To fill this research gap, the proposed study seeks to explore the role that parental involvement may play in the process of rebuilding the social fabric of communities affected by war. This research project takes place in the Vukovar region of Croatia, which continues to be heavily affected by the Croat Independence war. More than 15 years after the end of the war, the city of Vukovar remains highly segregated along ethnic lines. The ethnic division is especially marked in the educational system (Freedman et al., 2004): Croatian and Serbian children are assigned to classrooms on different floors, often at different times.
METHOD: Using a mixed research methodology, the sampling frame consists of 294 elementary school parents (33% Croats, 66% Serbs and 1% others), two focus-groups, and 9 interviews with national and international stakeholders involved in parental involvement initiatives. The major hypothesis of this study is tested by using correlations and multiple regression analysis. Using the qualitative analysis software ATLAS.ti, the transcripts from the interviews and focus-groups were examined by three coders. Specific themes and theoretical constructs of parental involvement and community participation were identified and discussed.
RESULTS: Our data identified specific patterns of parental involvement that reveal a statistically significant relationship to the social fabric renewal in war-torn communities. 46% of the variance in social capital among parents involved in schools is explained by the community school activities. In a state of alienation and disconnect among community members, involvement of parents in school activities may provide a path to reconnecting and rebuilding interethnic relationships. The findings of this study also identify a number of challenges to integrating effective parental involvement that parents, teachers and school administration face in an ethnically divided community.
IMPLICATIONS: Findings of this study have significant academic, practice, and policy implications at both - national and international levels. The study addresses possible implications for social work practitioners and social development actors and discusses the role that schools can play in re-gluing the social fabric of communities affected by war.