Graduation Year


Document Type

Ed. Specalist



Degree Name

Education Specialist (Ed.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Kathy Bradley-Klug, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heather Agazzi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.


effectiveness, elementary, engagement, HOT DOCS, parent training, thematic analysis


This qualitative study investigated the acceptability of DOCS K-5, a behavior parenting program adapted for parents of elementary aged children. Despite proven efficacy in preventing maladaptive behaviors, parenting programs have historically suffered from low attendance and engagement. Participants (N = 13) attending the pilot DOCS K-5 program took part in six group interviews while enrolled in the program to examine the facilitators and barriers to attendance, perceived effectiveness, and collateral benefits received from participation in the program. This study considered possible cognitive, affective, instructional, and pragmatic facilitators or barriers to attendance and engagement. Participants described motivations to learn various types of strategies including strategies to help with school related problems, strategies for children exhibiting very difficult behavior, and strategies that extend those learned in a prior parenting program. Pragmatic concerns, such as the time, location and length of the program were described as modest barriers to attendance. Parents’ cognitive approaches in general were not experienced as barriers to attendance or engagement. However, some parents of children with more extreme behavior indicated a belief that the behaviors may be part of who the child is. Parent affect (e.g., feelings of guilt, isolation, or being overwhelmed) was experienced as a facilitator to enrollment or engagement, and often led to parents expressing mutual support for each other during group interviews. Parents also indicated that elements of DOCS K-5 instructional design such as the instructional materials, resources and the experience of the instructor were highly appreciated and facilitated learning.

Analysis of the perceived effectiveness of the pilot DOCS K-5 confirmed that parents reported learning and regularly using several new strategies taught. In addition to the specific strategies learned, parents described both changes to their overall approach to parenting and changes in their child’s behavior that were often characterized as evolving or a work in progress. Participants of the pilot program offered suggestions for increasing attendance to other community members and increasing active engagement. Thematic analysis also identified collateral benefits of participation, such as increased feelings of calm during interactions with their children, increased confidence in managing behavior, and improved relationships not only within the family but also within the community and school environment.

Future research may further explore how to satisfy the competing needs of parents who may seek mutual support from others in group parenting programs, but may not have the ability to attend the session or may feel stigmatized in certain environments or venues. Also, further research may explore the significant role that parenting programs play in empowering parents who feel marginalized or isolated to access school and community resources and build factors of resiliency.