AbstractA study was undertaken to determine the nature and extent of parental involvement in the academic and social lives of gifted elementary school students. The participants for this study were the 1994 Belin Elementary Student Talent Search (BESTS) students and their parents. An analysis of responses to questionnaires indicated that overall, students see their parents as appropriately involved in both their academic and social lives. Neither parent was seen as too involved. Where a parent was seen as not involved enough, it was the father. Some differences were found in perception of parental involvement by both gender and ability level.
IntroductionThere is heightened national awareness of the importance of the involvement of parents in the academic lives of their children. (See Community Update, No. 23, 1995). Parent involvement has been associated with a host of positive outcomes for elementary school students (See review by Fantuzzo, Davis, & Ginsburg, 1995). Specifically in the area of gifted education and talent development, there has been a strong "belief' in the importance of parent involvement, (Bloom & Sosniak, 1981). Three books in particular, Developing talent in young people edited by Bloom (1985); Patterns of influence on gifted learners: The home, the self, and the school, by Van Tassel-Baska and Olszewski-Kubilius (1989); and Talented teenagers: The roots of success & failure by Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, and Whalen (1993), explicitly document the critical role of parents in the academic and social lives of their children.
There is at least a "common" belief that parents of high ability students take an interest and are involved in the lives of their children, and that parents are especially involved when their children are young (i.e., elementary school age). But there is much that common anecdotal "information" does not tell us about parents of gifted students. For example, how active are parents with their gifted elementary school children? What is the nature of their involvement? What kinds of things do they do to get involved? Do mothers and fathers differ in their involvement? Does the gender or ability level of the gifted child affect the parental involvement? These are the specific types of questions that we need to address.
There are two issues with respect to parental involvement that are important for educators to recognize. One is that parents know their children, and have considerable information based on out-of-school observations. This information provides a sound basis for advocating for their children. Advocating means providing the school evidence of what their child is ready to learn as well as the motivation to help their child take on these curricular challenges.
The other issue is that school personnel often confuse advocacy with over-involvement, (i.e., pushiness), when dealing with parents of gifted students. If parents are requesting curricular changes with no evidence to substantiate the need for such changes, we consider this over-involvement. When parents request curricular changes and substantiate the need for such changes for their child, we consider this advocacy.
Our interest in involvement focuses on perception. We are interested in how parents perceive their involvement as well as how children perceive the involvement of their parents. We surmise that a level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction is in the "eye of the beholder." Thus, we are going to report not only on how parents get involved but how this involvement is "perceived" by the child as well as the parent.
ParticipantsParticipants for this study were the 1994 Belin Elementary Student Talent Search (BESTS) students and their parents who completed the Belin-Blank Research Questionnaires (BBRQ). BESTS is a program that was initiated by the Belin-Blank Center (Colangelo, Assouline & Lee, 1993). The purpose of BESTS is to provide above-level testing to academically able elementary school students (grades 3-6) who have demonstrated high achievement on a standardized, grade-level test. Students in grades three through six who had earned scores at or above the 95th percentile on a grade-level test were invited to participate in BESTS. The total number of BESTS participants for the 1994 test administration was 3,554 (males = 52%, females = 48%).
From the group of 3,554 BESTS participants, there were 3,187 (90%) matched parent and student questionnaires (BBRQ) which served as our research sample. The matched parent questionnaire was completed by 88% of mothers and 12% of fathers.
The majority of student participants came from Iowa (77%), 15% of the participants came from Illinois, 3% came from Missouri, and 3% came from Florida. Eighty-three percent of BESTS participants came from homes with both parents; 17% came from households with one parent.
InstrumentThe Belin-Blank Research Questionnaire (BBRQ) was developed in 1993 at the Belin-Blank Center to gather information from gifted students and their parents. The BBRQ has two forms: The Parent Form (43 items) and the Student Form (20 items). The items on the BBRQ form several subscales including: attitude about school, perceptions of giftedness, attributions about success and failure in academics, participation in school and non-school activities, and parent involvement. The Parent Involvement (PI) subscale of the BBRQ consists of 5 items each on the Parent Form and Student Form that focus on the perceptions of parents and students regarding the involvement of parents in both the academic and social activities of their gifted children.
ProcedureAll of the 1994 BESTS participants (N = 3,554) received the BBRQ as part of their admission packet approximately 3 weeks prior to the test. The questionnaires were returned on the day of testing. The return rate for the questionnaires was 95% for students and parents. The total number of matched student and parent questionnaires equaled 3,187; which was 90% of the original group of 1994 BESTS participants.
AnalysisThe analysis of the BBRQ focused on those items on the Parental Involvement sections of the student form and the parent form. The analyses included frequencies of response and Chi-square statistics to determine the significance of the differences observed. Results are reported in Tables 1-3. Chi-square comparisons were made by columns. See note at the bottom of each table.
ResultsTable 1 reports the involvement of mothers and fathers in a number of school functions. Nine areas were investigated. Those areas where there is direct involvement about, or with the child, e.g., asking the child about schoolwork and grades, had high (i.e., 75%) parental involvement. With regard to involvement in all nine areas, the mothers were significantly more involved than the fathers.
Table 1. Percentage of Parents Indicating Attendance, Interest, and Participation in Child's School Functions.
**P= .01 Mothers (n=2230) Fathers (n=389) Note: Chi-square analyses were performed on columns 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6.
The items in Table 2 asked students about their perception of parental involvement in school and social activities. As the table indicates, high percentages of boys (40.2%) and girls (45.7%) perceived mothers and fathers as being equally involved. Also, high percentages of boys and girls view their parents as being equally involved in all areas except regarding the item, "Who knows your friends best?" However, when not perceived as being "both equally" involved, it was mothers who were seen as more involved. The one exception to this finding was with the boys' perception of parental involvement on recreation/hobbies; nearly 34% of the boys (compared to 15% of the girls) indicated that it was their fathers who spend time with them.
Table 2. Percentage of Student Responses to Perception of Parental Time Spent on School and Social Activities.
*P=.05 **P=.01 Boys (n=1509) Girls (n=1374) Chi-square analyses were performed on columns 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6.
Table 3 includes considerable information about perception of parental involvement by both parents and students. Rows 1 and 2 of Table 3 report percentages of parents and their perception of their own involvement and involvement of their spouse. The first observation that becomes "obvious" is that overwhelmingly, more mothers than fathers completed the questionnaire (7:1). This is one indication of the mothers' more active involvement.
Rows 1 and 2 demonstrate that both parents tend to see themselves as appropriately involved. Both parents agree that too much involvement is not an issue. Differences are found in the area of too little involvement. When a parent is perceived as not being involved enough, both mothers and fathers agree that the "under-involved" parent is the father.
Rows 3 and 8 report the percentages of boys and girls regarding their perceptions of parental involvement for both social and school activities. When looking specifically at Rows 3 and 4, boys and girls of elementary school age see their mothers and fathers as being involved "about right" in both school and social activities. They also agree that neither parent is over-involved in either school or social activities. Differences were noted, however, in the perception of under-involvement. When students see parents as "under-involved," higher percentages of both boys and girls see fathers as under-involved in school and social activities. Regarding fathers and social activities, the percentage of girls reporting this under-involvement is higher than that of boys.
Rows 5 and 8 report student perceptions of parental involvement by their upper and lower quartile composite scores on the BESTS talent search instrument EXPLORE. The upper quartile of Talent Search scores indicates high academic talent. The lower quartile represents more moderate academic talent. The perceptions of parental involvement by boys and girls in the upper and lower quartiles indicate that overall their perceptions are that parents are appropriately involved in both the academic and social areas. Regardless of ability level, over-involvement is not a significant issue. Again, where there are significant differences, they are in the area of under-involvement with fathers perceived as under-involved in both school and social areas. A distinct feature that emerges is that the mothers' involvement appears to be unrelated to ability level. Fathers' involvement, however, is related to ability level. A higher percentage of both boys and girls in the lower quartile report the under-involvement of fathers in both school and social activities.
Discussion & ConclusionsThe results of this research clearly document that parents of gifted elementary school students (grades 3-6) actively participate in the academic and social lives of their children. Without a comparison to a random sample of parents of non-identified gifted students it is difficult to make an assessment of how "unique" the involvement of these parents is compared to that of other parents of elementary aged students in general. However, from national reviews on how parental involvement is needed with school age children and our own experience with schools, the results of this survey indicate that these parents are strongly involved, and the likelihood is that they are more actively involved than parents of elementary aged students in general.
Table 3. Percentage of Responses to Items Assessing Parental Involvement in Child's School and Social Activities
*P<.05**P<.01aMothers' responses about mothers refer to themselvesbFathers' responses about fathers refer to themselvescMothers' responses about fathers refer to an item about spouse involvementdFathers' responses about mothers refer to an item about spouse involvementNote: Chi-square analyses were performed on columns 1 and 3, 2 and 4, 5 and 7, 6 and 8, 9 and 11, 10 and 12.
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