FAMILY INVOLVEMENT MAKES A DIFFERENCE
Harvard Family Research Project Harvard Graduate School of Education
EVIDENCE THAT FAMILY INVOLVEMENT PROMOTES SCHOOL SUCCESS FOR EVERY CHILD OF EVERY AGE HARVARD FAMILY RESEARCH PROJECT NO. 1 IN A SERIES SPRING 2006
Family involvement in eaRly CHilDHooD eDUCation
The family seems to be the most effective and economical system for fostering and sustaining the child’s development. Without family involvement, intervention is likely to be unsuccessful, and what few effects are achieved are likely to disappear once the intervention is discontinued.1 —Urie Bronfenbrenner This brief is dedicated to Urie Bronfenbrenner (97–2005) whose pioneering research influenced the work of Harvard Family Research Project.
Family involvement matters for young children’s cognitive and social development. But what do effective involvement processes look like, and how do they occur? This research brief summarizes the latest evidence base on effective involvement—that is, the research studies that link family involvement in early childhood to outcomes and programs that have been evaluated to show what works. The conceptual framework guiding this research review is complementary learning. Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) believes that for children and youth to be successful from birth through adolescence, there must be an array of learning supports around them. These learning supports include families, early childhood programs, schools, outof-school time programs and activities, higher education, health and social service agencies, businesses, libraries, museums, and other community-based institutions. HFRP calls this network of supports complementary learning. Complementary learning is characterized by discrete linkages that work together to encourage
consistent learning and developmental outcomes for children. These linkages are continuously in place from birth through adolescence, but the composition and functions of this network changes over time as children mature.2 Family Involvement Makes a Difference is a set of research briefs that examines one set of complementary learning linkages: family involvement in the home and school. As the first in the series, this brief focuses on the linkages among the family, early childhood education settings, and schools. Future papers will examine family involvement in elementary school, middle school, and high school settings. Taken together, these briefs make the case that family involvement predicts
attitudes and practices, and early childhood programs’ expectations and support of family involvement. The evidence base currently suggests three family involvement processes aid in creating this match and promoting healthy outcomes: parenting, home–school relationships, and responsibility for learning outcomes. (See Figure on page 2.) Parenting refers to the attitudes, values, and practices of parents in raising young children. Home–school relationships are the formal and informal connections between the family and educational setting. Responsibility for learning is an aspect of parenting that places emphasis on activities in the home and community that promote learning skills in the young child.
Substantial research supports family involvement, and a growing body of intervention evaluations demonstrates that family involvement can be strengthened with positive results for young children and their school readiness. children’s academic achievement and social development as they progress from early childhood programs through K–2 schools and into higher education. FAMILY INVOLVEMENT PROCESSES IN EARLY CHILDHOOD
Substantial research supports family involvement, and a growing body of intervention evaluations demonstrates that family involvement can be strengthened with positive results for young children and their school readiness. To achieve these results, it is necessary to match children’s developmental needs, parents’ ––...
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