Direct and indirect effects of parenting on the academic functioning of young homeless children

Janette E. Herbers, J. J. Cutuli, Theresa L. Lafavor, Danielle M Vrieze, Cari Leibel, Jelena Obradović, Ann S Masten

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60 Scopus citations


Research Findings: Effects of parenting quality on the academic functioning of young homeless children were examined using data from 58 children ages 4 to 7 and their parents during their stay at an emergency homeless shelter. Parenting quality, child executive function, child intellectual functioning, and risk status were assessed in the shelter, and teacher reports of academic functioning were obtained when the children began kindergarten or 1st grade. As hypothesized, parenting quality was associated with children's academic success, and this effect was mediated by executive function skills in the child. Parenting quality also had a moderating effect on risk, consistent with a protective role of high-quality parenting among children with higher risk levels. Concomitantly, children with higher risk and lower parenting quality appeared to be more vulnerable to academic problems. Practice or Policy: In homeless families, parenting may play an especially important role in academic success through multiple pathways, including the development of executive function skills in their children. Policies and practices to support parents and foster the executive function skills of young children in homeless families may be important strategies to promote child academic success. Implications for intervention efforts with homeless parents and children are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-104
Number of pages28
JournalEarly Education and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by grants to Ann Masten from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University of Minnesota and the National Science Foundation (0745643); by predoctoral fellowships awarded to J. J. Cutuli from the Center for Neurobehavioral Development at the University of Minnesota and from the National Institute of Mental Health; and by a predoctoral fellowship awarded to Jelena Obradović by the National Institute of Mental Health. Special thanks also to the extraordinary support of the staff of People Serving People and the Minneapolis Public Schools as well as faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students at the University of Minnesota.


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