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Family and Consumer Sciences

College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources

LIFE - Children, Youth and Families at risk

Research Review

Parental Involvement in School: In Search Of Socially Situated Understanding

Philipsen, Maike. (1998). Parental Involvement in School: In Search Of Socially Situated Understanding. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education, 16 (1): 38-54

PURPOSE: Studied the nature of parental involvement in two public high schools in order to find if involvement differs significantly between schools that vary in terms of resources, racial makeup and socioeconomic status of the communities they serve.


  • Stevenson, D.L., & Baker, D.P. (1987) found that parental involvement in the process of education provides substantial advantages for their child's education.
  • Fine, M. (1993) discovered that parents' voices in school matters are crucial in education systems of democratic societies.
  • Burns, Crawford (1993) stated that "meaningful parent involvement results in improved student achievement, attendance, motivation, self-esteem, and behavior. [It] also is a major contributor to children's positive attitude toward school and teachers."


  • Subjects comprised two high schools in southeastern metropolitan areas of Virginia. One school served a middle to upper class, predominantly white community, and the other served inner city, mainly working class and poor, predominantly black communities, including six high-crime project areas.
  • The qualitative study was designed to allow the researcher to conduct an inductive, in-depth study on all factors that contributed to success, limits or failure of school-parent interaction.
  • A brief initial survey was given to teachers and administrators to rate the level of parental involvement and their beliefs.
  • Open-ended interviews were completed with a diverse body of participants including parents, teacher, administrators, and students.
  • Observations of PTA meetings and other events of parent-teacher contact were made.


  • It was found that parental involvement ranged from silent support of schoolwork, to visible involvement in school related activities, to very active participation in school governance and policy making.
  • The school serving the wealthy suburb showed parents that participated in numerous ways and in large numbers, for instance in PTA meetings and running a school book store. This school was considered a success according to academic standards, sending 82% of graduates on to four year college programs.
  • Conversely, academic success was limited at the inner-city school were parent involvement was extremely low. Parents were not as "visibly" active in their children’s education, but some did report encouraging a home environment that encourages and values education.
  • The most decisive factor found that shaped parental involvement of both schools was whether or not the parent feels a sense of community ownership over its school
  • It was also found that a high degree of parental involvement did not necessarily mean that the relationships between parents and educators were productive as many of the parents and teachers at the suburban school were dissatisfied.

Developed by Rose Foster for UW honors course HP 4152, Spring 1999


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