A recent review of 448 studies covering 480,830 families confirms that parental involvement in their children’s education has a number of positive effects.
Previous research had produced mixed results. This synthesis, known as a meta-analysis, was able to identify links more reliably.
Parents who want to support their children’s early performance at school should consider prioritising learning-related family activities, such as trips to museums, libraries and events, and reading books together. Getting involved at your children’s school is more strongly correlated with positive outcomes when the child is younger and less so at high school age.
The links between parental involvement in education and children’s improved performance at school are statistically significant, though small. The only exception is when parents help with homework, which correlates with lower achievement in school.
Parents involvement in education is also positively correlated with children’s social and emotional development more generally.
Types of parental involvement in education
The research outlines five types of parental involvement in education, some of them school-based and some home-based.
Types of child development outcomes from parental involvement in education
Six child development outcomes are commonly studied.
Correlations between child development outcomes and parental involvement in education
Both kinds of parents’ school-based involvement are associated with children doing better on all measures. The correlations are small but statistically significant.
Parents’ home-based involvement is also associated with improvements, again small in scale and with much variability. The correlation between home-based involvement and motivation is stronger than for other child outcomes.
Parental involvement in education at school and at home generally showed similar levels of correlation with child outcomes. Only in relation to motivation at high school did parents’ involvement in the school show less correlation than their involvement at home.
Parents’ discussion and encouragement has a particular significance. It is more influential than cognitive stimulation in relation to the child’s engagement at school.
The correlation between parents’ helping with homework and children’s achievement, unlike all the other correlations, is in the other direction: children are a little likely to do less well as parents become more involved in homework. The way some parents help may actually undermine children’s own development of skills. On the other hand, the correlation could be causal the other way: children who do less well may get more help from their parents.
Parental involvement in education across child age, parental status and race
The researchers looked at variations in the link between child development outcomes and parental involvement in education across different ages, parents’ socioeconomic status and parents’ race.
Age of child
Cognitive stimulation appears to be particularly significant for preschool children. School involvement appears to be less significant for high school children.
Parents’ socioeconomic status
The positive correlation between parental involvement in education and child outcomes exists across families of all income levels. It might be expected that parental involvement in education makes a bigger difference in families where education and income are more limited. However, the data don’t reflect this. Perhaps such additional impact is counterbalanced by the fact that support from parents with less education is less effective.
The involvement of parents in school has more of a positive correlation with outcomes for children in African American and European American families than in Asian American and Hispanic American families. Parental discussion and engagement has a positive correlation with outcomes across all races, but particularly among European American families.
There are two broad schools of thought about how parental involvement in education encourages better outcomes for the children.
Sociologists consider increased social capital. Involved parents are building social networks that provide valuable information to help children and provide access to additional resources. Teachers may give more attention to children with highly involved parents.
Developmental psychologists describe how parental involvement in education improves ‘scaffolding’ for children’s development. Involved parents may know more about what children are learning in school and so can help them more effectively at home. Involved parents may be more effective in supporting children’s engagement and motivation in learning. Involved parents can also help children better understand social expectations at school and show children how much they are cared for. Stronger social and emotional development further supports the ability to learn.
A version of this post was previously published on childandfamilyblog.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
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