What is Parent Engagement?

Parent engagement in schools is defined as parents and school staff working together to support and improve the learning, development and health of children and adolescents.1 Parent engagement in schools is a shared responsibility in which schools are committed to reaching out to engage parents in meaningful ways, and parents are committed to actively supporting their children’s and adolescents’ learning and development.1

Studies have shown that parent engagement in schools can promote positive education and health behaviors among children and adolescents. Research shows a strong relationship between parent engagement and educational outcomes, including school attendance2 and higher grades and classroom test scores.3 Parent engagement in schools has also been identified as promising protective factors for adolescent sexual and reproductive health risk behaviors and outcomes, including ever had sex, early sexual debut, frequency of sex and pregnancy/birth.4,5 In addition, when students find their school environment to be supportive and caring and their parents engaged in their school lives, they are less likely to become involved in substance abuse, violence, and other problem behaviors 5,6 that are associated with HIV and STD risk.7,8

Framework for Increasing Parent Engagement

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that schools use the following framework to increase parent engagement in school health:1

  1. Connect with parents by building a positive relationship and communicating the school’s vision to work together with parents to guide children’s health and learning.
  2. Engage parents by providing a variety of activities and frequent occasions to fully involve parents including providing parenting support, increasing communicating with parents, creating volunteer opportunities, supporting learning at home, encouraging parents to be part of decision making in schools and collaborating with the community.
  3. Sustain parent engagement by addressing the common challenges to getting and keeping parents engaged such as scheduling conflicts, transportation, making parents feel welcome in the school and supporting teachers in building relationships with families.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Parent Engagement: Strategies for Involving Parents in School Health. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. Epstein J, Sheldon S. Present and accounted for: improving student attendance through family and community involvement. The Journal of Educational Research 2002;95(5):308–318.
  3. Fan X, Chen M. Parental involvement and students' academic achievement: a meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review 2001;13(1):1–22.
  4. Guilamo-Ramos V, Jaccard J, Dittus P, Bouris A, Gonzalez B, Casillas E,et al. A comparative study of interventions for delaying the initiation of sexual intercourse among Latino and Black Youth. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 2011;43(4):247–254.
  5. 10. Resnick MD, Bearman PS, Blum RW, Bauman KE, Harris KM, Jones J, et al. Protecting adolescents from harm. Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Medical Association 1997;278(10):823–832.
  6. Hawkins JD, Catalano RF, Kosterman R, Abbott R, Hill KG. Preventing adolescent health-risk behaviors by strengthening protection during childhood. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 1999;153:226–234.
  7. Van Tieu H, Koblin BA. HIV, alcohol, and noninjection drug use. Current Opinion in HIV/AIDS 2009;4(4):314–318.
  8. Maman S, Campbell J, Sweat MD, Gielen AC. The intersections of HIV and violence: directions for future research and interventions. Social Science and Medicine 2000;50(4):459–478.

Resources

Educational Materials
Parental Information and Resource Centers

The Parental Information and Resource Centers develop resource materials and provide information about high quality family involvement programs to families, schools, school districts and others through conferences, workshops and dissemination of materials. Projects generally include a focus on serving parents of low-income, minority and limited English proficient children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools.

CDC: Positive Parenting Practices 

Fact sheets schools can disseminate about parental monitoring, the influence of fathers and parents' influence on lesbian, gay or bisexual teens.

Parent Involvement Information 

This online link provides a forum for sharing Family and Community Engagement (FACE) tools and resources with states, school districts, parents and communities in an effort to encourage partnerships between families and schools. 

Advocacy Organizations
National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University 

NNPS provides research, tools, guidelines, and an action team approach about parental involvement, family engagement and community partnerships that can be used by schools to increase involvement and improve student learning and development. 

National Parent Teacher Association 

PTA developed the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships Implementation Guide a tool for empowering people to work together with an end goal of building family-school partnerships and student success. 

LGBT
The Family Acceptance Project 

The Family Acceptance Project is a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to decrease health and mental health risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children and youth, including suicide, homelessness and HIV – in the context of their families. The website provides information on a research-based, culturally grounded approach to help ethnically, socially and religiously diverse families to support their LGBT children. 

APA Resources
  • Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in Youth: The Role of Parents and Schools (PDF, 1MB)
    Presentation from the 2015 APA Annual Convention symposium about the role psychologists can play in promoting the health and psychological well-being of gender and sexual orientation diverse children and adolescents, by engaging parents and creating safe and supportive school environments.
  • Part 1: Promoting Parent Engagement in Schools (PPT, 16MB) 
    First part of a presentation about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Adolescent and School Health’s (DASH) rationale for promoting parent engagement in schools as part of school-based HIV/STD prevention.
  • Part 2: Partnerships Then and Now 
    Second part of the CDC/DASH APA presentation. Focuses on the general importance of good connections and attention to family engagement and sexual health or sexual and reproductive health as part of a comprehensive partnership program. This portion is in video format.