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Mac Naughton & Rolfe write (2001:15), that the three broad aims for carrying out the literature review of a research study should be to; explain the way in which the research question had been formulated, to update the reader on research and literature that has already been carried out on the topic, and lastly, to guide the choice of design for the study.
In response to which this study's literature review starts with the definitions behind the key terms in the title. This will lead on to discuss some related literature on the topic, an evaluation of that same literature and to lastly a discussion on the possible contributions that this study may have on parent's influences on young children.
The research question has been carefully shaped through rigorous examination to explain in the simplest and clearest form exactly what it asks. And in order to clarify even further I will guide you to the centre of the question by means of purifying the definitions found behind the questions key words. So let us first break up and explore the question dissecting from it its core preoccupation.
Are there any links between children's progress and their parent's involvement?
The question, as it stands, recognises the significance of investigating into children's progress and proposes to look for any evidence linking that achievement to parent influence to which at a first glance one might quickly, even if only subconsciously, wrongfully judge. Of course there are links between children's progress and the influence their parents bestow on them, the evidence surrounds us. Children whose parents read are considered to be much more likely 'readers' themselves and so on, but, let us not be rash in our assumptions and instead identify and explore firsthand the different ways in which children are influenced through involvement. This will be realized by comparing a range of achieving children from a randomly selected School Nursery in the city of London and relate their progress to their parent's involvement carefully identifying any correlating links between the two.
Now, in strict review of the working definitions of the question I put forwards the term of 'child progress'. For the purposes of this paper this specific term should be considered comparable to the Early Years Foundation Stage's umbrella definition and interpretation of the Early Learning goals set out in thirteen assessment scales to cover the entire range of child development. By which I mean that the term 'child progress' presented in the question defines the union of these thirteen aspects of development.
The thirteen assessment scales cover children's "Dispositions and Attitudes", "Social Development", "Emotional Development", "Language for Communication and Thinking", "Linking Sounds and Letters", "Reading", "Writing", "Numbers as Labels and for Counting" and lastly "Calculating". The former three represent the child's personal, social and emotional development, the next four address children's communication, language and literacy and the later three children's problem solving, reasoning and numeracy. Within each of these headings lie nine points, the last of which (point nine) describes a child who's surpassed all possible expectations concerning the previous eight. The children progress researched in this paper will be assessed according to these standards of which the highest achieving will be selected to investigate. (Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, 2007)
And finally, before putting this discussion on 'child progress' to a brief rest I would like to explain why the question refers to the child's development as progress instead of the former. When discussing children's development it is very important to consider which aspect of development is in question. The Statutory Framework for the Early years Foundation Stage (2007) leads the way in best defining the child development areas that exist and how to best encourage their triumph. And from it we learn that the key areas that form the basis of all development are firstly the creative, secondly personal, then social and emotional and last the physical. And that is why the research question states 'progress' instead of 'development'. In order to clarify that it is the child's whole development which is being defined not just one specific are. In other words the use of the word 'progress' in this paper has been used to define all of the children's areas of development, identified in the thirteen assessment scales.
The second key term to discuss is that of 'parental involvement' which should not be mistaken with the parent's involvement with the school which is a key focus for the Penn Green system. "Involvement, for us, is sustained use of any of the models of engagement. This would include the parent who, for example, only attends groups sporadically" (Whalley, 2007:47). But should instead focus on the parent's involvement and the influences they may bring. This means that this paper is not interested in identifying the socioeconomic backgrounds of the parent and child in order to explore its effect on the child's development but is interested instead in the effects of the actions taken by the parent as the result of the reaction to the situation. Explained from a different perspective, the paper is partly interested in the results of the parent's actions and reactions to their child's development.
As Noddings suggests in the following; "We know that academic success is highly correlated with socioeconomic status, and it may be that certain parenting practice are also related to, or affected by, that status." (Noddings, 2006:119) But how exactly does that parenting practice influence children's development even if it only be academically? Noddings effectively identifies the cycle that wealth equals enriched parenting practice which in turn equals academic success, which leads me on to question whether children's progress from this study are affected by their parent's 'parenting practice'? This paper will be exploring precisely that; how parent's influences affect their children's progress.
Having said that Cox contradicts the idea writing; "For decades, evidence has been available that structural demographic variables, such as parental education and income level, were significantly associated with child schooling success. But socioeconomic variables do not account for the complexity of child achievement outcomes." (Cox, 1990:1) Suggesting instead that the Early Years field has found that parental expectancies, values and tutorial efforts are equally if not more related to children's achievement and progress (Cox, 1990). And the opinion that children's progress benefit from parent's expectations, values and guidance gratefully supports this study aimed towards identifying the real links between the child's progress and their parents influence like that of their values rather than socioeconomic backgrounds.
Finishing the discussion on the working definitions of the key terms found in the research question I would like to rephrase the question to the following in order to see it from a fresh, dissimilar perspective... Are there any links between the children's developmental achievement and the influences their parents bestow on them?
Out of all the possible influences a parent can have on their child's progress, good and bad, this paper has specifically focused on the following seven. This is because the study is aimed towards pursuing any evidence linking children's progress to their parent's influence which means that the paper ought to study a broad range of influences that could potentially relate back to the findings from the data. The first to be researched is that of parent's influence on their child's socialisation to gender roles, the second is behaviour, the third concerns over-praise; the fourth health and obesity, the fifth parent mental illness, the sixth alcohol and drugs and the seventh domestic violence, which will all be contrasted against parent's rights and responsibilities in order to further explore how they all relate to each other. Only then will the paper lead on to discuss my own evaluation of the literature that I have termed 'parents as mentors' and which ends the literature review with a discussion on the possible contributions this study may have on the field.
The literature review will follow this process in order to supply the paper with a relevant background study to fall back on. This is to ensure that the data gathered can be cross examined and discussed against contemporary perspectives and theory on the topic with a wealth of literature already explored regarding common links between children's progress and their parent's influences.
As I have already said, the first issue to discuss is that of parental influence on children's socialisation to gender roles which explained in layman's terms means the influence a parent has on their child's perspectives on gender roles. As you might have already judged for yourself this idea is very apparent in common events that surround our daily lives and from the time a person is born they are immediately surrounded by influences on their perspective on gender roles, for example pink rooms and clothes or blankets for girls and blue ones for boys. And how does this relate to the study we are currently exploring?
Well, Hulbert and Ling (2007) published their results on the biological components of sex differences in colour preference which found that recent studies tend to be of the same opinion that there is a universal preference in both sex's for blue and that "there is no conclusive evidence for the existence of sex differences in color preference." (2007:623) so why if both genders prefer the blue side of the colour spectrum do parents insist on inflicting gender stereotypes onto their children. Could it be because of the influences the parent experienced while growing up after all as Martin, Wood and Little so clearly state "It is difficult for a child to grow to adulthood without experiencing some form of gender bias or stereotype" (cited in Witt, 1997:1).
How will this be represented in my study? What evidence might I find to support this claim that "a child's earliest exposure to what it means to be male or female comes from parents (Lauer & Lauer, 1994; Santrock, 1994; Kaplan, 1991)" (cited in Witt, 1997:1) and what specifically will this evidence support. These are questions which the study will help to explore and possibly even expand.
In relation to gender role socialization the study will also explore how behaviour affects the children's progress. Munger (2008) writes (in the precariously titled article Parents 'influence on kids' behaviour: Not much, from the Journal of Genetic Psychology): "Unfortunately a lot of research suggests that parents don't actually have much influence on their kids' behaviour" (2008:1) stating instead that "peers, other environmental factors, and genetics seem to have a larger impact." (2008:1) While I can appreciate that children's behaviour can possibly be influenced by external factors which the parent has no control over for example peer relations I do not support Munger's belief that parents don't have any influence on their children's behaviour.
In fact Golombok (2000:93), in deep contrast to Munger's account, describes how research by Patterson and his colleagues show that "the parents of children who get into trouble fail to monitor their children's activities" suggesting to me that parent's do influence their children's behaviour seeing as the research showed how those children that were supervised less were more likely to get into trouble. And, like Parke and Ladd, Golombok believes that the way in which parents interact with their children has an indirect effect on how those children interact with their peers (2000:92) which again opposes Munger's view that parents do not have an influence on their children's behaviour. This is a key point to illustrate as it steers the focus back on to the study as I am forced to consider how the children from my study will compare to this specific discussion. At the least it is crucial that we take away from this a better understanding on how parents can influence children's behaviour which will affect their attitude and consequently their progress.
In relation to the behavioural influences I would like to present an article from the Times Online by Rumbelow (2010) who reviews the contemporary radical book NurtureShock by Bronson and Merryman (2009) and in it Rumbelow explains how the pair "didn't set out to demolish the prevailing wisdom on education, but that is what happened." (2010:2)
This revolutionary book turns contemporary assumptions and preconceptions on childcare and education upside down which Bronson describes "in publicist speak, as 'Freakonomics for kids'." (2010:2) In it the pair discuss many current preconceptions which they refer to as "sacred cows" and explain that they chose these topics because "they directly challenged the conventional point of view of how kids grow up" (Bronson & Merryman, 2009:7) from which I would like to review just one, over-praise.
Rumbelow describes how NurtureShock researches into the topic 'over-praise' and suggests the surveys show that most parents believe praising their child will boost their confidence and therefore achievement and explains how it's a "theory of self-fulfilling prophecy, born of the self-esteem movement of the 1970s." (2010:2). However, contrary to this, the research by the Stanford University meta-analysis of one hundred and fifty praise studies in two-thousand and two found that praised children become more risk-averse, make less of an effort and are less self-motivated. And, that "even preschoolers are vulnerable to the inverse power of praise" (2010:3) which is why I am looking forwards to comparing it to the results from my study. Could the children from the Nursery School I am researching bring any new evidence to light either in support of or opposing this new and radical theory?
The Toronto Public Health (2007) which is a series of reports that provide information on the health of the children in Toronto (Canada) from birth to age six offer an interesting insight into research on both behaviour and over-praise. It found that the majority (eighty three percent) of children aged one to six in the year two thousand and one, lived in two parent families compared to the seventeen percent of children who lived in lone parent families (Toronto Public Health, 2007) the latter of which, on average, have "greater levels of emotional and behavioural problems... [and]... They also experience greater levels of intellectual and psychological difficulties and are less likely to be ready for school." (Toronto Public Health, 2007:19)
Although my study will not focus on the family structure per say, any results from having the study partially investigate into family background might help support whether the specified children are badly behaved as a consequence to their parents having no influence on their behaviour as suggested by Munger (2008) and/or whether it has to do with the fact that they are left unsupervised as suggested by Golombok (2000), both of who were discussed earlier in this review.
As already mentioned the Toronto Public Health report offers a second insight into the subject of over-praise. As previously discussed Bronson & Merryman (2009) observed how over-praise can lead the children to having a lack of focus and motivation but the Toronto report which specifically defines positive parenting practice (positive influences) as consisting of approaches that are child focused, warm and responsive as well as firm and consistent (Toronto Public Health, 2007:21) having in mind all along the key focus which is that parenting can influence children's progress or as the report explains it; "Parenting practice can influence many aspects of young children's health." (Toronto Public Health, 2007:21) Which I believe is an opinion that greatly supports the reasons for conducting this study.
Interestingly to note also, the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY) who analysed the data presented in the Toronto report measured the positive aspects of parenting (positive influences) on two scales the first of which; 'Positive Interaction Scale' measured parent child interaction including such items as praising the child (Toronto Public Health, 2007:22), only two years previous to Bronson & Merryman's (2009) publishing of NatureShock which deems it unwise to over-praise children for their intelligence and should therefore be praised for effort instead.
Indeed Bronson and Merryman do engage the topics in new and illustrative ways with a sound amount of research it, "for the ten topics the book covers, from the link of obesity and lack of sleep to the dangers of educational television, they read a total of 200,000 pages of research journals, but with intense opinions growing on both sides of the discussions, some critics reviewing the book as revolutionary (Rumbelow, 2010) and others declaring it unusable; "The authors write in the acknowledgements that their editors encouraged them to "geek out" with the scientific information. This explains a lot." Concluding; "The authors say they want to encourage us not to raise children "by the book". This, at least, is wise advice. So don't raise them using this book either." (Groskop, 2010:3)
As a result I believe it impertinent that this study explore the gap in research which lacks a common knowledge/agreed upon understanding on the subject of over-praise and I believe it will be very beneficial for the field if the analysis of the data examine any repeating themes concerning the over-praise and lack in progress.
Just earlier in this review we briefly touched upon the links between obesity and lack of sleep, discussed as an example of some of the subjects examined in NurtureShock (Bronson & Merryman, 2009). It is unfortunate that my study will not be able to explore this field as I feel there could be a gap in the issues research "Childhood obesity increases the risk of obesity in adulthood, but how parental obesity affects the chances of a child becoming obese adult is unknown" (Whitaker et al, 1997:1), however, my study could potentially examine if there are any links between the children's physiological development and the influences they experience through their parents, but, I must first scrutinize its ethical considerations. As a result I will swiftly move on to the next issue in order to avoid any further unnecessary research.