The role of parents’ support for learning during the first few years of school: Benefits for high-risk, aggressive children

Open Access
Abenavoli, Rachel Marian
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
November 14, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Mark T Greenberg, Thesis Advisor
  • Lisa Michelle Kopp, Thesis Advisor
  • school readiness
  • support for learning
  • parenting
Children’s school readiness lays the foundation for their later social and academic adjustment across the school years. Many students are not prepared to learn when they begin kindergarten, however, and contextual risk factors experienced prior to school entry, particularly low income, contribute to this disadvantage. Parents’ support for learning has been identified as a mechanism through which risk influences children’s readiness for school, but even among those experiencing risk, variation in parents’ support for learning is associated with variation in children’s academic, cognitive, and behavioral functioning. The current study examined the role of parents’ support for learning as a predictor of growth in children’s academic skills, cognitive ability, learning engagement, social-emotional skills, and aggression between the entrance to kindergarten and the end of first grade. These longitudinal associations were explored within a uniquely high-risk sample of low-income ethnic-minority families whose children already showed high rates of aggression in kindergarten. Results highlighted the importance of parents’ support for learning for their children’s outcomes: Support for learning related to children’s learning engagement at school entry and predicted growth in children’s academic skills and cognitive ability, even when background family characteristics reflecting risk were included as covariates. Support for learning was not significantly associated with children’s social-emotional skills or aggression in either kindergarten or first grade. Interventions that promote high quality and quantity of parents’ support for learning may be a promising approach through which to foster the skills children need to succeed in and out of school.