Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Health

First Advisor

Daniel B. Crimmins, PhD

Second Advisor

Lara R. Robinson, PhD, MPH

Third Advisor

Brian Barger, PhD


Measuring Parent Engagement in a Group-based Parent-focused Prevention Program (Legacy for Children TM) to Improve Child Development Outcomes


Akilah Heggs Lee, M.A.

September 20, 2018

Poverty in early childhood has been associated with difficulties and delays in children’s socioemotional, behavioral and cognitive development (Luby, 2013; Yoshikawa et al., 2012) that can negatively impact future learning, health, and well-being (Britto et al., 2017). Parenting programs for families experiencing poverty have documented improved child health and developmental outcomes (NASME, 2016). Engaging parents in interventions is a critical element of successful prevention program implementation leading to positive outcomes (Staudt, 2007), however, there are few validated measures of parent engagement used in evidence-based parenting programs in community settings.

Legacy for ChildrenTM (Legacy) is a group-based parenting program designed to promote child development by cultivating responsive mother-child relationships and peer networks of support among low-income mothers (Perou et al., 2012). The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the factors of parent engagement measured within the Legacy program and test the relationship between those factors, program attendance, and child outcomes during the first year of the program.

  • Study One: The first study explored the current measurement tool used by Legacy to collect data on parent engagement, the Parent Engagement Form (PEF). Factor analytic approaches were applied across three waves of data to identify the construct validity of the PEF. Results indicated a four factor structure best fit the data and represented the behavioral and relational domains (Parent-Child Interaction, Group Alliance, Participation, and Social Support) of parent engagement.
  • Study Two: The second study investigated the number of attended sessions as predicted by the factors on the PEF for the Legacy program. We conducted negative binomial regression analyses to examine if scores on the PEF predicted attendance during the first year of the program. Mothers found to be more engaged on at least one factor of engagement had higher rates of attendance. Findings indicated differences in the relationship between attendance and engagement at the LA and Miami sites.
  • Study Three: Using linear regression modeling, study three examined how the four factors of parent engagement in Legacy predicted child outcomes. Findings indicated two factors (Participation and Parent-child Interaction) positively predicted scores of social-emotional functioning for children at age 24 months.