For the past year and a half, I have been working with Families First as an intern on a very exciting project involving parent drawings. Families First provides parenting education and support through their Power of Parenting Program (POP). This program aims to help parents expand their
knowledge of child growth and development, as well as teaches parents specific caregiving behaviors and interpersonal skills.
As part of their program evaluation, parents drew Identity Maps, pictures that served as reflections on their participation in the program and on any parental changes they experienced. The worksheet prompted parents to draw how they perceived themselves “before the program” and “today” in separate boxes at the top. At the bottom, they elaborated on their drawings by writing a short narrative using the prompt: ‘Because of this program, this is how my parenting has changed.’ In this post I will talk about two of the main themes we discovered after analyzing these drawings: shift of emotion from before to today and knowledge learned from the program.
The ‘shift of emotion from before to today’ theme captured the prominence of negative emotions such as stress, frustration, and anger in the “before” drawings and how this shifted to representations of happiness and affection (e.g., hearts) in the “today” drawings. One interesting pattern we noticed was that in some “before” drawings, parents and children would have mismatched emotions (one is smiling and the other is frowning), which would then shift to be more positive and synchronous emotions for all people drawn in “today.”
The other theme that our coding process uncovered was the parents’ depictions of ‘knowledge learned from the program’. The parents expressed that the program taught them new techniques and ways of relating with their children, including improved communication with children, stress management techniques, and positive approaches to disciplining their children. In addition, a few parents drew content-specific lessons from the curriculum, such as setting rules on TV time and playing more with their children.
Using these Identity Maps proved to be a powerful tool for capturing parents’ emotional and knowledge-based journeys related to their parenting roles. This infrequently used method for parental self-expression poses another advantage: it did not rely on questions written by researchers or long written narratives. Therefore it has utility with parent populations that may be less often explored, such as those with lower literacy or other language limitations. We hope to include more visual methods such as drawings and photographs in our future of mixed-methods community work, adding diversity to the ways our community members help us understand their stories.