The aim of this clinical note is to describe a cost effective method of collecting parent reports of their children's behaviour, and to stimulate research and discussion about its application.
The method was developed in a community based children's mental health clinic which saw many parents who sought help to improve the noncompliant behaviour of their children. Behavioural methods were used extensively because they often lead to lasting changes, are cost effective, and are accepted by parents.
An 8-week group program taught parents to observe and record their children's behaviour, and to use these records with behaviour management skills and problem-solving techniques to develop their own approach to discipline. Behaviour management skills included reinforcement, time-out, extinction, effective use of commands, house rules, and contracts.
Therapists wanted to collect data frequently to assess problems, tailor an intervention program for the family's needs, and to evaluate the extent and maintenance of change. In addition, therapists wished to monitor the client's progress and involvement with the program and take early steps to correct any problems. The research component required regular data to evaluate the overall outcome and to analyse the effect of particular components of the program.
Unfortunately, the methodological standard of using independent observers to rate changes in the behaviour of families was judged to be inappropriate in the clinic. With a small number of staff facing a high demand for services, it was argued that the expense of independent observers was difficult to justify. Staff favouring nonbehavioural approaches and those less enthusiastic about research perceived the use of independent observers as intrusive and unwieldy. There was no easy access to researchers, grant funds, or tertiary institutions who could assist.
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