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Parent-Teacher Relationships and Communication in Early Childhood: A Comparative, Mixed Methods Study of White and Ethnic-Racial Minority Parents

Kimberly A Blitch, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This explanatory sequential mixed methods study compared parents’ and teachers’ perceptions and experiences regarding (a) parent-teacher relationships and (b) parent-teacher communication according to parents’ ethnicities and races. Non-matched, quantitative data about parent-teacher relationships were collected from parents (White and ethnic-racial minority) and teachers (those reporting on their relationships with either White or ethnic-racial minority parents) at two early childhood programs ( N = 72). Twenty-four participants were observed during morning and afternoon transitions (child drop-off and pick-up). Thirteen participants were then interviewed, as well as each early childhood program director. Analyses of co/variance were used to analyze the quantitative data. Qualitative data were analyzed using a three-level coding approach and domain and discourse analyses. (Relationships) White and ethnic-racial minority parents had relationships with teachers that were similar in perceived quality. Teachers also had similar quality relationships. Respect was essential to parents’ and teachers’ positive relationship experiences, though parents and teachers conceptualized respect differently. Teachers reported negative relationship experiences with ethnic-racial minority parents. ( Communication) Teachers’ perceptions of communication were similar, but ethnic-racial minority parents’ perceptions were significantly higher than White parents’ perceptions. Communication experiences among parents and teachers encompassed conversation about children’s daily activities, which changed with children’s ages. Ethnic-racial minority parents had conversations with teachers that were shorter than those of White parents and characterized by teachers’ use of nonverbal behaviors and communicative adaptations due to language barriers that teachers experienced when communicating with culturally and linguistically diverse parents. ( Integration of relationships and communication) Parents’ and teachers’ feelings of trust distinguished “good” and “excellent” relationships. Parents and teachers also conceptualized trust differently, such that parents’ trust encompassed care for and about children whereas teachers’ trust entailed confidence in their credibility. Teachers reported difficulty in gaining trust among parents with non-U.S. cultural orientations and those who were male or older. Findings suggest that teachers (a) experience relationship and communication challenges when working with ethnically, racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse parents and (b) need additional guidance and skill development to effectively communicate and partner with ethnic-racial minority parents. Findings are applicable to early childhood education professionals including program directors, teachers, and teacher educators.

Subject Area

Early childhood education

Recommended Citation

Blitch, Kimberly A, "Parent-Teacher Relationships and Communication in Early Childhood: A Comparative, Mixed Methods Study of White and Ethnic-Racial Minority Parents" (2017). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10271946.