Empowerment, social support, and self-esteem of parents involved in an elementary school program

Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Welfare

First Advisor's Name

Barbara Thomlison

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Lynn B. Cooper

Third Advisor's Name

Rosa Jones

Fourth Advisor's Name

Christopher Rice

Date of Defense



Parent involvement (PI) in schooling has consistently been correlated with improved academic achievement in children. However, despite the apparent benefits of parent involvement, many schools serving low-income communities report consistent difficulty in facilitating the involvement of parents in their children's schooling.

The purpose of this exploratory pilot study was to examine key variables associated with a PI program at a school that served a low-income community. The program was selected because it sustained the involvement of parents for a prolonged period of time. It was also selected because the program was facilitated by social workers.

Derived from the literature, four lines of inquiry were examined: (a) the relationship between PI and parent strengths and development; (b) the relationship between PI and children's academic achievement; (c) facilitators for PI; and (d) barriers to PI. These lines of inquiry yielded the study's four primary research questions. The study employed a cross-sectional research design to address them.

Thirty-three parents, representing 16 school-involved (SI) parents and 17 nonschool involved (NSI) parents, served as study participants. All 33 parents resided in a high poverty community.

Quantitative methods were selected to examine differences between study participants and PI. Measures of parental empowerment, social support, self-esteem, and direct and indirect measures of their children's academic achievement were utilized. Qualitative methods were developed to identify and describe SI and NSI parents' perceptions of facilitators for and barriers to PI.

This study's findings suggest that PI may yield important benefits for SI parents. These benefits include parents' perceptions of their empowerment, social support, and self-esteem. This study's findings also suggest a relationship between PI and reduced rates of children's school suspensions. This study did not, however, support relationships between PI and children's standardized test scores. This study concludes that despite the apparent benefits of PI for SI parents, PI may nonetheless be a proxy for several unspecified interventions that effect parents, children, schools and communities alike. More precise specifications and robust measures of PI are needed.



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