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   from the issue of April 13, 2006

UNL works to improve parenting techniques


Michelle Oberle came to UNL knowing she would get an education. She never thought she would also gain parenting knowledge.

Oberle, a first-year UCARE student, is working with Julia Torquati to study how parental modeling, parenting practices, and parents' state of mind influence coping strategies of preschool-age children.

According to Torquati, associate professor in Family and Consumer Sciences, the goal of the research is to determine whether the often-found relation between adult attachment and interaction with one's own children is also found with adults caring for children to whom they are not related. Research participants include early childhood teachers from center-based programs and family child care homes. Teachers complete surveys that measure their beliefs about young children, and are observed in their program using standardized rating scales. Next, teachers are interviewed using the Adult Attachment Interview, which is a measure that has been used extensively with parents in the United States and in many different cultures. Oberle conducts the interviews and transcribes them before they are analyzed. Torquati then codes the interviews (Coding refers to looking at a specific trait or characteristic of AAI and rating it on a standard scale).

After coding is complete, Torquati and students working on the project will test hypotheses about the associations between teachers' attachment, beliefs about young children, and behaviors with young children. The results will determine the next steps of the research. A proposal for external funding for a larger project will be based on the results. And, the data will help researchers tailor preparation programs and continuing professional development for early childhood teachers.

The findings should also help prepare professionals to work effectively with young children and to raise parents' awareness about what kinds of interactions are important between child care professionals and children. The goal is that parents will be able to make more informed choices about child care.

Torquati said she wants Oberle to gain a deeper understanding of attachment theory as well as research methods, including issues of reliability and validity. As a psychology major, Oberle is interested in a career in counseling. The interviewing experience will prepare her for clinical training.

UCARE gave Oberle the chance to work with a professor on something that benefits UNL, and to be a part of research that may be recognized nationally. She will walk away with hands-on research knowledge, and parenting lessons she had not planned on.

"The knowledge I've gained will be useful in my career and when I become a parent myself," Oberle said.

Amy Hinrichs is a senior in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. She is from Arden Hills, Minn.


This is the first in a series of UCARE-related stories written by UNL students enrolled in Advertising 451/851.

UCARE, funded by the Pepsi Endowment, supports opportunities for undergraduates to work alongside faculty and directly participate in the campus's research or creative activities. Undergraduates may apply for UCARE awards to incorporate a research or creative experience into their undergraduate education.

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