What is Parental Involvement
Parental involvement refers to the collaborative process through which parents and the school work together to improve the child’s education experience and academic performance. Studies have found that parental involvement is important to a child’s success in school.
Parent’s involvement can take many forms. It can include discussions after school, helping with homework, engaging in extracurricular activities, keeping abreast of academic progress, imparting parental values, participating in parent-teacher conferences, attending school activities, and volunteering in the classroom1.
In the past, parent involvement was the focus of this collaboration. Family engagement is an extended form of parent involvement. The switch from emphasis on parental involvement to family engagement started when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was reauthorized as the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002.
The new terminology emphasizes the importance of involvement engagement from the entire family and even the extended family, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other adult caregivers.
In addition to including more family members, reframing the notions of parent involvement to family engagement also redefines how family members are taking a more active role in the interaction, not just passively being present2.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children NAEYC defines parent involvement and family engagement as3:
- create and sustain student learning activities at home to enhance the child’s strength
- family and school collaborate through two-way communication4
- ongoing participation to build true relationships and shared responsibility
- engage families and community by building upon interests and skills5
Why is Parent Involvement Important to a Child’s Success
Many studies have found that parents’ involvement and family-school partnerships in education correlates with better academic success in children6.
A meta-analysis of 66 studies, reports and analyses shows that the most accurate predictor of student success is the extend to which the parents are involved in the child’s education7.
However, research results are not always consistent8.
Researchers have found that not every type of parent involvement is associated with good outcomes. Certain types of involvement can cause negative results in student performance.
Research has shown that students perform better when parental engagement enhances the students’ feelings of self-efficacy and self-esteem, and when they feel that their parents pay attention and care about their education9.
The Detrimental Effects of Controlling Parent Involvement
However, when the parents are controlling in their involvement, the outcomes tend to be negative.
Controlling parents pressure their children to achieve and solve problems for them without being asked to. They often take a parental perspective and ignore the child’s wishes.
One example of controlling parental involvement is in homework supervision. Researchers define controlling homework involvement as excessive pressure on the child to complete assignments, check if the child has completed their homework, get involved in homework without being asked, and punish the child if homework is not complete10.
Controlling parent behavior decreases a child’s intrinsic motivation. Such engagement undermines the learning process and the child’s sense of personal value and responsibility11.
Parental pressure also correlates with worse academic performance12. The more controlling the parenting engagement and behavior, the worse the child performs in school13.
Examples of controlling parental involvement include14:
- Check on homework and force completion
- Help with homework unrequested
- direct instructions that undermine intrinsic motivation
- Give privileges because of good grades
- Limit privileges because of poor grades
- Require work or chores at home
- Limit time watching: TV or video games
- Limit time out with friends on school nights
Autonomous Supportive Parent Involvement
Parents’ involvement is helpful when their action shows that they value their child’s education and are not trying to be controlling.
Children who receive autonomous support from their parents tend to have better academic performance. These parents allow their children to initiate learning instead of pushing them to do so.
Autonomous supportive parents focus on the learning, not the grades. They provide assistance and only engage as determined by their kids. They are sensitive to their children’s needs and are available to help with homework when requested10.
Children with autonomous support are in control of their own activities. They are intrinsically motivated to learn and perform better academically15.
Other examples of autonomous supportive involvement include:
- attend parent-teacher conferences
- attend school events in which the student participates
- volunteer at the school
- encourage participation in school activities the student is interested in
Final Thoughts on Parent Involvement
Engaging parents are not only good for the child’s academic success, but they also have positive impact on the child’s well-being, both physically and mentally.
When parent are involved, children tend to have more health promoting behaviors such as physical activity. Connectedness to family is also associated with fewer reports of suicidal ideation in children. Working together, school and parents can become invaluable support networks for children and adolescents16.
- 1.Gonzalez-DeHass AR, Willems PP, Holbein MFD. Examining the Relationship Between Parental Involvement and Student Motivation. Educ Psychol Rev. Published online June 2005:99-123. doi:10.1007/s10648-005-3949-7
- 2.Baker TL, Wise J, Kelley G, Skiba RJ. Identifying Barriers: Creating Solutions to Improve Family Engagement. School Community Journal. 2016;26(2):161-184.
- 3.Halgunseth L, Peterson DRS, Moodie S. Family engagement, diverse families, and early childhood programs: An integrated review of the literature. Washington, DC: The National Association for the Education of Young Children. Published 2009. https://www.researchconnections.org/files/meetings/ccprc/2009/Halgunseth.pdf
- 4.Ferlazzo L. Involvement or Engagement? Educational Leadership. 2011;68(8):10-14.
- 5.Evans MP. Educating preservice teachers for family, school, and community engagement. Teaching Education. Published online June 2013:123-133. doi:10.1080/10476210.2013.786897
- 6.Auerbach S. Walking the walk: Portraits in leadership in family engagement in urban schools. The School Community Journal. 2009;19(1):9-31.
- 7.Henderson AT, Berla N. A New Generation of Evidence: The Family Is Critical to Student Achievement. ERIC; 1994.
- 8.Cooper H, Lindsay JJ, Nye B. Homework in the Home: How Student, Family, and Parenting-Style Differences Relate to the Homework Process. Contemporary Educational Psychology. Published online October 2000:464-487. doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1036
- 9.Al-Alwan AF. Modeling the Relations among Parental Involvement, School Engagement and Academic Performance of High School Students. IES. Published online March 25, 2014. doi:10.5539/ies.v7n4p47
- 10.Karbach J, Gottschling J, Spengler M, Hegewald K, Spinath FM. Parental involvement and general cognitive ability as predictors of domain-specific academic achievement in early adolescence. Learning and Instruction. Published online February 2013:43-51. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2012.09.004
- 11.Rogers MA, Theule J, Ryan BA, Adams GR, Keating L. Parental Involvement and Children’s School Achievement. Canadian Journal of School Psychology. Published online March 2009:34-57. doi:10.1177/0829573508328445
- 12.Pomerantz EM, Eaton MM. Maternal intrusive support in the academic context: Transactional socialization processes. Developmental Psychology. Published online 2001:174-186. doi:10.1037/0012-16126.96.36.199
- 13.Fei-Yin Ng F, Kenney-Benson GA, Pomerantz EM. Children’s Achievement Moderates the Effects of Mothers’ Use of Control and Autonomy Support. Child Development. Published online May 2004:764-780. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00705.x
- 14.Mau W-C. Parental influences on the high school students’ academic achievement: A comparison of Asian immigrants, Asian Americans, and White Americans. Psychol Schs. Published online July 1997:267-277. doi:15.Ginsburg GS, Bronstein P. Family Factors Related to Children’s Intrinsic/Extrinsic Motivational Orientation and Academic Performance. Child Development. Published online October 1993:1461. doi:10.2307/113154616.Carter M, McGee R, Taylor B, Williams S. Health outcomes in adolescence: Associations with family, friends and school engagement. Journal of Adolescence. Published online February 2007:51-62. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2005.04.002