Education and Human Sciences, College of (CEHS)


Date of this Version

July 2007


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Major: Interdepartmental Area of Psychological Studies in Education. Under the Supervision of Professor Beth Doll.
Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2007
Copyright 2007 Mary Kelly Haack


Parental involvement in schooling is critical for children’s academic success. Despite its importance, parental involvement appears to be discouragingly low. Attribution theory may provide an explanation for perceived limited parental participation in specific activities to support their children's schooling and for strained parent/teacher relations. This study identified and compared the causal attributions made by teachers and parents for a hypothetical situation in which a parent was not sufficiently involved in their elementary aged child’s schooling. In addition, differences in attributions based on the education level of the parent were examined. Participants for the study were 80 regular education teachers in eight public elementary schools and 80 parents or guardians of children in the same eight elementary schools. Parents and teachers completed questionnaires containing vignettes about a mother of a third-grade child, Jamie, who was having difficulty in mathematics and provided probable reasons for why the mother did not perform specific parental involvement activities. Responses were coded as internal or external causal attributions. An analysis of variance was conducted to examine the effect of respondent type (teacher or parent) and the vignette parent’s education level, lower or higher, on the proportion of internal attributions. Results showed that parents and teachers identified a higher proportion of internal attributions than external attributions. Eight categories identified an internal locus of causality while seven categories identified an external locus of causality. A significant interaction was found. Participants in the parent-lower-education vignette condition were more likely to identify a higher proportion of internal attributions than were participants in the parent-higher-education vignette condition.

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