Parenting Adolescents Today

23 Apr 2018

The second of this years three Master's grant recipients shares her research topic.

Gabriela Pilar García Zavala studied psychology at the San Pablo Catholic University in Arequipa, Peru. She is currently studying the Master’s in Social Science Research at the University of Navarra thanks to a grant from the Social Trends Institute.

Why did you choose to do a Master’s degree in research?

I had my first research experience when I finished my undergraduate studies. Developing a research project was a requirement for the bachelor’s degree in psychology. My aim was to look into the influence that families have on the resilience of adolescents in vulnerable situations. The experience was important in that it made me aware of the importance of research in prevention and intervention programs. 

I am now working at the San Pablo Catholic University, and last year I was able to participate in research projects related to family violence. I realized I needed training in research methods that went beyond psychology to give me a broader understanding of today’s reality. That’s how I wound up entering the Master’s program. 

Has the program fulfilled your expectations?

Very much so. The classes on social theory gave us the tools to reflect upon the current social situation and to identify problem areas. And the classes on investigative methodology and specific areas – in my case psychology – gave me a solid base of knowledge to begin researching. Furthermore, I think it’s very positive that the students in the program come from different areas – both geographic and academic.  Hearing about other students’ research projects and the questions they address enriches the interdisciplinary experience that’s so important today. 

What does your own project concern?

We’re validating the Family Education Scale for Adolescents in its version for children (EEFA-VH in its Spanish Acronym). This tool was developed by Charo Reparaz and Aurora Bernal, both of whom are professors at the University of Navarra, in order to evaluate parents’ competence in the education of their adolescent children. It is made up of three sub-scales: General parenting competence, parental authority, and education in values. 

What is timely about this research topic? 

The role of the family, especially parents, is crucial to children’s education. But in order to detect problems and suggest potential interventions, we need a clear, general diagnosis of how this education is going. I believe that this stage of life – adolescence – begs special attention due to the many changes the young people go through.

Many tools have been designed to measure different family variables, but the EEFA manages to encompass the fundamentals that must be considered in any evaluation of family education. 

What’s more, every tool is developed around a specific theory. In this case the designers developed the tool primarily because they wanted to find out if parents know and attend to their children’s needs. Secondly, because of the need to reevaluate parental authority as a fundamental aspect of education, and lastly in order to evaluate parents’ commitment to teaching values like sociability, fortitude and modesty in daily life.

Do you think diagnostic tools are necessary?

Yes, I do. Of course every individual and every family have their own particular dynamic, but these instruments help us get a general feel for what is happening. Whether it’s to help initiate a therapy, suggest an intervention or a preventative program, a baseline is necessary.

Furthermore, every tool has to comply with two fundamental characteristics: validity and reliability. And that’s what we are after with this research.