Parent Engagement

15 Apr 2014

The concept of parent engagement has been used to describe parent behavior, expectations, and activities that have the potential to promote children's learning and development. Here the term is used to refer to parents' support for their young children's learning fostered through relationships with child care and early education programs and providers, which includes parent engagement with programs, as well as their involvement in their children's learning activities.

This Topic of Interest highlights a recent review of research on the role of parent engagement in promoting young children's early mathematics and literacy skills and social-emotional learning. Other resources examine parent engagement in the context of Head Start programs, features of family-provider and family-program relationships that may influence parent engagement, and opportunities to strengthen parent engagement through state policies. This Topic of Interest includes journal articles, reports, data sets, and webinars from the Research Connections collection published since 2010.

Impact of Parent Engagement on Education of Young Children

A recent extensive literature review included 95 studies on the impact of parent engagement on young children's literacy, math, and socioemotional skills. The authors examine the effects of various aspects of parent engagement, including parent involvement at school and schools' and teachers' efforts to engage parents.

See literature review:

Parent Engagement in the Context of Head Start

Parent engagement is an important aspect of Head Start, and recent large-scale, nationally representative research efforts such as the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) and the Head Start Impact Study explore parent engagement in the context of Head Start programs. Researchers have used FACES data to present a picture of parent engagement with Head Start programs, as well as to investigate parents' involvement in learning activities to support their children's literacy skills. Likewise, other researchers use Head Start Impact Study data to examine the impact of Head Start programs on parents' involvement in their children's learning. Head Start researchers are also developing parent engagement concepts and measures appropriate to the diverse population the program serves, including a measure for use with Latino Head Start families.

Explore data sets:
See reports and papers:

Family-Provider Relationships

Scholars have also examined the quality of relationships between families and early care and education providers. The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation of the U.S. Administration for Children and Families has sponsored efforts to conceptualize and measure family-provider relationships more broadly, as well as to establish connections between parent engagement and related concepts, such as family-sensitive caregiving, which emphasizes programs' and providers' responsiveness to and support for families. Research Connections also has a series of three webinars exploring these issues.

Access literature reviews and papers:
 View webinars:

Policy Implications: Strengthening Parent Engagement from Preschool to Grade 3

This evolving body of research has important implications for policymakers, and a recent report for policy audiences distills research findings, and describes promising models, state initiatives, and policy strategies to strengthen parent engagement from preschool to grade 3.

Read policy brief:

Additional Resources

Explore recent additions to the Research Connections collection on the topic of parent involvement

Prepared by: Daniel Ferguson
Last updated: April 2014

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