Date of Award

5-3-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Dr. Kirk Elifson - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Dawn Baunach

Third Advisor

Dr. Elisabeth Burgess

Abstract

Research continues to substantiate the influence of social, economic and family characteristics on students’ scholastic achievements. For example, children who are born in economically disadvantaged circumstances are more likely to score lower on tests that measure academic abilities than their same age economically advantaged peers (Brooks-Gunn and Markman, 2005; Rothstein, 2004). This dissertation examines the relationship between parenting interactions and young children's school readiness and initial academic success for a low-income, at-risk population in Georgia. The inter-disciplinary concept resiliency, defined as a process that encompasses positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity, frames the research (Arnold and Doctoroff, 2003; Henry et al 2005; Luthar, Cicchetti, and Becker (2000), p. 543). This dissertation utilized a subsample from a larger evaluation project, The Georgia Early Childhood Study, which looked at the effects of a state-funded universal Pre-K program. Participants in this study were at-risk children who attended either state lottery funded Georgia Pre-K or federally funded Head Start. Both qualitative and quantitative data were used. Quantitative data included norm-referenced test scores, teacher ratings, and parental surveys. Results show that at-risk children categorized as non-resilient scored lower on standardized assessments over a three-year period and were more likely to attend preschools of lower quality than their similarly economically advantaged counterparts. Qualitative data were used to gain an understanding of parental involvement that is not generally captured with traditional survey methods. The qualitative study encompassed in-depth interviews with parents of children classified as at-risk. The results show that parents report involvement in their child’s schooling, but that involvement among the non-resilient populations was more peripheral. Parents of children from the resilient group were more likely to use language that indicated involvement as a partner in their child’s education than parents from children in the non-resilient group. Parents from both groups, however, reported the difficulties they face in raising their children and were cognizant of the ways that being from a lower socio-economic group translates into parenting difficulties.

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Sociology Commons

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