Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parent Involvement in Head Start and Children's Development: Indirect Effects through Parenting

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parent Involvement in Head Start and Children's Development: Indirect Effects through Parenting

Article excerpt

An extensive body of literature indicates that children from low-income families enter kindergarten ill prepared to learn, anywhere from one-half to a full standard deviation below their more advantaged peers (Duncan & Magnuson, 2013). Unfortunately, once children fall behind, they often stay behind (Reardon, 2011). One generally accepted method for improving the school readiness of low-income children has been investing in early education programs for them (Duncan & Magnuson, 2013). Past research on early education has led to increased efforts in recent years to improve access to early care and education programs as a means of improving the school readiness of young children, especially those from low-income families.

Despite this growth in the number of children enrolled in early childhood programs, their long-term benefits have remained elusive (Puma et al., 2010). Recent findings that children learn best when they receive support for learning in their homes as well as in preschool settings (Crosnoe, Leventhal, Wirth, Pierce, & Pianta, 2010) suggest that preschools that can successfully extend support for learning to the home context may be the most successful in promoting children's school success. Many early childhood programs do in fact focus on both children and parents, implementing what is known as a two-generation approach (Chase-Lansdale & Brooks-Gunn, 2014), with Head Start as the earliest and most well-known example. Yet exactly how programs like Head Start, which are primarily child directed, can change parenting behavior in the home is not fully understood. In this study we tested the hypothesis that the crucial mechanism in the Head Start program is parent involvement such that by becoming involved, parents learn new ways to improve their parenting behavior and that such changes create a parent-mediated mechanism for Head Start to have a positive impact on the lives of children.

Head Start and the Promotion of Parent Involvement

The Head Start program is the largest federally funded early childhood compensatory program in the United States, serving nearly 1 million low-income children and families (Administration for Children and Families [ACF], 2014). Head Start was founded as a two-generation program that provides early education for children and encourages parents to participate in the program and learn skills that can extend beyond the classroom (Zigler & Muenchow, 1992). Head Start has a heavy emphasis on parent involvement; indeed, its Code of Federal Regulations specifies that parents must be included in all aspects of programs and requires that services be provided directly to parents in order "to enhance their parenting skills, knowledge, and understanding of the educational and developmental needs and activities of their children" (45 CFR Chapter XIII §1304.40 (e) (3), as cited in ACF, 2009, pp. 130-131).

With its two-generation emphasis, Head Start serves as an ideal setting in which to examine the role of parents' involvement in promoting children's early school success, yet there have been limited attempts to understand the extent to which Head Start programs are successful at involving parents. Prior work by Hindman and colleagues (Hindman & Morrison, 2011; Hindman, Miller, Froyen, & Skibbe, 2012) revealed that there are few consistent predictors of parents' school involvement; however, parents do became more involved in Head Start both as the year progresses and when there are more opportunities to be involved. There is also some evidence to suggest that classroom quality and teachers' experience are linked with greater parent involvement (Castro, Bryant, Peisner-Feinberg, & Skinner, 2004). Although these studies have added to our understanding of parent involvement in Head Start, much is still unknown about whether, and indeed how, such efforts at increasing involvement translate into improved outcomes for children. Given Head Start's strong emphasis on parent involvement, programmatic outreach to parents warrants more empirical attention, including the training of teachers in how to engage families (ACF, 2013) and the provision of more practical services, such as transportation and care for children to overcome obstacles that may hinder parents' participation in the program (Hindman et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.