e.g., Daneback & Plantin, 2008; Funderburk, Ware, Altshuler, &
Chaffin, 2009; Long, 2004; Self-Brown & Whitaker, 2008), although these still have to
be verified by experimental studies. As well as this, organizations can offer a variety
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Professional Support 17
of guided, self-guided and non-guided, online and face-to-face support, as well as
combinations of these support types. All in all, the Internet offers ample opportunities
to support parents with all kinds of questions and needs .
2.2 Professional Support
In a recent meta-analysis of 12 studies (Nieuwboer, Fukkink, & Hermanns, 2013b)
we found that web-based programs have indeed contributed to improvements in
parental knowledge, behavior and attitude. Programs with relatively high positive
outcomes (ES > 0.50) can be characterized as psycho-educational services, addressing
a specific issue; the programs with a broad public health orientation on everyday
parenting resulted in smaller effects. The provision of more types or layers of online
communication was not related to study outcomes, although the combination
between peer and professional support showed higher outcomes in parental attitude.
Self-guided programs showed higher outcomes with regard to parental knowledge,
whereas guided programs produced higher outcomes in parental attitude and
behavior. Finally, more intensive programs, offering multiple training sessions, led to
higher outcomes in all aspects.
2.2.1 Examples of Studies on Successful Online Parenting Programs
KidzGrow Online is an online parenting portal, offering an individualized tracking
program about the development of children aged three months to 6 years old. The
program contains a suite of age-appropriate activities, explained through text and
animations. Parents’ observations of their child performing these activities are
compared with established developmental milestones. If delayed development is
consistently observed parents are encouraged to seek professional help.
Na and Chia, 2007
This study describes a substance abuse intervention program, in which daughter-
mother dyads interact in nine online sessions. Sessions contained voice-over
narration, skills demonstration, and interactive exercises. Communication
between mothers and daughters improved, family rules about substance use
were better established and girls used less alcohol and marijuana compared to
girls in the control group.
Schinke, Fang and Cole, 2009
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18 Peer and Professional Online Support for Parents
Single session email consultation is a very brief kind of intervention to support
parents. This study evaluated the increase of parental empowerment between
submitting a parenting question and after receiving professional email
consultation a few days later. The findings from the study showed that parents
showed more self-confidence in addressing the parenting situation after email
consultation.
Nieuwboer, 2014
The I-interact intervention is designed to increase positive parenting skills and
to improve stress management and coping for parents of children who have
experienced traumatic brain injury and are between the ages of 3 and 8 years.
The sessions consisted of self-guided didactic information, video modeling skills,
exercises and videoconferences. Online sessions were followed by synchronous
sessions providing coaching through a remote earpiece.
Wade, Oberjohn, Burkhardt and Greenberg, 2009
KopOpOuders (Chin Up, Parents) is an online group course aiming to improve
parenting skills of parents with psychiatric problems. The online course consists
of eight 90-minute sessions conducted weekly in a secured chat room. The
chat room itself was divided in a part for interaction (peer support and direct
professional interactions) and a part for materials (e.g., video’s, outline or
diagram). At the end of the course, a large proportion of parents had moved out
of the clinical ranges of laxness and over-reactivity.
Zanden, Speetjens, Arntz, and Onrust, 2010
Online professional parenting support has shown promising potential, and there
are more reasons to implement these opportunities in regular parenting support
programs. This kind of support is easily accessible, providing a suitable tool for
prevention and primary care (Nieuwboer, Fukkink, & Hermanns, 2014). Current efforts
in changing the youth care system in the Netherlands are aimed at reducing the high
and often unnecessary claim on specialized secondary youth care (Bot et al., 2013)
and strengthening easily accessible and low intensity primary care. For instance,
single session email consultation is propagated and being employed as a professional
tool, offered by more than 400 municipal centers for family support. Every parent can
freely access a website, find validated information on parenting and submit parenting
questions for tailored advice through email or instant messengers.
However, although we know that parenting programs are more effective when
they are provided by well-trained practitioners (Dunst, Boyd, Trivette, & Hamby, 2002;
Nation et al., 2003), there were only a few vague references to training or guidelines in
the studies on online parenting support. For instance, we found that in approximately
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two thirds of the studies email consultation was offered, sometimes called ‘Help line’
or ‘Ask-a-nurse’; but we know little about the professional skills needed to respond
to parental questions through this text-based medium. Yet it is plausible that online
methods require specific communication skills, for instance, building rapport,
interpreting, reflecting, confronting, and summarizing, in order to empower parents
and families (Stofle & Chechele, 2004; Suler, 2000; Zelvin & Speyer, 2004). Recently,
some initiatives have been undertaken to develop materials for higher vocational and
in-company training, aiming to ground these online practices in long standing key
concepts and goals of traditional parenting support.
2.3 Peer Support
Peers have been supporting one another in a range of informal experience-
based Internet forums since the 1980s. Parents who share a specific experience in
childrearing can meet in an online forum or discussion board, and can exchange
messages in groups. Using ‘chat,’ parents can exchange experiences and opinions,
typing short alternating texts in small groups or pairs. A unique feature is the shared
social identity and the shared similar identity among ‘peers’, which creates a feeling
of solidarity (see Fukkink, 2012). The social peer support also offers an online system
of distributed expertise, interactivity, social distance and control, which may promote
disclosure of personal problems (Paterson, Brewer, & Leeseberg, 2013). Users may
value different aspects of online peer support and use the online support in different
ways. An important distinction in this respect is the difference between actives users
(“posters”) who often both give and receive support, and “lurkers” who follow the
discussion but without contributing. This latter group is substantial; Patterson et al.
(2013) reported a very rough estimate, varying from a low 50% to a high 90%.
The results of our recent review (Nieuwboer et al., 2013a) show that the
Internet offers a variety of opportunities for sharing peer support among parents.
Approximately a quarter of the studies which we analyzed were exclusively peer
oriented. In the specific case of online peer support for parents, self-help support
groups were included in our review. Also moderated electronic support groups were
included. Two thirds of the content was analytic studies containg coded postings on
e-mail lists, discussion boards, and group chat rooms, and thus focused on social
networking among parents. One third of these studies analyzed peer support combined
with professional support, whereby a professional functioned as a moderator of a
peer group, or a professional consultation was offered in addition to peer support.
A few content-analytic studies defined a coding system based on a theoretical
framework (e.g., the typology of social support, Braithwaite et al., 1999). Whereas some
researchers have used well-known classifications, other studies adopted an inductive
or ethnographic approach, identifying new emerging themes and highlighting main
topics in the discourse. Mostly, the authors in these studies evaluated postings and
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20 Peer and Professional Online Support for Parents
messages without a predesigned observational tool; they noted the most mentioned
words and opinions. These qualitative studies have revealed the wide variety of topics
on different Internet forums. Content analyses of peer support in various online groups
have demonstrated that parental peer support usually includes informational support,
esteem support, and network support, as distinguished by Braithwaite et al. (1999);
only tangible support, as distinguished in the framework of Braithwaite is relatively
rare in online contexts. A repeated finding from these content-analytic peer support
studies is that social networking was appreciated because it contributed actively to
reaching meaningful goals, for instance to be acknowledged, be empowered, adjust
to changes, seek encouragement, seek a sense of belonging, or to help others.
2.4 Evaluations of Peer Support
Meta-analytic reviews have confirmed the positive effects of social support in computer-
mediated support groups in general (see Fukkink, 2012 for a summary). This line of study
also suggests moderators are necessary for optimal support. Effects are presumably
larger when people participate for a relatively long period in a relatively small support
group that offers both synchronous and asynchronous media, as the meta-analysis
of Rains and Young (2009) suggests. However, these conclusions are largely based on
Internet-based group health interventions, and we cannot generalize the modest, but
positive results of this type of online peer support to the specific domain of online peer
support for parents, which include both specific health-related interventions and other
general parental services. The fact is that the effects of peer support for parents have
been evaluated in only a small number of studies so far. Experimental evaluation of the
effect of electronic support is also difficult, because most parents may complement the
online support with other sources of support, both on the Internet and in their personal
networks, which complicates a straightforward interpretation of experimental results.
It should also be noted that many peers tend to participate only for brief periods of time
or sporadically in an online social support environment (Paterson et al., 2013).
2.4.1 Examples of Studies on Web-Based Peer Support Amongst Parents
In an online maternity clinic, conversations between expectant families were
analyzed, finding that families developed a sense of virtual community, which
gradually evolved into a real-life community. Novice parents felt supported and
better informed through this online medium. Furthermore, the postings offered
maternity care providers a deeper insight into daily family life, concerns about
pregnancy and the transition to parenthood, which they used to personalize their
interactions with parents-to-be.
Kouri, Turunen, Toassavainen and Saarikoski, 2006
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Trends and Future Developments 21
Postings on an online chat forum on vaccination of children were analyzed,
finding that parents distinguished between healthy and vulnerable children,
criticizing parents who did not vaccinate their healthy children and urging
them to take social responsibility in order to protect the larger community. The
authors suggest that providers of vaccination promotion material could pay more
attention to this dominant perspective of parents to successfully motivate parents
to participate in herd immunity.
Skea, Entwistle, Watt and Russell (2008)
One of the topics on an Internet discussion board for parents was children’s obesity.
A discourse analysis revealed that parents, especially mothers, were viewed as
the main cause of fatness, and in postings negative images were constructed with
mothers having ‘lousy characters, being unable to create an adequate emotional
bond with their child, and using faulty child-rearing practices’. Findings suggest
that in the public debate fault-finding and blaming is dominant, as opposed to
public care guidelines.
Kokkonen, 2009
The postings of divorced fathers, living apart from their children, on an
unmonitored Internet chat room were analyzed and compared to findings
in previous studies. Fathers expressed an acute sense of powerlessness and
anger towards the mothers of their children, family courts, lawyers and helping
professionals, and these feelings were much more intensely conveyed compared
to focus group or individual interviews. It is suggested to offer professional
support using the same medium through which they express their concerns most
intensely: Internet support groups.
Erera and Baum, 2009
2.5 Trends and Future Developments
The use of Internet-based programs is relatively recent and with the availability of
more bandwidth and devices this trend is progressing in an almost furious tempo. The
digital divide, indicating that some populations are denied access to these resources
because they are too expensive or too high-tech (Steyaert & Gould, 2009), also seems
to be rapidly narrowing. However, the availability of web-based devices is not the only
component which defines the problems which make a digital divide: it is also the need
for skills to be a productive and responsible Internet user, which is a concern of many
providers and educators (e.g., Bernhardt en Feiter, 2004). In this chapter, we have
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22 Peer and Professional Online Support for Parents
showed several examples of the benefits of professional and peer social networking
on the Internet. We will conclude with some recommendations for professionalizing
web-based interventions and programs and will begin with some general concerns
about online social networking.
2.6 More Insight in Dynamics in Online Peer Support
In most content analyses of online support among parents, posted messages were
analyzed at an aggregate level of the site, without distinguishing between the
different and often anonymous parents. With this analysis strategy, we still have little
information about individual parents. The visitors of parenting sites are anonymous
in most studies and little is known about the background of the different visiting
parents. More research is therefore needed to describe the differences between the
users of parent-related sites.
Studies of social support for different populations (e.g., Bambina, 2007) have
shown that there are layers of social support operating in an electronic support
group with active users who offer rich support and less-active users who offer limited
support. Future studies should also provide insight into how users first visit a site,
join an Internet forum, perhaps lurk in the beginning, post their first message, react
to other messages and, finally, round off their participation in online support. Put
differently, new studies should start to chart the process of how parents use online
support over a period of time. The current content-analytic studies of online support
are ‘timeless’ in that a time dimension is lacking. Little is still known, therefore, in
terms of the dynamic process of social support (see also Fukkink, 2012; Paterson et al.,
2013). The first generation of studies have described, often with fine-grained detail,
the content of online support, showing the rich content of parental sites. However,
parents have been relatively anonymous in this ‘timeless’ line of study. The next
generation of studies should provide more insight into the dynamics of peer support
for various users, including active users and lurkers, fathers and mothers, first-time
and experienced parents, and parents with children with or without health-related
issues.
2.7 Taking Professional Online Parenting Programs to the Next
Level
We have that self-guided programs can enhance the level of knowledge on certain
subjects, especially when they are combined with intersession assessments.
Parents may need knowledge about, for instance, basic child care, safety measures
in and around the house, the educational system, child development or rights and
obligations in case of divorce an online course may be an easy and accessible way
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References 23
to learn more (e.g., Na & Chia, 2008). Short online courses and tests could be a way
to disseminate knowledge in an attractive and interactive manner, reaching a wide
audience in a public health approach. However, parental behavior and attitudes show
more improvements with guided programs. The recent reviewing studies (Nieuwboer
et al., 2013a; 2013b) show many inspiring possibilities for integrating multi-layered,
multi-medium and blended program components, offering a large array of support
to parents. More specifically, complementing informal experience-based Internet
forums with more didactic methods to support parents (Salzman-Erikson & Eriksson,
2013) seems a feasible way to help parents with their interactions in their families as
well as raising their own self-confidence (e.g., Baggett et al., 2009).
The next level of online parenting support is a more methodical and systematic
approach to offering these services to parents: while employing technological
innovations, professionals will need to focus on the goals of such services. If the aim
is to enhance knowledge, several options for interactive dissemination of information
are available; if the aim is to improve other facets of competencies, professionals
should choose a method of teaching or training, blend it with face to face or telephone
support and be skilful in online communication through email or chat consultation.
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26 Peer and Professional Online Support for Parents
Table 2.1: Characteristics of Online Interventions and Support for Parents (1998-2010, N = 75)*
Types of Internet Communication
First author Year Name of resourcea
Synchr.
Prof.
E-mail
List-serv
Conf.chat
Gr. chat
Gr. forum
Info
Ahmed  Antenatal Screening
Web Resource
(AnSWeR)
A Pr - - - - - +
Anand  Email
communication in
pediatric care
A Pr + - - - - -
Askins  Problem-solving
skills traininga
A Pr - - - - - +
Baggett  Infant neta A Pr + P - - - - + +
Baum  Internet Parent
Support Groups
A P - - - - + -
Beck  Research on Birth
Trauma
A Pr + - - - - -
Bergman  New Model of Well-
Child Care
A Pr + - - - - -
Bert  Adventures in
Parentinga
A Pr - - - - - +
Borowitz  Email consultations A Pr + - - - - -
Brent  Health Physics
Website
A Pr + - - - - +
Britto  MyCare Connection A Pr + - - - - +
Buzhardt  Training modules A Pr - - - - - +
Campbell  New Mothers
Network
A Pr + P + - - - + -
Capitulo  Perinatal Loss
Listserv
A P - + - - - -
Carpenter  Parent–Adolescent
Conflict Training
PACT
A Pr - - - - - +
Chan  Happy Land A + S P - - - + + -
Christakis  MyHealthyChild
(Bright Futures)a
A Pr - - - - - +
Christian  Saafamilies.org A P - - - - + +
Cook  Strategies for
Preschool Interv. in
Everyday Settingsa
A Pr - - - - - +
d’Alessandro  Information
Prescriptions
A Pr - - - - - +
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References 27
Types of Internet Communication
First author Year Name of resourcea
Synchr.
Prof.
E-mail
List-serv
Conf.chat
Gr. chat
Gr. forum
Info
Deitz  Youth Mental Health
A Parent’s Guide
A Pr - - - - - +
Demaso  Experience Journal,
Depression
A P - - - - + +
Downing  Missouri
Development.
Disability Resource
Center
A + S Pr + P - + - + + +
Drentea  Mothering Board A P - - - - + -
Dunham  Staying Connected A P - - - - + -
Erera  alt.dads.rights S P - - - + - -
Ewing  The Web site A Pr + P + - - - + +
Feil  Infant Net (Playing
and Learning
Strategies, PALS)a
A + S Pr + P - - - - + +
Fletcher  New Fathers
Information Project
A Pr - + - - - -
Gray  Baby CareLink A Pr + - - - - +
Hall  Online group A Pr + P - + - - - -
Han  N-BLASTOMA; PED-
ALL; PED-ONC
A P - + - - + -
Herman  Healthy Pregnancy
Website
A Pr + P + - - - + +
Huang  Breastfeeding
Education Program
A Pr - - - - - +
Hudson  Young Parents
Project
A Pr + P + + - - - +
Hudson  New Fathers Network A Pr + P + - - - + +
Hudson  New Mothers
Network
A Pr + P + - - - + +
Huws  An International List
serv
A P - + - - - -
Kibar  Email consultations
with specialists
A Pr + - - - - -
Kokkonen  A Finish website A P - - - - + -
Kouri  Net Clinic A P + - - - + +
Kuo  Internet newborn-
care education
program
A + S Pr + P + - - + + +
Leonard  Rettnet A P - + - - - -
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28 Peer and Professional Online Support for Parents
Types of Internet Communication
First author Year Name of resourcea
Synchr.
Prof.
E-mail
List-serv
Conf.chat
Gr. chat
Gr. forum
Info
Mackert  Child Care Center
Web Site
A Pr - - - - - +
Madge  Babyworld A + S Pr + P - - - + + +
Madge  Babyworld S P - - - + - -
Magee  Ucanpooptoo A Pr - - - - - +
Mankuta  Internet
consultations forum
Hadassah Medical
Org.
A Pr + P - - - - + -
Mertensmeyer  Parentlinka A + S Pr + + - - - +
Na  Kidz Grow Online A Pr - - - - - +
Nelson  Healthy Steps over
Telemedicine
S Pr - - - - - +
Nicholas  Spina Bifida Father
Group
A P - - - - + -
Nyström  Parental Support
e-meeting portal
(mothers)
S Pr + P - - - + - -
Nyström  Parental Support
e-meeting portal
(fathers)
S P - - - + - -
O’Connor  Babyworld A + S Pr + P - - - - + +
Ritterband  Ucanpooptoo A Pr - - - - - +
Rosen  PPEM, patient
physician email
A Pr + - - - - -
Salonen  Vauvankaa A Pr + P + - - - + +
Salovey  Head Start
Community
Technology Centers
A Pr - - - - - +
Sanders  Triple Pa A Pr + - - - - +
Sanghavi  Bright Futures A Pr - - - - - +
Sarkadi  FöräldraNätet A P - - - - + -
Scharer  Internet Discussion
Board
A Pr + P - - - - + +
Scharer  Web-based Social
Support Group
S Pr + P - - + + - -
Schinke  Daughter-mother
substance abuse
program
A Pr - - - - - +
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References 29
Types of Internet Communication
First author Year Name of resourcea
Synchr.
Prof.
E-mail
List-serv
Conf.chat
Gr. chat
Gr. forum
Info
Skea  Mumsnet S P - - - + - -
Taylor  Incredible Years
Adapteda
A Pr + P + - - - + +
Thomas  Breastfeeding
Support
A Pr + - - - - -
Thompson  Touchscreen
Computer Kiosk
A Pr - - - - - +
Thompson  Parent–
Teacher Email
communication
A Pr + + - - - -
Wade  Family Poblem-
solving Group (FPS)
A + S Pr - - - - - +
Wade  I-InTERACTa A + S Pr - - - - - +
Wallace  Vaccination Decision
Aid
A Pr - - - - - +
Wang  VBAC program A Pr + P + - - - + +
Wilson  Hepatitis B and You A Pr - - - - - +
Percentage
A
.%
S
.%
A+S
%
Pr
.%
P
.%
Pr+P
.%
.%.% .% .%.%.%
Note. Synchr. A / S = asynchronous / synchronous; Prof. Pr / P = professional / peer; E-mail = email
one-to-one; List-serv. = online mailing list; Conf. chat = confidential chat; Gr. chat = group chat;
Gr. forum = group forum / discussion board; Info = information pages. An “+” indicates that the
criterion has been met.
aAdaptation of or similar to a traditional parent training program
* For references to all studies, see Nieuwboer, 2014
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... Although online peer support might intuitively be associated with the 'social media era' for many, peers have been supporting each other in a wide range of informal, experience-based internet forums since the 1980s. Peer support is often initiated by parents with specific experiences, such as having a child with a mental or physical health problem, and offers a social network for receiving and giving emotional support and advice among others who share similar experiences, without geographical barriers [62]. ...
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The Handbook of Parenting brings together in a single volume much of the theoretical and empirical knowledge and aspects of professional activity within the broadly defined field of parenting. Contributions are presented from an internationally renowned group of scholars known for their work in a range of disciplines, including child and family psychology, education and family studies, providing an accessible map of the major debates in theory, research and practice in this important and exciting field. The material is presented comprehensively. It encompasses essential policy and professional issues in all the main areas of current concern from parenting in culturally divergent settings, to parenting children with special needs in areas of physical, mental, social and educational functioning, to looking at ways in which the wider community and technological advances may be able to provide parenting support. Published in a single-volume format, this handbook will prove an invaluable and essential resource. Academics, researchers, practitioners and advanced students in a host of disciplines will gain from its breadth, wealth of information and enormous insight into the principal issues related to parenting theory and practice in the 21st century. The distinctive contribution of this handbook is to present a vast body of research and other information in a manner that is usable by practitioners in a wide range of child and parental support activities.
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