American High School Students’ Knowledge and Beliefs About Parenting and Child Development
O'Donnell Weber, Eleanor Barron
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CitationO'Donnell Weber, Eleanor Barron. 2019. American High School Students’ Knowledge and Beliefs About Parenting and Child Development. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractIncome-based achievement gaps in cognitive skills such as math and reading are fully substantiated at the time children enter Kindergarten (Reardon, 2013; von Hippel & Hamrock, 2016). Further, children who start behind, tend to stay behind (Stanovich, 1986). Therefore, if we want to prevent these achievement gaps, we need to focus on the early childhood period when the gaps grow the most. In addition, parents who know more about parenting and child development and who have a stronger belief that they can make a difference in their child’s development, are more apt to interact with their children in ways that promote learning than parents with less parenting knowledge (Rowe, 2008). One approach to address this is to provide parenting knowledge to individuals before they become parents while they are still in school. To date, very little scholarly work has been done to show the efficacy of programs to prepare students for parenting and a role in young children’s lives.
A first step in achieving this goal was to ascertain adolescents’ knowledge and understanding of parenting and child development by creating and validating the APKAS (Adolescent Parenting Knowledge and Attitudes Survey) questionnaire and administering it to over 1,000 US high school students. The questionnaire includes information about child development, the role of parents in children’s learning, and knowledge of basic parenting practices that are associated with healthy childhood outcomes. Using linear regression and structural equation modeling, this study shows that while many high school students hold beliefs consistent with successful outcomes for young children and their learning, there is much room for improvement. Moreover, high school students with less childcare experience, who are not from middle class backgrounds, or who are male are less likely to hold attitudes that would set up their children for future success. This research suggests that there is an opportunity to use high school as a site to improve adolescents’ knowledge and attitudes related to child rearing and development.
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