The Importance of Research on Family Engagement
Research has shown that meaningful family engagement positively impacts youth outcomes across various domains. Parental involvement in education has been extensively studied for decades with less attention paid to the degree of involvement in other systems. More recently, studies have focused on the purpose and roles of family engagement across key child and youth serving sectors. Advancements in brain science, the use of precise research methods, and the inclusivity of diverse populations are influencing family engagement strategies in education, child welfare, juvenile justice, health, mental health, and behavioral health systems.
Studies have shed light on the vital roles and functions that families of all backgrounds can perform to support their children’s and youth’s development and success. Ongoing research is essential in advancing the implementation, continuous improvement and adoption of family engagement practices. These practices can make a difference in the lives of children and youth across various service systems, and for diverse populations and communities. Studies show that strong family engagement is a necessary component in improving outcomes for children and youth.
Youth and Family Outcomes
- Family engagement in schools contributes to positive student outcomes, including improved child and student achievement, decreased disciplinary issues, improved parent-teacher and teacher-student relationships, and improved school environment.1
- Family engagement with health care professionals improves care coordination and health outcomes at the individual, youth, and family level.2
- Most families, when adequately supported and engaged, can work in full partnership with juvenile justice system professionals to achieve better outcomes for youth.3
- Children and youth served by mental health system of care providers show increases in emotional and behavioral strengths and improved relationships with peers and adults when families are engaged.4
- A comprehensive review of the literature on family engagement in early childhood found that all families from diverse socioeconomic, educational and racial/ethnic backgrounds were interested in their child’s educational success and could effectively support their child’s learning at home and school when provided with the information and guidance that they needed.5
- Parent involvement leads to positive benefits for students, parents, and schools, including improved academic performance and improved parent-teacher relationships. Students whose parents were involved in school during their elementary years experienced lower rates of high school dropout, were more likely to complete high school on time, and had higher grades.6
- Recent experimental research has documented how two-way teacher-parent communication can lead to greater parental involvement, improved student engagement and academic achievement.7
- Youth engage in fewer health risk behaviors when their parents are actively involved in their lives. These health risk behaviors include cigarette smoking,8 drinking alcohol,9 becoming pregnant,10 becoming sexually active,11 and carrying weapons.12
- In addition to avoiding health risk behaviors, family engagement can increase participation in positive health behaviors such as school-related physical activity13 and improved educational achievement, including increased attendance14 and higher grades and test scores.15,16,17
- When child welfare staff involves families in the decision-making process and in developing the plans that affect them and their children, they are more invested in the plans and committed to achieving objectives and complying with treatment.18
- Parental involvement improves timeliness of child welfare permanency decisions and can lead to quicker reunification.19,20
- Families that actively support youth involved in juvenile justice help reinforce the importance of treatment, articulate and advocate for their child’s needs, and increase the probability of a smooth transition home at the end of an out-of-home placement.21
- Involving families in strength-based decision-making processes and modeling appropriate problem-solving approaches increases families’ comfort with communicating their own problem-solving strategies and exploring new strategies that may benefit themselves and their children.22
- Working collaboratively increases the likelihood of identifying a family’s unique needs and developing relevant and culturally-appropriate service plans that address needs, build on family strengths, draw from community supports, and use resources more effectively.23
A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement This resource features studies that describe successful practice in engaging families of all backgrounds in the challenging work of improving student achievement and offers practical strategies for reaching out to families and sustaining their involvement.
Family Engagement: Partnering with Families to Improve Child Welfare Outcomes This website from the Children’s Bureau offers child welfare practitioners an overview of the importance of family engagement and addresses the foundational elements of the family engagement approach. Also provided is guidance on strategies and promising practices for implementing this approach at the case level, peer level, and systems level.
Family Involvement in the Juvenile Justice System This guide from the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice provides families of youth with behavioral health problems essential information about what to expect and how to effectively navigate the juvenile justice system. Also included is guidance on advocating and partnering to best support young people through the juvenile justice processes.
Family Involvement Resource Inventory: An Overview of Resources for Family, Youth and Staff This guide from National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice lists publications and resources that address the barriers that families and caretakers may face when a youth is involved in the juvenile justice system.
How Family, School, and Community Engagement Can Improve Student Achievement and Influence School Reform This resource for district and school leaders aims to foster an understanding of how family and community partnerships can promote school improvement efforts and increase student achievement, particularly in areas with underserved communities. This literature review provides current information about key components of promising family-school partnerships that support school- and district-level reform and how promising partnerships effectively engage families and communities in improvement efforts.
Understanding Family Engagement Outcomes Research to Practice Series: Family Well-being This resource presents a summary of selected research, program strategies, and resources intended to be useful for Head Start, Early Head Start, and other early childhood programs.
Adolescent Connectedness Has Lasting Effects
This webpage from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presents findings that support that adolescent connectedness to school and family is an important protective factor in promoting positive lasting effects.