Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

Greek Mothers' Narratives of the Construct of Parental Involvement

Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

Greek Mothers' Narratives of the Construct of Parental Involvement

Article excerpt

Introduction

The field of study on parental involvement in children's learning has grown significantly since the 1980s and has been largely supported by extensive international research (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003; Epstein, 1995, 2001; Georgiou, 2007; Jeynes, 2003, 2007; Williams, 2011). Parental involvement has been defined across studies as representing various behaviours and practices at home or school that directly or indirectly influence children's cognitive and social development and achievement. These include: good parenting in the home such as listening to children read, supervision of homework, parent-child discussion, attending parent education workshops or school based activities such as parent teacher meetings, participation, and volunteering in school events, and so on (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003; Williams, 2011). Overall, research on parental participation has shown a positive relationship between parents' engagement in their children's learning - especially in the form of 'at-home good parenting' - and educational achievement (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003; Epstein, 2001; Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Jeynes, 2007). Student educational outcomes are assumed to be influenced or caused by parental involvement, which itself is often assumed to be influenced by sociodemographic variables, parental attitudes or factors related to schools (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003; Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994; Peña, 2000).

The literature on parental involvement, however, is not uniformly consistent (Anderson, 2007, as cited in Williams, 2011; Fan & Chen, 2001, as cited in Georgiou, 2007). This finding has often been attributed to the vague and multifaceted definition of the construct (Hong & Ho, 2005), methodological issues (Christenson, Rounds, & Gorney, 1992) or the differential understanding of 'involvement' by parents, teachers and students that can lead to a lack of communication and cohesion (Barton, Drake, Perez, St. Louis, & George, 2004; Lawson, 2003). Along these lines, uncertainty often persists regarding goals, practices and desired outcomes of various parent participation programmes and activities, and many authors are sceptical about the effect of parenting programmes that use an "one size fits all" approach without taking into account different perspectives and socio-cultural contexts (Auerbach, 2002; Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003; Fine, 1993).

Another important issue raised in the literature has to do with the difficulty to construct an account of parental involvement that goes beyond demographics (Georgiou, 2007) or "a laundry list of things that good parents do for their children's education" (Barton et al., 2004, p. 3). Parental participation tends to focus primarily on "what parents do" to engage with their children's learning, and in what way that fits or does not fit with the needs of the child or the goals of the school (Barton et al., 2004; Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1995). A shift from focusing mainly on what parents do, to also considering how parents understand the hows and whys of their involvement, and how this participation relates more broadly to parents' experiences, beliefs and actions has been proposed by scholars who recognize that parents had few opportunities to share their unique and valuable insights on the subject (Auerbach, 2002; Barton et al., 2004; Peña, 2000; Sebolt, 2010).

This article proposes that narrative approaches to parental involvement (to our knowledge neglected in the research literature) can help us address the issues raised above contributing to the ongoing discussion on the subject. Narratives can capture ambiguity, complexity and multiplicity; they can illuminate a great deal about the personal but also the social and cultural (Bruner, 1986, 1990; McLeod, 1997; Riessman, 2008) and are concerned with representation and voice especially with ordinary (e.g. parents) or marginalized people (e. …

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