Date of Award

Spring 5-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Studies and Research

Committee Chair

Lilian Hill

Committee Chair Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 2

Tom Lipscomb

Committee Member 2 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 3

Kyna Shelley

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 4

Anne Burgess

Committee Member 4 Department

Child and Family Studies


Parenting is one of the most widespread developmental tasks of adulthood. Simply put, most adults are or eventually will be parents. Even though parenting is commonplace, it is nonetheless a complex and sometimes overwhelming process. Support for parents can be found in the form of parent education, a topic which has been extensively researched over the last several decades. This research consistently upholds the efficacy of parent education (Heath & Palm, 2009; Marienau & Segal, 2006; Miller & Sambell, 2002); however, there is far less research related to parent education for court-ordered parents. This study sought to fill that gap by analyzing the experiences of participants in court-ordered parent education with the ultimate goal of identifying a framework which promotes learning that is transformative.

A basic qualitative design, which consisted of a before-training interview, training, an after-training interview, and a follow-up interview, was used in this research. Participants included eleven parents who had been court-ordered to attend parent education classes through the Department of Human Services. Through the data collection and data analysis process, the researcher was able to assess the outcome and the experience of the parent education class for the participants. She contends that most of the participants experienced a transformation of the parenting practices which characterize responsiveness and demandingness, the essential elements of parenting style. The researcher therefore concludes that these participants experienced a transformation of parenting style. She further contends that the transformative experience began with a disorienting dilemma and was fostered through critical self­ reflection and rational discourse.

This study has implications for adult education theory, practice and policy. For example, this study suggests that transformative learning can occur in a mandated setting providing that the incentive is powerful enough. Additionally, this study indicates that transformative learning can be lasting in non-life threatening situations, such as the potential loss of custody of one's children.

The researcher recommends that this program be replicated with other court­ ordered audiences and taught by other facilitators to determine if it is relevant in alternative settings. It is also recommended that this theoretical framework be applied in other types of adult education programs that promote major life-style changes (e.g. family-life education, substance abuse, weight loss, etc.)