Academic journal article Family Relations

The Role of Maternal Beliefs in Predicting Home Learning Activities in Head Start Families

Academic journal article Family Relations

The Role of Maternal Beliefs in Predicting Home Learning Activities in Head Start Families

Article excerpt

The Role of Maternal Beliefs in Predicting Home Learning Activities in Head Start Families*

A conceptual model specifying that maternal beliefs (maternal self-efficacy, perceived control) mediate the relation between child-- family characteristics (child's difficult temperament, mother's education, stressful life events) and the extent of involvement in home learning activities in Head Start families was tested. The sample was 306 mothers (51% Mexican American, 36% Anglo American, 13% other minorities). Results provided partial support for the model (ie., parental self-efficacy mediated the effects of the child's difficult temperament on mothers' reports of family involvement in home learning activities). Maternal education and family stress were not directly related to home learning, although family stress influenced home learning, although family stress influenced home learning indirectly through parental self-efficacy. Separate analyses yielded comparable results for Anglo Americans and Mexican Americans. Ways to facilitate parent self-efficacy are discussed.

Key Words: ethnicity, home learning, low-income families, maternal self-efficacy.

The significant influence of the home learning environment on child cognitive and academic outcomes during the early childhood years has been well-documented in the literature (Baharduin & Luster, 1998; Bradley, Caldwell, & Rock, 1988; Gottfried, 1984). Further, there is strong and consistent evidence that the quality of the home learning environment serves as a major pathway by which poverty and its correlates (e.g., low maternal education) affect young children's cognitive and academic outcomes. Differences in the amount of cognitive stimulation in the home account for a substantial amount of the effect of socioeconomic (SES) disadvantage on the cognitive development and academic skills of poor children (McLoyd, 1998; Smith, Brooks-Gunn, & Klebanov, 1997).

Beyond broad sociodemographic determinants (e.g., income, parent education, family structure, minority status), there is surprisingly little research that explicates the factors that contribute to differences in parents' involvement in home learning activities with their children. Studies linking low parental involvement to low SES and minority status without exploring the basis for such differences contribute to a deficit view that fails to recognize the wide variability among low-income families. Yet, current research shows us that many poor parents do provide positive learning experiences and respond effectively to the developmental needs of their young children (Rosier & Corsaro, 1993; Soto, 1988). Thus, further research is needed to illuminate the factors associated with variation in the quality of home learning environments among poor families. Such evidence is of particular importance for informing current intervention efforts aimed at enhancing parental involvement in early education (Kellaghan, Sloan, & Bloom, 1993).

A Model of Influences on Home Learning Activities

The present study examined a model of the direct and indirect influences of mother, child, and family factors on home learning activities in low-income families. The model is based on the proposition that maternal beliefs (i.e., parental self-efficacy and parental control) mediate the effect of child and family background factors (i.e., child temperament, maternal education, and family stress) on family involvement in home learning activities.

Parent self-efficacy is defined as a parent's belief that he or she possesses the required parenting skills to meet specific child-- rearing challenges (e.g., calming a distressed child) (Izzo, Weiss, Rodriguez-Brown, & Shanahan, 1997; Jain, Fish, & Stiffer, 1997). Interest in how parental beliefs have an impact on behavior grew out of Bandura's examination of self-efficacy as a cognitive mechanism of coping (e.g., Bandura, 1989, 1997). …

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