A study to examine the relationship among stress, resources, race, family structure, and parent involvement in a group of headstart parents

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Many American families are experiencing a high degree of stress. Without sufficient resources to counteract this stress, these families ultimately become dysfunctional. Not only do they find it difficult to function in the home setting, but they also find it difficult to function in other social contexts, such as the school community.

It was hypothesized that family stress and insufficient resources can have a negative impact on home-school relations in general and parent involvement in particular.

It was the purpose of this study to (a) assess the level of parent involvement of a group of Headstart parents, (b) assess the family stress level and resources of these parents; (c) determine if there is a relationship among stress, resources, and parent involvement, as well as to determine the effect race and family structure have on parent involvement; and (d) identify support resources to assist parents in coping with the stressful events in their lives.

Fifty-three parents from a large, Virginia Headstart program were used in this study. Parental involvement was assessed by collecting data from Headstart records. In addition, parents were asked to respond to two inventories. These inventories-Family Inventory of Life Events (FILE) and Family Crisis Oriented Personal Scales (F-Copes)-were used to determine the stressful life events families faced while their children were enrolled in Headstart and to assess the resources available to these families for meeting the demands of these stressful events.

The raw data from the parent involvement assessment and the inventories were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSSX). Specifically, descriptive statistics, simple and multiple regression, and analysis of variance were used to analyze the selected variables and the interrelationships between these variables.

The results indicated that there is a negative relationship between stress and resources. Parents with fewer resources generally had higher stress levels. Family stress and resource levels had opposite effects on parent involvement. High stress levels were associated with low parent involvement, while high resource levels were associated with high parent involvement. Race and family structure had no effect on parent involvement for this sample.