IMPORTANCE OF PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT ACTS IN CHILD ATTAINMENT

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Several studies have been conducted about the effects of parental involvement on child's academic achievement (Henderson & Bera, 1994; Kelleghan et al, 1993). Results from these studies reveal that getting involved in a child's education at an early age (Sylva et al, 2004), helping with their homework (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1995), reading with the child (Tizard, 1982) and adapting an authoritative parenting style (Henderson & Berla, 1994) are just a few of the factors which have a positive impact on a child's attainment. However, all of these factors do not take into account how important a parent and child perceive these acts to be. For instance, a parent may not think that helping out in their child's classroom will benefit their child and so may choose not to help out for this reason, however the child may perceive this as being very important for his or hers attainment. This inquiry aims to determine whether parents and children perceive the importance of specific acts of parental involvement equally.

Assignment Structure

The assignment starts off with a literature review based on previous studies of parental involvement. A methodology will then follow, giving details of how this inquiry was performed. The methodology will include both a preliminary and a main study. Information about the predicted hypotheses, data and data analysis will come next in the assignment. Conclusions made from the analysis and a study evaluation, including ideas about future areas of research, will then complete the assignment.

CONTEXT

Literature Review

Parental involvement has had many definitions over the years. One of these is defined by Hill et al (2004):

"Parents' interactions with schools and with their children to promote academic success." (Hill et al, 2004)

In 1963, the Newsom Report recommended that parents should be involved in all aspects of their child's education. This recommendation was backed up in the Plowden Report (Central advisory council for education & Plowden, 1967), the Warnock Report (Stratford, 1981) and more recently by the government initiative Every Child Matters (Great Britain, depart for education and skills, 2004).

Sylva et al (2004) claimed parent involvement makes a more significant impact on a child's education when the parent gets involved early on in the child's schooling. As a child ages, it becomes more difficult for the parent to assist with their homework, due to the parent's lack of knowledge about previous work (Dauber & Epstein, 1993).

According to Seginer (2006) as a child ages the effectiveness of home-based parental involvement is reduced, however Sylva et al (2004) claim that if a parent has been involved in their child's education from an early age, the benefits from this can be seen through adolescence and into adulthood.

Children of school age spend on average 70% of the hours that they are awake (including holidays and weekends), out of school (Clark, 1990). This fact emphasises the amount of time which children have the ability to spend with their parents and the opportunity they have to be influenced by them.

Acts of Parental Involvement

Almost 75% of parents surveyed in 2007 stated that they believed it was very important that they helped their children with their homework (Peters et al, 2008). According to Hoover-Dempsey et al (1995) helping children with their homework can provide positive effects for parents, as it gives them an insight into what their children are studying at school. In contrast, some parents believe helping with homework can emphasise their lack of knowledge about today's curriculum and therefore forces them to help their children less often (Corno, 1996; McDermott et al, 1984). However parents have been found to have the ability to reinforce the goals of homework in education (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler (1995).

Literacy progress in general is strengthened when parents are involved (Cairney et al, 1995; Delgado-Gaitan, 1990). A child who reads at home with their parents is more likely to make sufficient improvements with their reading attainment, than children who only read in school (Tizard, 1982).

Parents setting firm rules about bed time and the amount of television a child can watch can positively influence a child's progress at school (Hancox, 2005). Too much television exposure has been found to have negative effects on a child's cognitive and behavioural outcomes and also their school performance (Borzekowski, 2005; Hancox, 2005). Parents' ensuring the family have meals together also provides the opportunity to discuss school issues (Project EAT, 2008).

Positive acts of parental involvement can also occur inside a school setting. Visiting a child's classroom and interacting with the teacher can enhance a parent's knowledge about the curriculum and increase the effectiveness of helping children at home (Epstein, 2001; Hill & Taylor, 2004). The parent helping out in the school also allows the child to form a connection between home and school (Epstein, 2001) and can benefit other children due to extra help being available in the classroom (Henderson & Berla, 1994). Parents attending school functions can also have a positive impact on student outcomes (Henderson & Berla, 1994).

Extensive research shows that children need a positive learning environment and high expectations from their parents to perform well at school (Henderson & Berla, 1994; Kelleghan et al, 1993).

Theories of Parental Involvement

A study completed by Henderson & Berla (1994) stated 6 major parental involvement acts which the parents of successful children perform:

Establishing a daily family routine -This can include all of the family having meals together, making children responsible for household chores and making firm rules about study and bed time.

Monitoring out of school activities -Limiting the amount of television children watch and ensuring children are supervised out of school.

Modelling the value of learning - for example demonstrating that in order to do well in life you need to work hard.

Expressing high expectations for achievement -this can include recognising a child's talents and informing family and friends about a child's success

Encourage children's progress sin school - having frequent contact with the teacher and discussing the value of a good career

Encourage reading and writing - reading with the child and talking about what the child has read.

These findings were supported by Kelleghan et al (1993) who claimed that having a regular family routine, providing guidance for school work, having high aspirations for their child's attainment and providing a child with the opportunity to explore ideas were all important aspects of parental involvement for children's attainment.

The Present Assignment The study in this assignment has been adapted from Henderson & Berla (1994). It was not necessary to use all of the same categories as Henderson & Berla (1994) however there are some similarities between the groups used and the acts in each group. The acts were chosen according to the relevance to the sample participants used. In this study 4 groups of parental involvement acts are used. These are:

Parental involvement out of school

Parental involvement in school

Family routine

Encourages progress in school

For a full list of the acts in each group see Appendix 1.

Personal Context

I volunteer at a primary school where the need for parental involvement is frequently recognised. Many parents involve themselves in their child's education by helping out at school and helping them at home, however I have often wondered how the child views these acts of involvement and if these match the views of their parents.

There is a wide range of literature and theories about why parental involvement plays an important part in a child's education; however there are few theories which look into the acts of parental involvement which children and parents think are important.

This study takes into account previous studies but looks at parental involvement from a different angle. The study looks at opinions rather than facts and looks for a connection between a child's and a parent's perception

METHODOLOGY

After looking at previous research, it became apparent that the best method of gaining data for perceptions of effectiveness of parental involvement acts was a questionnaire. A questionnaire allows for the use of rating scales and only takes a short time to complete. The questionnaire is a useful method of obtaining information which can be analysed to discover patterns and comparisons in the data (Bell, 1987).

The inquiry for this study was based on opinion. It would have been impossible to gain knowledge of a participant's opinion during an observation study. It would only be possible to discover what someone was doing rather than why they did it. Due to conducting the research in a school environment, it was also important that the study did not take up too much time and did not distract the children from their education. This was also a reason as to why the interview method was not conducted.

METHOD

Preliminary Study

A preliminary study was conducted to ensure that the questionnaire was easy to understand and appropriate for both age ranges.

Participants

The participants in the preliminary study were 5 children from Croft Primary School in Nottinghamshire (3 female, 2 male) and 5 parents whose children attended Croft Primary School (3 female, 3 male). As the children were under the age of 18, permission was granted from the school as well as from themselves to take part. The participants were part of an opportunity sample.

Materials

A questionnaire written on A4 paper which contained 16 questions with a 5 point Likert (1932) scale for each question (see Appendix 2).

The parents received a questionnaire which was slightly different as it asked them to answer based on how effective they perceived each act to be for their child's attainment in school (see Appendix 3).

A feedback sheet was also used (see Appendix 4) which contained 4 lines for participants to write down any comments that they had about the questionnaire.

Preliminary Procedure

Each participant was asked for their consent to participate. Participants were then given a verbal briefing (see Appendix 5) before receiving a questionnaire. Children were asked to answer based on how effective they perceived the acts to be for their own attainment at school and parents were asked to answer based on how effective they believed the acts were for their children to succeed. Participants were asked to complete the questionnaire in a quiet classroom in Croft Primary School and were informed that the researcher was at hand if they needed help.

After completing the questionnaire, participants were thanked and debriefed (see Appendix 6). The participants were asked about any feedback that they had about the questionnaire and were asked to write their comments on a feedback sheet (see Appendix 4). The comments on the feedback sheets were then analysed.

Results and Discussion

The idea of the preliminary study was to identify any issues with the questionnaire and to ensure that participants were happy to complete the questionnaire. After reviewing the feedback sheets it was noted that 3 of the children participants had difficulty reading the questions and they suggested that the questions be read out to them rather than them reading them themselves. This issue was acted upon and was incorporated in the main study.

Main Study

Participants

The participants in the main study were 20 children (10 male, 10 female) from Croft Primary School in Nottinghamshire and 20 parents (10 male, 10 female) whose children attended the school. None of the participants had participated in the pilot study. The participants were part of an opportunity sample.

Materials

A questionnaire written on A4 paper containing 16 questions and a 5 point Likert (1932) scale for each question (see Appendices 2 and 3). The instruction set was identical to the one used in the pilot study.

Ethical Considerations

A full ethical statement can be seen in Appendix 7.

Procedure

Participants were asked for their permission to complete a study about parental involvement in child education and were given a verbal briefing (see Appendix 5). The participants were then given a questionnaire and were given the opportunity to have the questions read out to them, in order to overcome the issue pointed out during the pilot study.

After completing the questionnaire, the participants were thanked and debriefed (see Appendix 6). The rating scores were then used in a statistical analysis.

DATA

The data was analysed and the frequency that each rating score was used was totalled. Table 1 shows that the most popular rating score given by children was a 5 (very important). The most popular, or modal value given by parents was a 4 (important).

FREQUENCY OF SCORES

RATING SCORE

CHILDREN

5

130

4

90

3

59

2

20

1

21

Total:

320

Table 1: Frequency table for total amount of each rating scores for children and parents.

Patterns in the data showed 220 of the scores given by the children and 206 of the scores given by parents were a high score of 5 or a 4. In contrast only 41 scores given by the children and 23 scores given by the parents were a lower score of 2 or 1.

Participant

Mean Rating Score

Children

3.9

Parents

3.8

Table 2: Mean rating score for children and parents

Table 2 shows the mean rating score for the whole data set. There was a slight difference of 0.1 between the mean rating score given by children (M= 3.9) and by parents (M= 3.8). This finding supports the idea that both parents and children perceive parental involvement as being important for helping a child do well at school.

In order to discover which particular acts of parental involvement children and parents rated as being the most important and also to see if those results were significant, further data analysis was conducted.

DATA ANALYSIS

Tests of the Hypotheses

The acts of parental involvement were divided up into 4 groups, each one relating to a specific hypothesis. A full list of these groups and acts can be viewed in Appendix 1. The hypotheses can be viewed in full in Appendix 8.

Method of Analysis

All 4 groups of parental involvement acts were analysed using an SPSS program. The means and standard deviations were calculated for each act in each group for children and then for parents. In order to determine if the difference between the 2 conditions was significant, an unrelated t test was conducted. The reason an unrelated t test was used was due to the study being a between subjects design with 2 independent samples.

A second unrelated t test was conducted for each group of parental involvement acts to determine if there was a significant difference between the ratings given by male participants versus female participants.

Hypothesis 1 - Parental Involvement Out of School

Hypothesis 1 stated that there would be a significant difference between judgements of the effectiveness of parental involvement acts out of school for children and parents. From the results of an unrelated t test (see Appendix 9), a significant effect was found for the acts 'Parents limiting the amount of television children watch' (t (38) = -3.514, p < 0.001) and 'Parents reading with their child' (t (38) =-3.164, p = 0.009). This significant difference between judgements of effectiveness of parental involvement out of school acts provides support for hypothesis 1.

PARTICIPANT

Parental Involvement Acts Out of School

Children

Parents limiting the amount of television children watch.

2.8 (1.65)

Parents reading with their child

3.9 (0.93)

Table 3: Means and Standard Deviations for parental involvement acts out of school, 'Parents limiting the amount of television children watch' and 'Parents reading with their child'.

Table 3 shows the means and standard deviations for children and parent participant's perceived effectiveness of 'Parental Involvement Acts out of School'. As can be seen above, 'Parents reading with their child' was perceived as being a significantly more effective act by parents (M = 4.6) than by the children (M = 3.9). A table of means can for 'Parental involvement acts out of school', can be found at Appendix 10.

Table 3 also shows that children perceive 'Parents limiting the amount of television children watch' as significantly less effective at making them succeed at school (M = 2.8) than what parents perceive it to be (M=4.2). It is essential that parents believe it to be important to limit the amount of television that their children watch due to Hancox (2005) claiming that too much television can negatively influence a child's school performance.

Hypothesis 1b states that there will be a significant difference between judgments of the effectiveness of parental involvement acts out of school for male participants versus female participants. The results of an unrelated t-test showed significant effects for 'Parents limiting the amount of television children watch' (t (38) =-1.108, p =0.015) and 'Parents helping children with their homework' (t (38) =-0.694, p = 0.008). These findings provide support for hypothesis1b. For the full t test result see Appendix 11.

The effectiveness judged by children and parents as well as by males and females for both 'Parents limiting the amount of television children watch' and 'Parents helping children with their homework' are both significant.

PARTICIPANT

MALE

FEMALE

Parents limiting the amount of television children watch

3.2 (1.64)

3.7 (1.17)

Parents helping children with their homework

4.4 (0.82)

4.6 (0.51)

Table 4: Means and standard deviations for 'Parents limiting the amount of television children watch' and 'Parents helping children with their homework' for males versus females

Table 4 shows the means and standard deviations for 'Parents limiting the amount of television children watch' and 'Parents helping children with their homework' for males versus females. The table shows that females (M= 3.7, M=4.6) perceive both 'Parents limiting the amount of television children watch' and 'Parents helping children with their homework as a more effective act of improving child attainment than males perceive it to be (M=3.2, M=4.4 respectively).

Hypothesis 2 - Parental Involvement in School

Hypothesis 2 stated that there would be a significant difference between judgements of the effectiveness of parental involvement acts in school for children and parent participants. The results of an unrelated t test show a significant difference between the means for 'Parents helping out in the classroom' (t (38) = -3.601, p = 0.038) and 'Parents attending sports days and watching school plays' (t (38) = -.286, p = 0.001). To view the t test results see Appendix 12. No significant effects were found for 'Parents attending parents evening' (t (38) =5.07, ns = 0.362) or 'Parents replying to school newsletters' (t (38) = 6,225, ns = 0.08). A significant effect for 2 acts provides support for hypothesis 2.

PARTICIPANT

Parental Involvement Acts In School

Children

Parents helping out in the classroom.

3.2 (1.23)

Parents attending sports days and watching school plays

3.3 (1.45)

Table 5: Means and standard deviations for parental involvement acts in school, 'Parents helping out in the classroom' and 'parents attending sports days and watching school plays'.

Table 5 shows the means and standard deviations for the parental involvement acts in school for children versus parents which were found to show significant effects. The means for 'Parents attending sports days and watching school plays' only differ by 0.1 for children (M=3.3) and parents (M= 3.4). This shows that although the difference is significant, the parents and children from the sample perceive this act almost at the same level of effectiveness for helping children to succeed at school. A full table of means for 'Parental involvement in school' acts can be found in Appendix 13.

Hypothesis 2b states that that there will be a significant difference between judgments of the effectiveness of parental involvement acts in school for male participants versus female participants. The results from an unrelated t-test show no significant effects for males versus females for acts of parental involvement in school (see Appendix 14). Therefore hypothesis 2b can be rejected.

Hypothesis 3 - Family Routine

Hypothesis 3 stated that there will be a significant difference between judgements of effectiveness of acts of family routine for children and parents. The results of an unrelated t-test revealed 2 significant effects. These were for 'Parents setting firm bed time rules' (t (38) = -2.180, p < 0.001) and 'Parents and children having dinner together' (t (38) = -1.131, p = 0.003). For full t test results see Appendix 15. This finding provides support for hypothesis 3.

PARTICIPANT

Family Routine

Children

Parents setting firm bed time rules.

3.4 (1.63)

Parents and children having dinner together.

3.5 (1.43)

Table 6: Means and standard deviations for family routine acts 'Parents setting firm bed time rules' and 'Parents and children having dinner together'.

Table 6 shows the means and standard deviations for the perceptions of effectiveness of children and parents for the family routine acts 'Parents setting firm bed time rules' and 'Parents and children having dinner together'. Parents significantly perceive that setting bed time rules (M =4.2) and parents and children having dinner together (M =3.9) are more effective acts at getting children to do better at school, than children perceive them to be (M=3.4, M=3.5 respectively). Parents value the family eating together as more important than children as it gives them the opportunity to discuss issues such as school (Project EAT, 2008). See Appendix 16 for a full table of family routine means and standard deviations.

Hypothesis 3b states that there will be a significant difference between judgments of the effectiveness of parental involvement acts in family routine for male participants versus female participants. The results from an unrelated t-test showed a significant effect for the family routine act 'Parents setting firm bed time rules' (t(38) = -2.476, p < 0.001). See Appendix 17 for full t test results. Therefore hypothesis 3b is supported.

PARTICIPANT

MALES

Parents setting firm bed time rules

3.6 (0.60)

Table 7: Means and standard deviations for 'Parents setting firm bed time rules' for males versus females

Table 7 shows the means and standard deviations for 'Parents setting firm bed time rules' for males versus female participants. Females (M=4.4) perceived 'Parents setting firm bed time rules' as being a more effective act than males (M= 3.6).

Hypothesis 4 - Encourages Progress at School

Hypothesis 4 stated that there will be a significant difference between judgements of effectiveness of acts of encouraging progress at school of for children participants versus parent participants. Results from an unrelated t-test showed no significant effects for any acts in the 'Encourages progress at school' group. Due to this finding, hypothesis 4 can be rejected. For t test results see Appendix 18.

Hypothesis 4b states that there will be a significant difference between judgments of the effectiveness of parental involvement acts of encouraging progress at school for male participants versus female participants. The results from an unrelated t-test showed no significant difference between perceptions of male participants versus female participants for encourages progress at school. See Appendix 19 for t test results. Therefore hypothesis 4b will be rejected.

Conclusion

The study provides several important findings. These include parents significantly perceiving the family having dinner together, setting firm bed time rules and limiting the amount of television children watch as being more important for a child to succeed at school, than what a child perceives it to be. Future research could evolve around interviewing parents to determine why they rate these acts as being important, taking into account developmental and environmental factors and assessing the perceived importance of other household rules such as having a tidy work area.

The act 'Parent helping out in the classroom' was given a higher rate of importance by parents than by children. One reason for this could be Comer's (1995) theory that helping out in the classroom gives the parent the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of the curriculum. Further work could be conducted about what aspects of helping out in the classroom a parent perceives to be important, for example reading with children other than their own or just simply being an extra adult in the classroom.

There was only one significant act which parents and children rated almost equally. This was 'Parents attending sports days and school plays'. No acts were found to be perceived as significantly more important by children than by parents.

There were 3 significant gender differences from the study. Females rated limited television watching, helping with homework and firm bed time rules as being significantly more important than males. Further studies need to be completed to determine if these acts affect males and females differently or if it is just a matter of males not finding them important.

It would be valuable to look into whether culture and home background had an effect on what acts of parental involvement a child perceives to be important. Due to a lack of time, these variables were not looked into

STUDY EVALUATION

Study Limitations

This study gave an insight into what acts of parental involvement a primary school child perceives to be important but does not take into account the views of secondary school children. The results of the study cannot be generalised to the whole population due to all of the participants being used at one school. Although interesting findings were discovered, the study was limited to only 20 students at a teacher's request. If the study was to be replicated, a larger sample size containing both primary and secondary students would be used. Also to avoid cultural bias, children from several ethnic backgrounds would need to participate.

Although the use of a Likert (1932) scale gave participants an easy method of providing a response, future research may be more valuable if the midpoint of the scale was removed. This would enable participant's to give a firm answer about their opinion rather than being unsure and choosing the central option.

If the opportunity arose to conduct the study again, a combination of research methods for example a questionnaire and an interview could be used to provide both qualitative and quantitative data. The questionnaire used in this study provided interesting responses however it could not provide information about why a participant perceived the acts in the way that they did.

How the Study Went

In my opinion, I believe that the study went quite well. The questionnaire used in the study gave a 100% response rate and no responses had to be eliminated because all questions were answered appropriately from each participant.

Feedback from the preliminary study enabled the main study to be altered to ensure all participants were able to answer the questions without difficulty. Without the preliminary study, it would have been unknown that the children were struggling to read the questions and therefore the results would have been unreliable.

The assignment gave me an insight into the extensive research which has been conducted on parental involvement. It also gave me the opportunity to evolve my study from a perspective which has not been looked into before. I did not cover all acts of parental due to attempting to keep the questionnaire short. I would like to expand on my findings in future work using extra acts of parental involvement and to incorporate a much larger sample.

Until future studies in this area have been completed, there is little data and theory to compare my findings with. However, if the study is replicated by other researchers, this will add validity to my findings.

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