Early Head Start (EHS) programs serve low-income infants, toddlers, pregnant women, and their families in child development and family support services. Increased knowledge regarding predictors of family engagement in EHS will assist in developing policies to promote family engagement and in future research examining family engagement in early childhood intervention programs.
This research project examines the application of the family-school partnership theory within EHS. The family-school partnership theory maintains that parental engagement can be predicted by relational and structural components; in particular, by the relationship between parents and staff and participation in structural activities both within a program and within the home. I hypothesize that the family-school partnership theory will provide an accurate theoretical background with which to understand family engagement within EHS.
This study uses the secondary dataset Early Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (Baby FACES) Spring 2009-Spring 2012 (ICPSR 36074) to examine predictors of family engagement with a robust multiple regression analysis with clustering at the child level to examine longitudinal effects. Regression with clustering is used instead of multilevel modeling as the methods produce almost identical results, however regression with clustering is easier to interpret. Predictors include the parent-caregiver relationship; parental involvement in structural activities, such as attendance in social events, educational events, and program policy council; and parental involvement in home-based activities. The analysis is completed in Stata.
Preliminary results suggest that the family-school partnership theory applies to parental engagement in EHS. In particular, EHS staff perspective regarding the relationship between parents and caregivers and parental attendance of education events are significant predictors of family engagement in EHS.
Conclusions and Implications
This study supports the use of the family-school partnership theory to predict family engagement in EHS. This theory is typically used for school-aged children; however, results of the study suggest that it can be applied to children less than three years of age who are involved in early childhood intervention programs. The analysis displays both relational and structural program activities as predictive of family engagement in EHS. Use of the family-school partnership model for developing additional early childhood intervention program policies may strengthen family engagement.
Use of this model may impact future research regarding the quality and benefits of EHS and other early childhood intervention programs. In particular, research by Jeon, Kwan, Guss, & Horm utilize the family-school partnership model for the creation of various profiles of family engagement within EHS home- and center- based programs (Jeon et al., 2020). The theoretical support for this model’s use in EHS presented within this oral presentation suggests that their approach to examining profiles of family engagement is representative of the underlying mechanisms surrounding family engagement.