Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Ronald Werner-Wilson

Second Advisor

Sedahlia Crase


This dissertation explores parents' experiences with the Anasazi Foundation, a wilderness behavioral treatment program for adolescents and their parents. Other research has studied the effectiveness of wilderness treatment, but very little has been conducted formally with the parents of those adolescents. I sought to find out what has been the nature of these parents' relationships with and parenting of their adolescent after having experienced the Anasazi program. Second, I wanted to know what specifically made the difference, and what made the changes they experienced possible. Third, I inquired about the role of predominant cultural expectations and discourses in their parenting before and after Anasazi. The sample consisted of seven married couples and one single mother. I conducted two semi-structured qualitative interviews with the single parent and with each couple. The methodology constitutes a unique confluence of phenomenological, ethnographic, and action research ideas. The methodology, criteria of quality, and interpretive analyses are informed by the philosophy of C. Terry Warner and the Arbinger Institute, utilizing the postmodern ethos as an approach to ethics, and a social constructionist approach to parenting. The criteria for quality center in validity as an ethical relationship. The parents' responses coalesced into six emergent themes, (1) the relationship influence of the Arbinger ideas as salient, (2) specific relationship changes influenced by the Anasazi program, (3) Anasazi was a spiritual experience, (4) adopted a more critical approach to parenting, (5) disappointments and suggested improvements, and (6) interviews were "responsive" experiences. I offer implications for the Anasazi foundation, for wilderness therapy programs and other therapeutic intervention with parents of adolescents, and for research on the parenting of adolescents. An theoretical interpretive analysis of a pattern parents followed in incorporating the Arbinger ideas into their parenting is given by critically examining "self-justifying images"---their specific relation to the cultural and historical contexts in which parenting takes place, and the necessity of actively dismantling them from a two-pronged Arbinger and social constructionist informed approach. A separate creative interpretive analysis is also given by including a narrative fictionalized story presentation of the findings constructed from the transcripts and from the research experience.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Martin John Erickson



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297 pages