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Beyond barriers: The relationship between Head Start parents' social capital, their involvement, and children's academic school readiness

Head Start programs have renewed their commitment to parent involvement (Improving Head Start for School Readiness, 2007) given an increased focus on kindergarten readiness in the United States (U.S. Goals 2000) and the association between parent involvement and children's outcomes in Head Start (Fantuzzo, McWayne, Perry & Childs, 2004). Research suggests limits to some parents' capacity to be involved (Lamb-Parker, Piotrkowski, Baker, Kessler-Sklar, Clark et al., 2001), however, particularly among Hispanic or Latino parents (Garcia & Levin, 2001). Elsewhere, research suggests that parents' social capital, or resources exchanged within social networks (Bourdieu, 1986), may promote parent involvement (Sheldon, 2002). The relationships among social capital, parent involvement, and academic readiness have not been examined in Head Start. This dissertation examines the possibility that parent social capital indirectly predicts children's academic readiness by way of parent involvement. In a sample of Puerto Rican Hispanic and non-Hispanic parents (N=126) and children (N=87), I examined the associations among (1) two indicators of parent social capital -- the strength of family networks and the strength of Head Start networks; (2) three types of involvement -- Home-Based Involvement, School-Based Involvement, and Home-School Conferencing; and (3) children's academic readiness. I used multivariate regression to examine the relationships among these constructs and to build and test a path model. Results show that the strength of family-based networks was associated with Home-Based Involvement, and the strength of Head Start networks was associated with Home-Based Involvement, School-Based Involvement, and Home-School Conferencing. Home-Based Involvement was moderately associated with academic readiness, and Home-School Conferencing was negatively associated with academic readiness. The association between Head Start network strength and Home-School Conferencing was stronger for non-Hispanic parents than for Puerto Rican Hispanics while the strength of the relationship between parent education and Home-Based Involvement was stronger for Puerto Rican Hispanic parents. Findings support prior research showing an association between the strength of parents' social networks and parent involvement. They also challenge the notion that social network size predicts involvement and that more involvement is associated with greater academic readiness. Compared with parent involvement, parent education and ethnicity emerged as stronger predictors of academic readiness. (author abstract)
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Reports & Papers
United States

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