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Joining parenting educators and researchers at annual in-service event


Marianella Casasola presenting

Parenting In Context (an initiative housed in the BCTR) holds annual in-service events at Cornell University for parent educators and others who work with parents and children across New York State. The in-service is a two-day event with networking opportunities, professional development workshops, and various academic presentations by Cornell faculty. By directly connecting those that work with parents with researchers studying parenting and child development, the initiatives delivers the latest research into the hands of those that can use it and allows researchers to hear from practitioners about research needs.

The 2016 event was held in September and featured presentations on topics such as:

  • family life in an era of mass incarceration
  • spatial language and play in early childhood
  • the gap between research and available interventions for autism spectrum disorders
  • the community impact of school-based health centers in rural New York
  • an update on the Toddler Talk pilot study
  • as well as workshops on how to conduct a Community Café and the role of social media in outreach efforts

Presenters included Christopher Wildeman and Sharon Tennyson from the Department of Policy, Analysis and Management, Michael Goldstein from the Department of Psychology, Marianella Casasola from the Department of Human Development, and Lee Humphreys from the Department of Communications, as well as Parenting In Context Staff Kimberly Kopko and Eliza Lathrop Cook. Participants included parent educators, as well as others who work with families and youth.  Participants came from 17 counties across New York State.

Participant comments:

I always take away so much away from these events. I find it very useful when the presenters know their audience and discuss how we can use this info in the field. The ability to connect with colleagues is valuable and energizing.

The connection between researchers and us (educators in the field) has been incredibly valuable!

The connection to new initiatives, programs, and research have been great opportunities for our county associations.

Parent Education In-Service full presentation/workshop list (in order of delivery)
Day 1

  • Family Life in an Era of Mass Incarceration - Christopher Wildeman
  • Early Childhood Development: Spatial Language and Play - Marianella Casasola
  • Workshop: The Power of Community Cafés - Anna Steinkraus & Elizabeth Wolff

Day 2

  • Toddler Talk Update: Facilitating Cognitive Development in Social Context, Pilot Study - Michael Goldstein, Eliza Lathrop Cook, & Amanda Root
  • Workshop: Role of Social Media in Outreach Efforts - Lee Humphreys
  • Enhancing the Community Impact of School-Based Health Centers in Rural New York via Parenting Education: A Pilot Study - Kim Kopko, Sharon Tennyson, & Maria Arrieta
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders: Discussion of Gap between Research and Available Interventions - Michael GoldsteinPartnering with Cornell Capstone Course: Experience and Benefits - Jackie Davis-Manigaulte
  • Training for Family Professionals on Positive Discipline - Nancy Olsen-Harbich
  • Parenting In Context Updates - Eliza Lathrop Cook & Kimberly Kopko



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Parent educators and faculty review latest parenting research


Dinah Castro, Maxine Cohen, Kerri Reda, and Tim Jahn in conversation at the in-service.

The annual Parenting in Context in-service event brings together Cornell researchers with New York State parent educators and others who work with families and youth for networking, professional development workshops, and presentations.

The 2015 in-service, held September 16-17, featured presentations on topics such as parenting in the digital age, custodial grandparent families, cognitive development in social context, positive discipline strategies, and adolescent well-being amidst family instability. Presenters included Rachel Dunifon and Laura Tach from policy analysis and management, Michael Goldstein from psychology, Chris Watkins, director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, local school social worker Melissa Enns, and Parenting In Context staff Kimberly Kopko and Eliza Cook.

Participants came from 9 counties across New York State and left the following feedback on the event:

The updates and research presentations are always thought-provoking and reinforce our connection to the university. It is so important to those of us in the field.

It was very helpful to better understand the environment and dynamics of niche families--grandfamilies and fragile families. Presentations being research-based reminded me of its importance.

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US parents continue to use spanking despite the evidence against it


Kimberly Kopko

The majority of American parents still use spanking to discipline their children despite overwhelming evidence that it is ineffective and detrimental. In practice, research findings are often no match for cultural norms and closely-held beliefs about the physical punishment of children. Kimberly Kopko, director of the BCTR's Parenting in Context Initiative, comments on the subject in a recent article. The specific case she refers to below involves a Liberian native living in the US who "hot peppered" his two young sons (details in the full article, link below).

"There has to be appreciation and understanding of culture, but if you're harming a child, you're harming a child," said Dr. Kimberly Kopko, who runs Cornell University's Parenting in Context initiative.

As for cultural norms, Dr. Kopko said, "I do appreciate and understand the cultural issues around those sorts of things, however, you're talking about a Liberian family that was living in the U.S. If that family was living in Sweden, it would likewise not be legal."

Sweden banned spanking in 1979, and 45 nations have since followed suit, most of them in Europe and South America.

America's a different story, though.

"We're very individualistic and private, and so we're not run like a European country where a lot of this is more out in the open," Dr. Kopko said. "I think many Americans take the view of, 'What happens in my home is my business, it's not yours.'"

On a policy level, authorities here are more reluctant to step in and tell parents how to parent, she said.

"I'm persuaded by data, and the data has consistently told us, consistently, that spanking is not good," she said. "Now research versus personal belief? You can line up a thousand research studies in front of some parents who believe that spanking is good, and they're still going to believe spanking is good."

The Parenting in Context Initiative provides research-based resources for parent educators and develops new curricula to enhance existing programs. They also provide training and tools useful in evaluating parenting programs. Their web site has some resources intended directly for parents, including Parent Pages, which summarize the latest research, and information on parenting programs in New York State.

Spank or not to spank? Child endangerment arrests stir debate -

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Parent educators and researchers discuss recent findings at in-service event

CCE's Jackie Davis-Manigaulte in discussion with parent educators

CCE's Jackie Davis-Manigaulte in discussion with parent educators

This September 22-23 thirty-six parent educators, BCTR staff, and others who work with families and youth gathered for a 2-day Parent Education In-Service, run by the BCTR's Parenting In Context Initiative. Participants from 13 counties across New York State viewed presentations on topics such as adolescent anger, child feeding practices among low-income mothers of preschool children, poverty and child development, and using news and social media to promote county associations.

On September 23rd Bronfenbrenner Lecturer Richard Lerner met with the group for a one-hour Q&A session. Lerner is the Bergstrom Chair in Applied Developmental Science and the Director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. His work integrates the study of public policies and community-based programs with the promotion of positive youth development and youth contributions to civil society. In-Service participants then attended the Bronfenbrenner Lecture later that day.

A parent educator in attendance said, "It is reassuring to hear research that supports what I teach."

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Parenting educators, researchers share wisdom

Rachel Dunifon speaking with educators

Rachel Dunifon speaking with educators

The BCTR's Parenting in Context Initiative held its annual in-service event with county parenting educators this month. Educators hear about the latest findings on parenting and children from Cornell researchers and researchers have the opportunity to learn about research needs from the educators. This process of communications helps to better serve parents throughout the state with evidence-based information on aspects of child-rearing from infancy to adulthood.

In a recent Cornell Chronicle article about the event, Rachel Dunifon, director of the Parenting in Context Initiative, comments on the process:

The goal is to give extension educators new tools and information that they can use in their programming with families across New York. However, I always come away from these events convinced that I have learned much more than they have. They are an amazing group of professionals committed to making a difference in the lives of those doing some of the most challenging work there is – raising children.

The agenda included presentations on adolescent sexual health, early childhood education, connecting to community agencies, and engaging-low income fathers. The presenters included the BCTR's Jane Powers and Jutta Dotterweich of ACT for Youth, Lisa McCabe of the Corenll Early Childhood Program, and Jennifer Tiffany, BCTR director of outreach and community engagement.

The mission of the Parenting in Context Initiative is to provide research-based resources for parent educators as well as develop new curricula that will enhance existing programs. They also provide training and tools that will be useful in evaluating parenting programs as well as assess parenting programs by county, by program and statewide to identify areas of potential collaboration and resource.

Parenting educators, researchers share wisdom - Cornell Chronicle

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Fifty parent educators attend the 2013 Parenting in Context In-Service event

CCE parent educator Denyse Variano of Orange County

Approximately 50 Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) parent educators from across New York State gathered in Ithaca for the 2013 Parent Education In-Service. The annual event is sponsored by the Parenting in Context Initiative in the College of Human Ecology and was held on the Cornell University campus on January 14th and 15th, 2013. The In-Service provides parent educators with professional development opportunities including presentations on the latest research on parenting and families as well as the latest evidence on effective parenting programs from Cornell professors and Senior Extension Associates. The event also provides a forum for educators to communicate their knowledge from the field back to the researchers.

Presenters included Kelly Musick, Jennifer Tiffany, Rachel Dunifon, Kimberly Kopko, and Lisa McCabe.

Presentations provided information on translational research and updates on the Parenting In Context project and also highlighted CCE innovative parent education programs for teen parents as well as a Facilitator Training Workshop.

Rachel Dunifon

Parenting in Context researchers, led by Rachel Dunifon, associate professor of policy analysis and management and director of Parenting in Context and Senior Extension Associate Kimberly Kopko, Co-Director of the Project, also presented the results of their annual assessment of CCE parent education programs statewide. Nearly 800 New Yorkers across 11 counties participated in 22 different programs in 2011-12, with many of them reporting, via program evaluations, significant improvements in their parenting skills.

Prior to the In-Service event, the Parenting Education Program Work Team (PWT) held their biannual meeting. The Parenting Education PWT was initiated in March 2004 with the primary goal of fostering communication among parenting educators, as well as providing support and resources to educators throughout New York State. Faculty presenters shared information about new research projects and opportunities for parent educator involvement as well as a panel presentation, Strengthening Campus-County Connections: New Projects and Examples of Past (and Ongoing) Successes, that featured a number of faculty discussing the ways in which they connect their research with parent educators and families in their respective communities.

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Talk: The Parenting in Context Initiative: Advancing the Integration of Extension and Translational Research Activities Statewide, Thursday, December 13, 2012


The Parenting in Context Initiative: Advancing the Integration of Extension and Translational Research Activities Statewide
Rachel Dunifon & Kimberly Kopko, BCTR

Thursday, December 13, 2012
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room

The Parenting in Context Project integrates research and extension activities in the area of parenting, provides university-level support and assistance to parenting educators in their work with families across New York State, and facilitates the development of new methods of promoting positive parenting behaviors among a wide range of caregivers and across a variety of contexts.

Since 2003 the Project has introduced new research- and evidence-based curricula, offered multiple professional development opportunities, and brought together Cornell faculty and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators. Recent activities focus on integrating parenting education efforts with translational and youth development efforts, thereby having the potential to impact a greater number of families and youth.

This presentation will provide an overview of the Parenting In Context Project, including available resources, statewide date collection efforts, integration of parent education and translational research, and discussion of areas for potential collaboration between parent education and youth development programming and initiatives.

Rachel Dunifon is the Associate Director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. She received her PhD in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University in 1999. She joined Cornell in 2001, after completing a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan. Rachel’s research focuses on the well-being of children, and how public policies and family living arrangements influence child well-being. She has a particular interest in the role of parenting behaviors in accounting for the associations between policies, family structure, and child well-being. In one recent article, she examined whether parental behaviors account for the influence of single-parenthood and cohabitation on children. In another, she tested whether mothers’ movement from welfare to work influences parenting. Dr. Dunifon is also examining how welfare reform has affected parental monitoring of children, warmth toward children, and the provision of cognitively stimulating activities for children; and how the neighborhoods in which children live influence their parents’ behaviors.

Kimberly Kopko is an Affiliate in the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. She received her Ph.D. in Child Development from the Department of Human Development at Cornell University in May 2005 and joined the Department of Policy Analysis & Management in 2007 after spending a year as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Ithaca College. Her research and extension interests examine parenting and child development outcomes. Specific research and extension interests include: developmental outcomes of affluent youth; socioeconomic status, parenting, and child development; developmental issues related to divorce and custody; the impact of children's extracurricular activity involvement on families; and parenting and adolescent development.

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Parenting in Context Annual In-Service Conference

Jan. 25-26, 2012, BCTR's Parenting in Context project sponsored the annual Parent Education In-Service.  Presenters included Jennifer Tiffany, Janis Whitlock, Maria Fitzpatrick, Rachel Dunifon, and Kimberly Kopko and nearly 50 parent educators from across NY state attended.

Presentations provided information on translational research and gave updates on the Parenting In Context project, but also highlighted the successful CCE programs PS: It Works! Communication Skills for Peers-Parent-Partners and Child Neglect and Maltreatment, Shaken Baby Syndrome, among other topics. The conference was an opportunity for researchers to provide some current findings and for educators to communicate their knowledge from the field back to the researchers.

Read the Cornell Chronicle article on the conference here.

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