Determinants of parental involvement in a support program: A study of communication behavior and information sources

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Henry Schulte


parental involvement in schools

Subject Categories

Communication | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication


Communication is viewed as an important ingredient for enhancing parental involvement in schools and institutions where students are expected to achieve success in learning. Discussions in communication however, have focused primarily on information from schools or institutions to parents.

The present study focuses on parent communication behavior and its subsequent influence on parent participation in program activities. The research setting is a state-funded support program for "at risk" students in a mid-sized northeastern city of the United States.

The study has three primary objectives: (1) to investigate the relationship between parent communication behavior and parental involvement; (2) to determine the influence of formal and informal channels of communication on parental involvement; and (3) to explore the role of personal and household characteristics on knowledge of the program and parental involvement. These objectives were investigated through a triangulation of methods, using two questionnaires, interviews, observations of the program, and archival records.

A sample of 76 parents whose children participated in the program completed a questionnaire with 42 questions and 142 variables. A second questionnaire was administered to program staff.

The results revealed that informal channels of communication had a strong and positive influence on parental involvement. Most parents relied more on their children (informal source) for information about the program.

A major and interesting finding is that of the significant relationship between knowledge of the program and overall parental involvement. Although conditioning variables such as household and personal characteristics were not significantly correlated with parental involvement, a cluster analysis revealed that parent income levels was related to parental involvement. No evidence was found for an independent effect of any of the demographic variables on either knowledge or parent involvement.

Generally, the findings suggest the need for programs of this type to focus on and be aware of communication behavior as a contributing factor to parent involvement, and to place a greater emphasis on informal rather than formal channels in communicating with parents.


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