Motivations of Parental Involvement in Children's Learning: Voices from Urban African American Families of Preschoolers

By Huang, Grace Hui-Chen; Mason, Kimberly L. | Multicultural Education, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Motivations of Parental Involvement in Children's Learning: Voices from Urban African American Families of Preschoolers


Huang, Grace Hui-Chen, Mason, Kimberly L., Multicultural Education


Introduction

Importance of Parental Involvement

A growing body of research supports the view that parents' attitudes, behaviors, and activities related to children's education influences students' learning and educational success. Specifically, many studies have indicated strong positive correlations between parental involvement in their child's learning and academic achievement, better behaviors, accountability, social skills, and attendance (Billman, Geddes, & Hedges, 2005; Epstein, 2001; Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Hill & Craft, 2003; Jeynes, 2005; Overstreet, Devine, Bevins & Efreom, 2005).

Additionally, Jeynes (2005) found that the positive correlation was stable across racial groups and gender. At the preschool level, several studies show long-term benefits of parental involvement, such as children being retained in grades less frequently and demonstrating greater reading improvement (Castro, Bryant, Peisner-Feinberg, & Skinner, 2004; Miedel & Reynolds, 1999). Furthermore, parents also gained from their involvement. Their understanding and interaction with their children were improved as they became involved in the children's education (Castro et al.). Therefore, parental involvement creates a win-win situation for parents and their children.

While parental involvement appears to be beneficial to parents and children, other research indicates that African American parents are often uninvolved in urban school settings (Abrams & Gibbs, 2002; Smith, Krohn, Chu, & Best, 2005). Abrams and Gibbs (2002) found that African American parents are more alienated from public school institutions than are White American parents. Although "moments of inclusion" occur when African American parents are encouraged to participate in school activities such as parent/teacher conferences and athletic events, interaction with African American parents often does not occur outside of these traditional invitations. Gardner and Miranda (2001) have contended that this gap between schools and parents prevents the two parties from understanding the requirements and expectations of the two environments, home and school, where the students must function.

Some research has stated that urban, African American parents' low involvement in their children's education has contributed to their children's lower academic achievement (DeCastro-Ambrosetti & Cho, 2005; Roth & McCaul, 1993). African American children in urban schools tend to have lower reading achievement and often do not learn to read at levels comparable to their suburban, middle-class peers (Bartoli, 1996; Compton-Lilly, 2000). Additionally, society and the media often blame urban lower income African American families for their children's academic difficulties. A deficit perspective is taken that portrays these families as low achieving, lacking literacy, uninvolved, uninterested, and not valuing and encouraging their children's educational success (Compton-Lilly; Purcell- Gates, 1996).

In contrast, other studies challenge the negative images portrayed about African American, urban families' levels of parental involvement (Compton-Lilly, 2000; Nieto, 1996; Purcell-Gates, 1996). Some researchers (Abrams & Gibbs, 2002; Troutman, 2001) have found that African American parents value the educational success of their children. Several studies indicated that even parents who have little knowledge of school programs show interest in their child's schooling and learning how to help them at home (Nistler & Maiers, 1999; Smith, Krohn, Chu, & Best, 2005).

Furthermore, Nieto and Compton- Lilly identified many ways in which urban parents support their children in their schooling. They find that urban parents value children's education, care about their children's success in learning to read, actively seek ways to support their children, help their children to maneuver the challenges that lie ahead, and set high expectations for their children. …

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