Multiple Dimensions of Family Involvement and Their Relations to Behavioral and Learning Competencies for Urban, Low-Income Children

By Fantuzzo, John; McWayne, Christine et al. | School Psychology Review, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

Multiple Dimensions of Family Involvement and Their Relations to Behavioral and Learning Competencies for Urban, Low-Income Children


Fantuzzo, John, McWayne, Christine, Perry, Marlo A., Childs, Stephanie, School Psychology Review


Abstract. Relations between multiple dimensions of family involvement in early childhood education and classroom outcomes were examined. Participants included 144 urban, Head Start children. Parental report of family involvement was gathered in late fall using a multidimensional assessment. Relations between family involvement dimensions and end of the year outcomes of approaches to learning, conduct problems, and receptive vocabulary were investigated. Results revealed that Home-Based family involvement emerged as the strongest predictor of child outcomes. This dimension associated significantly with children's motivation to learn, attention, task persistence, receptive vocabulary skills, and low conduct problems. The School-Based Involvement dimension was significantly related to low conduct problems in the classroom when combined with the influence of Home-Based Involvement. The School-Based Involvement and Home-School Conferencing dimensions did not predict later child outcomes when considered simultaneously with Home-Based Involvement.

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Family involvement in education has been identified as a beneficial factor in young children's learning (National Research Council [NRC], 2001; U.S. Department of Education, 2000). It is, therefore, a key component of national educational policies and early childhood programs. The National Education Goals Panel calls for schools to promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in supporting the social, emotional, and academic development of children (1997). The NRC recommends that early childhood programs build relationships with parents to develop equally beneficial learning environments for young children at home and at school (2001). Given the greater educational risks that face young children living in poverty, parent involvement in education is especially important (NRC, 2001). The protective potential of parent involvement is recognized by Head Start, the nation's largest federally funded early intervention program for low-income children. Head Start's national performance standards require programs to promote parental participation in every facet of their children's early educational experiences, from the daily activities of the classroom to program governance (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [U.S. DHHS], 1998).

A developmental-ecological perspective provides a conceptual framework for the above mandates and policies. This perspective identifies the family system as the most influential and proximal system in children's early learning (Bronfenbrenner, 1992). It also recognizes the importance of establishing beneficial connections between families and schools (Christenson & Sheridan, 2001). These connections are believed to foster children's development of key emergent skills necessary for school success (Pianta, Rimm-Kaufman, & Cox, 1999; Rimm-Kaufmann & Pianta, 2000). In accord, Head Start family involvement mandates are based on the assumption that parent participation in the program affects positively parenting behaviors and attitudes, which in turn mediate child development outcomes (Slaughter-Defoe & Brown, 1998).

Much of the research on parent involvement, as it relates to children's outcomes, has emphasized the relationship between specific parent involvement behaviors and children's achievement. Parental involvement at school (e.g., with school activities, direct communication with teachers and administrators) is associated with greater achievement in mathematics and reading (Griffith, 1996; Reynolds, 1992; Sui-Chu & Willms, 1996). Higher levels of parent involvement in their children's educational experiences at home (e.g., supervision and monitoring, daily conversations about school) have been associated with children's higher achievement scores in reading and writing, as well as higher report card grades (Epstein, 1991; Griffith, 1996; Sui-Chu & Willms, 1996; Keith et al. …

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