I recently met with Kathryn Di Nicola (a Collective Impact Facilitator from Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University) and a team of family and community workers to discuss the Parent Empowerment and Efficacy Measure (PEEM). PEEM is a freely available, brief, strengths-based measurement tool in which parents are invited to rate themselves in relation to 20 statements using a 10 point scale from “this sounds nothing like me” to “this sounds exactly like me”:
- I find it easy to talk to people like teachers, doctors and nurses about my children
- I know how to get useful information about how my children’s needs change as they grow
- I feel good when I think about the future for my children
- I can work out what to do if any of my children have a problem
- We have clear rules and routines in my family
- I can find services for my children when I need to
- In my family there is more to enjoy than to worry about
- I stay calm and manage life even when it’s stressful
- I believe my children will do well at school
- I can help make this community a better place for children
- I can help other families find help when they need it
- I have someone I can rely on to help with my children if I need it
- I know good parenting tips that I can share with others
- I feel that I’m doing a good job as a parent
- I feel good about myself
- I feel good about the way my children behave
- I feel part of a community
- I have good friends outside my family
- I can make time for my children when they need it
- I know my children feel secure
PEEM was developed as part of a 10 year partnership between Griffith University and Mission Australia – Pathways to Prevention [1-4]. During Pathways to Prevention, the research team decided they needed a new strengths-based measurement tool that was acceptable to parents, practitioners and researchers .
In designing PEEM they focused on four important attributes:
- Brevity: Appropriate measures are concise, easily administered by nonspecialist personnel, and have a simple scoring process.
- Positive focus: The measurement of empowerment should show where a person’s strengths lie and identify capabilities that might be fostered to help them achieve their goals rather than highlight deficit.
- Accessibility: Items constructed using straightforward wording and unambiguous concepts reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation, help the measure seem less forbidding, and are acceptable to a wide range of families who may be wary of judgmental reactions.
- Practical value: Value is enhanced when in the short-term, each participant’s responses can be used in a diagnostic way to guide decisions at the individual participant level and tailor services to identified need; and in the longer-term, data showing patterns of responses across groups of participants can be used to guide decisions about the shape of the overall service. 
PEEM focuses on two main areas of parenting:
- Confidence to be a good parent: To make effective parenting decisions and carry out parenting responsibilities;
- Capacity to connect with informal and formal networks; specifically:
– Confidence to recognise when to seek help: How to access support, and to exercise one’s rights as a service user; and
– Confidence to participate and capacity for reciprocity: The ability to be linked in as part of a mutually supportive community or social network within settings that promote personal growth and fulfilment and the achievement of goals shared by families collectively. 
Reflections from our discussion
After an overview of PEEM by Kathryn, our discussion focused on whether it was a useful tool and, if it was, how the team could use it as more than just a measurement tool.
While the team were very positive about PEEM overall, there would be challenges for some of them using it in particular contexts. For example, staff who worked with families of children with rare conditions, many of whom faced serious disabilities or a short life span, felt uncomfortable asking questions like “I feel good when I think about the future for my children” and “In my family there is more to enjoy than to worry about”. PEEM was also inappropriate for wide scale use in some of the projects that had a broader focus than just families. The discussion reinforced the importance of selecting appropriate measurement tools and that it is unlikely that one measurement tool can be used across an organisation with a wide range of projects.
Another potential challenge was using PEEM in some of the short parenting programs. Kathryn recommend that it be used in the third or fourth session with a family or parent (after a relationship has been developed) – which is very difficult to do in a brief programs (e.g., a three session program like 1, 2, 3 Magic).
The team could see how PEEM might be used as conversation starters and not just as an assessment tool. For example, after parents completed the questions there could be conversations about any questions that surprised them, anything that stood out for them or what their priorities were. If PEEM was used as a pre- and post-measure, or used as a review tool every three to six months, there could be a conversation about whether differences in their recorded responses between the two times were consistent with their perceptions, whether anything surprised them or what they think led to any changes.
Having conversations about the results could also help explain any decreases in scores. For example parents might be more honest the second time around (because they have developed a trusting relationship with the staff) or they might have increased awareness of changes they want to make.
Griffith University is in the process of developing an online version of the measure (which will be given a more family friendly title) and eventually it will be available for use by other services (for a small fee). The paper version of the form can be downloaded for free from https://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/649785/PEEM-instructions.pdf.
If you want to read more about PEEM’s development, validity and reliability, there is more information in a paper by Kate Freiberg, Ross Homel and Sara Branch  (which is available for free through Research Gate). For example in the validation study with 866 parents from 11 primary schools in a variety of suburbs, the scores ranged from 51 to 199 with a mean score of 154 (out of a possible 200).
My impression is that PEEM is a great alternative to many of the deficit focused measures used with families and, while clearly not suitable for every context, is well worth considering. I’d love to hear about your experience of using it or about other strengths-based measures you have used.
This post came from a project I’m working on supporting nine children and parenting support programs in regional and rural NSW to enhance their capacity to implement evidence-based programs and practice. The project was funded by the Department funded by the Department of Social Services through the Children and Families Expert Panel. You can see other posts relating to this work at https://sustainingcommunity.wordpress.com/resources-for-students/expert-panel-caps/.
If you liked this post please follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:
- A literature review on supported playgroups
- Playgroups as a foundation for working with hard to reach families
- Research evidence for family (and community) workers
- What are program logic models?
- Mutual self-help parent groups
- Some good articles/links – engaging ‘hard to reach’ families
- Homel, R., Freiberg, K., Lamb, C., Leech, M., Batchelor, S., Carr, A., . . . Elias, G. (2006). The Pathways to Prevention project: doing developmental prevention in a disadvantaged community. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice(323), 1-6. Available from http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/321-340/tandi323.html
- Homel, R., Freiberg, K., & Lamb, C. (2006). Working with the Indigenous Community in the Pathways to Prevention Project. Family Matters(75), 18-23. Available from http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=347019863925882;res=IELHSS
- Freiberg, K., Homel, R., & Branch, S. (2010). Circles of Care: The Struggle to Strengthen Child Developmental Systems through the Pathways to Prevention Project. Family Matters(84), 28-34. Available from https://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/197979/Circles-of-care-The-struggle-to-strengthen-child-developmental-systems.pdf
- Homel, R., Freiberg, K., Branch, S., & Le, H. (2015). Preventing the onset of youth offending: The impact of the Pathways to Prevention Project on child behaviour and wellbeing. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice(481), 1-10. Available from http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/481-500/tandi481.html
- Freiberg, K., Homel, R., & Branch, S. (2014). The Parent Empowerment and Efficacy Measure (PEEM): A Tool for Strengthening the Accountability and Effectiveness of Family Support Services. Australian Social Work, 67(3), 405-418. doi: 10.1080/0312407X.2014.902980 Available from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2014.902980