POLITICS OF EDUCATION ASSOCIATION YEARBOOK, 1996, 79-88
Sandra T. Azar
Frances L. Hiatt School of Psychology
Clark University, Worcester, MA
The focus of my work has primarily been on the origins of violence in close relationships, particularly in parent-child relationships, not on how schools and families relate to one another. The framework in which this work has been done, however, has, I believe, tremendous relevance for understanding the origins of negative transactions between parents and teachers. This framework emphasizes the role of expectations, interpretations, and attributions of causality in producing conflict in interpersonal relationships (Azar 1986, 1989). These internal processes may play a similar role in determining the quality of transactions between schools and families. In this chapter, it will be argued that teachers may make interpretations regarding the meaning of parental behaviour that are based in a different social reality than that in which many families live. Parents, in turn, may come to their transactions with schools with a set of assumptions based in their own negative academic experiences and in erroneous or negatively biased beliefs about schools and teachers. Both situations can lead to conflict.
Essentially, the thesis of this chapter is that parents and teachers may have different internal working models of each other's 'work'. Because of this fact, their transactions at times are marked by an adversarial tone rather than a collaborative one. In the process, children's loyalties are tested and their best interests are not served. While this discrepancy in models has probably always existed, I will argue that with recent structural, economic, and cultural changes in today's families, the gap has increased sharply.
The social cognitive theorizing regarding relationships in which I and others have been engaged emphasizes the importance of identifying differences in people's working assumptions about relationships before collaborative efforts can occur (Azar 1989). I will briefly describe this theory and research on family conflict. These will then be used to discuss how teachers' and parents' transactions may similarly result in conflict, as well as ways they might 're-think' their interpretive approach to each other.
Social cognitive theorists believe that as we go through the world, we have little road maps in our heads about how the world works and how people 'should' relate to
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