Poster Paper: Which measures work for indirect family-school engagement in early childhood? A comparison of predictive validities

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Regency Ballroom (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Andrea K Busby, Northwestern University

The study of family-school engagement has expanded in recent decades, carried forward by the fundamental assumption that children with more involved parents achieve more academically. This simple concept becomes more nuanced when the questions of what is parental involvement and how is it measured are considered. For instance, although family-school partnerships often focus on direct contact across settings, recent work has suggested that parallel learning experiences across settings, in the absence of direct communication and coordination, can also improve reading achievement (Crosnoe, 2012; Crosnoe et al., 2010). These findings open the door for interventions that not only seek to facilitate direct communication between families and school personnel, but also promote complementary practices across contexts. This might take the form of simultaneous interventions in multiple contexts, such as two-generation initiatives, or thoughtful consideration by practitioners in one field of the varied contexts through which children move. The implications of this work are particularly relevant for children from low-income and ethnic minority families who often experience disconnect between community and school environments (Hill, 2011; 2001). Furthermore, the foundations that are laid for family-school partnerships in early childhood have implications throughout children's continued development (Hamre & Pianta, 2001).

The current study builds upon past research by (1) identifying several techniques for measuring home-ECE partnerships and (2) comparing the concurrent and predictive validity of the various measurement types.

I use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study, which follows nearly 5,000 children born in large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000 and their families. The data includes an oversampling of families at high risk of breaking up or entering poverty, which allows these analyses to give important insight on those populations. This study focuses on a subset of 571 children who were observed in their home and ECE settings at age three. In both environments, observers responded to identical questions on the responsivity and harshness of the caregiver using the HOME Inventory (Bradley & Caldwell, 1984). I use these parallel measures to compare these two environments. I also use data from the year five and year nine follow-up waves for longitudinal child outcomes.

The measurement techniques that I compare are first, a simple median split for family and ECE contexts that divides children into four categories for high-high, high-low, low-high, and low-low based on their scores across contexts. Second, match scores indicate whether home and ECE environments received the same score on specific items of responsivity and harshness. Finally, previous research has used cluster analytic techniques to identify naturally occurring clusters of responsivity and harshness in this dataset. I use these previously-identified profiles. The assumptions and implications of each measurement technique are discussed.

I then compare these three measurement techniques using multiple regression methods to predict child outcomes. Preliminary analyses have shown that each of these measurement techniques are predictive of later child outcomes, even after controlling for family and ECE characteristics, but that the patterns of prediction differ depending on the measurement used.