Technical Appendix


Parental engagement can be defined as the active participation or involvement of parents in their children’s development and learning. Activities include, amongst others, joint book reading, family literacy/numeracy programmes, and monitoring of the child while the child is involved on an activity. Some studies distinguish between involvement in activities in the early years setting and those which aim to engage parents in activities which will support their child’s learning at home.

Search Terms: parental involvement/engagement; family literacy programmes; father/mother involvement; parent support; joint book reading; family support programs

Evidence Rating

Although parental involvement is consistently associated with pupils’ success at school, the evidence about how to increase involvement to improve attainment is much less conclusive. There are nine meta-analyses, with four conducted in the last 10 years. However, there are few studies with robust designs allowing for causal inference. Most designs are either correlational or quasi-experimental. This is particularly the case for disadvantaged families where there are fewer studies and where the average impact appears to be lower. Though it is clear that parental engagement is valuable, much less is currently known about how to increase it so as to improve outcomes for children. On average, the impact of parental involvement programmes is considered to be moderate.

Additional Cost Information

The costs between approaches vary considerably. The cost of a specialist community or home/school liaison teacher is about £35,000, or over 100 Early Years Pupil Premium allocations. Costs per pupil are overall estimated as moderate.


Bus, A. G., Van Ijzendoorn, M. H., & Pellegrini, A. D (Abstract arrow_downward)
Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: A meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy open_in_new
Review of educational research, 65(1), 1-21
Grindal, T., Bowne, J.B., Yoshikawa, H., Schindler, H.S., Duncan, G.J., Magnuson, K. & Shonkoff, J.P (Abstract arrow_downward)
The added impact of parenting education in early childhood education programs: A meta-analysis open_in_new
Children and Youth Services Review
Lam, S. F., Chow-Yeung, K., Wong, B. P., Lau, K. K., & Tse, S. I
Involving parents in paired reading with pre-schoolers: Results from a randomized controlled trial open_in_new
Contemporary Educational Psychology, 38(2), 126-135
Lewis, R. J., & Vosburgh, W. T (Abstract arrow_downward)
Effectiveness of Kindergarten Intervention Programs A Meta-Analysis open_in_new
School Psychology International, 9(4), 265-275
Sheridan, S. M., Knoche, L. L., Kupzyk, K. A., Edwards, C. P., & Marvin, C. A
A randomized trial examining the effects of parent engagement on early language and literacy: The Getting Ready intervention open_in_new
Journal of school psychology, 49(3), 361-383
Van Steensel, R., McElvany, N., Kurvers, J., & Herppich, S (Abstract arrow_downward)
How effective are family literacy programs? Results of a meta-analysis open_in_new
Review of Educational Research, 81(1), 69-96

Summary of effects

Meta-analyses Effect size FSM effect size
Bus, A. G., Van Ijzendoorn, M. H., & Pellegrini, A. D, (1995)
0.59 0.47
Comfort, C. B, (2003)
0.46 - Cognitive/language
0.52 - Follow-up
Grindal, T., Bowne, J.B., Yoshikawa, H., Schindler, H.S., Duncan, G.J., Magnuson, K. & Shonkoff, J.P, (2016)
0.20 0.20 Cognitive Outcomes
0.26 0.26 Pre-academic skills
Jeynes, W, (2012)
0.30 - Academic achievement
Layzer, J. I., Goodson, B. D., Bernstein, L., & Price, C, (2001)
0.27 0.17 Across age
0.37 - Pre-school
Lewis, R. J., & Vosburgh, W. T, (1988)
0.43 - Test scores
Manning, M., Homel, R., & Smith, C, (2010)
0.31 - All outcomes
0.34 - Cognitive development
Manz, P. H., Hughes, C., Barnabas, E., Bracaliello, C., & Ginsburg-Block, M, (2010)
0.33 0.14 Literacy
Van Steensel, R., McElvany, N., Kurvers, J., & Herppich, S, (2011)
0.19 - Literacy pre-formal education
Single Studies Effect size FSM effect size
Evangelou, M., Brooks, G., & Smith, S (2007)
0.48 - Vocabulary (between ages 2&5)
0.28 - Early numeracy skills (between ages 2&5)
0.59 - Verbal comprehension (between ages 3&4)
0.01 - Vocabulary (between ages 3&4)
0.11 - Early numeracy skills (between ages 3&4)
0.09 - Vocabulary (between ages 3&5)
0.43 - Early numeracy skills (between ages 3&5)
0.22 - Vocabulary (between ages 4&5)
0.34 - Emergent writing skills (between ages 4&5)
0.20 - Early numeracy skills (between ages 4&5)
Lam, S. F., Chow-Yeung, K., Wong, B. P., Lau, K. K., & Tse, S. I (2013)
0.54 - Word recognition (experimental)
0.32 - Word recognition (control)
0.49 - Reading fluency (experimental)
0.40 - Reading fluency (control)
Sheridan, S. M., Knoche, L. L., Kupzyk, K. A., Edwards, C. P., & Marvin, C. A (2011)
1.11 - Language
1.25 - Reading
0.93 - Writing
Effect size (median) 0.33  

The right hand column provides detail on the specific outcome measures or, if in brackets, details of the intervention or control group.

Meta-analyses abstracts

Bus, A. G., Van Ijzendoorn, M. H., & Pellegrini, A. D (1995)

The current review is a quantitative meta-analysis of the available empirical evidence related to parent-pre-schooler reading and several outcome measures. In selecting the studies to be included in this meta-analysis, we focused on studies examining the frequency of book reading to pre-schoolers. The results support the hypothesis that parent-pre-schooler reading is related to outcome measures such as language growth, emergent literacy, and reading achievement. The overall effect size of d= .59 indicates that book reading explains about 8% of the variance in the outcome measures. The results support the hypothesis that book reading, in particular, affects acquisition of the written language register. The effect of parent-pre-schooler reading is not dependent on the socioeconomic status of the families or on several methodological differences between the studies. However, the effect seems to become smaller as soon as children become conventional readers and are able to read on their own.

Comfort, C. B (2003)

Parent training has been frequently touted as a measure to reduce such problems as aggression, and child abuse and neglect, as well as to enhance developmental outcomes for all children, not just those at risk for future problems or those with identified problems. The preschool years have been targeted as an opportune juncture at which to train parents insofar as parents still wield much influence and problems may be resolved before becoming entrenched. However, despite the availability of a large number of parent training studies, few conclusions have been reached regarding the basic question, "What works for whom, when?" This meta-analysis evaluated the effectiveness of parent training for children between the ages two and five as a means to enhance child outcomes and examined variables related to the differential impact of parent training. 140 effects (106 controlled, 34 single group) from 94 studies were compiled. The overall mean effect of parent training (effect size = 0.51) was positive and highly significant. Effects were maintained at approximately one year (12.6 months on average) follow up (effect size = 0.52). Greater effects were found for stand-alone PT programs and for programs with very low levels of attrition. When outcomes were limited to parent reports of child externalizing behaviour, better effects were found for: (1) referred, as opposed to community samples, (2) individual, as opposed to group formatted programs, and, (3)children identified with externalizing behaviour problems as opposed to children with no identified problem. Mixed findings emerged when type of sample was considered, such that indicated samples obtained better out comes than selective samples on parent reports of externalizing behaviour but significantly worse outcomes on cognitive/language measures. When the theoretical orientation of programs was considered, there was no evidence of differential effectiveness. Various instructional techniques used in parent training were not differentially effective, with the exception of some evidence of enhanced effect when a"bug-in-the-ear" device was used. This meta-analysis strengthens conclusions in the current literature, and extends our understanding of theoretically and/or clinically relevant variables associated with effective parent training.

Grindal, T., Bowne, J.B., Yoshikawa, H., Schindler, H.S., Duncan, G.J., Magnuson, K. & Shonkoff, J.P (2016)

Many early childhood education (ECE) programs seek to enhance parents' capacities to support their children's development. Using a meta-analytic database of 46 studies of ECE programs that served children age three to five-years-old, we examine the benefits to children's cognitive and pre-academic skills of adding parenting education to ECE programs for children and consider the differential impacts of: 1) parenting education programs of any type; 2) parenting education programs that provided parents with modeling of or opportunities to practice stimulating behaviors and 3) parenting education programs that were delivered through intensive home visiting. The results of the study call into question some general longstanding assertions regarding the benefits of including parenting education in early childhood programs. We find no differences in program impacts between ECE programs that did and did not provide some form of parenting education. We find some suggestive evidence that among ECE programs that provided parenting education, those that provided parents with opportunities to practice parenting skills were associated with greater short-term impacts on children's pre-academic skills. Among ECE programs that provided parenting education, those that did so through one or more home visits a month yielded effect sizes for cognitive outcomes that were significantly larger than programs that provided lower dosages of home visits.

Jeynes, W (2012)

This meta-analysis of 51 studies examines the relationship between various kinds of parental involvement programs and the academic achievement of pre-kindergarten-12th-grade school children. Analyses determined the effect sizes for various parental involvement programs overall and subcategories of involvement. Results indicate a significant relationship between parental involvement programs overall and academic achievement, both for younger (pre-elementary and elementary school) and older (secondary school) students as well as for four types of parental involvement programs. Parental involvement programs, as a whole, were associated with higher academic achievement by .3 of a standard deviation unit. The significance of these results is discussed.

Layzer, J. I., Goodson, B. D., Bernstein, L., & Price, C (2001)

This volume is part of the final report of theNational Evaluation of Family Support Programs and details findings from a meta-analysis of extant research on programs providing family support services. Chapter A1 of this volume provides a rationale for using meta-analysis. Chapter A2 describes the steps of preparation for the meta-analysis. Chapter A3 describes the 260 programs or interventions represented in the meta-analysis examines their representativeness by comparing them with 167 family support programs that were not evaluated, describes characteristics of the studies included in the analysis, and compares them with excluded studies. Chapter A4 describes the analytic approach to answering the central research questions regarding the impact of family support services on selected child and adult outcomes and the program or treatment characteristics related to impacts. Chapter A5 details the findings of the meta-analysis. The analysis revealed that programs providing family support services had small but statistically significant average short-term effects on child cognitive development and school performance, child social and emotional development, child health, child safety, parent attitudes and knowledge, parenting behavior, family functioning, parental mental health and health risk behaviors, and economic well-being. Associated with stronger child outcomes were programs that targeted special needs children. Associated with less strong child outcomes were programs that used home visiting as their primary method of working with parents. Programs with the largest parent effects focused on developing parents' skills as effective adults: self-confidence, self-empowerment, family management, and parenting.

Lewis, R. J., & Vosburgh, W. T (1988)

Psychologists and educators continue to design and implement kindergarten intervention programs unsubstantiated by previous research. The present study used meta-analysis procedures to examine the effects of kindergarten intervention programs on variables related to school success. The meta-analysis was performed on 444 effect sizes derived from 65 previous studies involving 3194 kindergarten children. The mean effect size of 0.434 indicated that test scores obtained by the treatment groups were raised from the 50th to the 67th percentile in relation to the control groups. Strong to moderate positive effects were demonstrated on all measured variables related to school success. As predicted, the effect sizes from highly structured approaches(M-0.517) were larger than those from the less structured programs(M =0.298; t = 4.671, d.f. = 386, p < 0.001). In general, there was no significant difference found between various levels of parent involvement (F = 0.244, d.f. = 2,385, p > 0.05). However, when only the long-term effects were compared, a significant difference was found between the programs with active parent involvement(M =0.521) and those without(M =0.362; t 2.067, d.f. = 134, p < 0.05). Strong effects were found in studies based on behavioral (M 0.523), psychoeducational (M-0.497), and stage referenced(M =0.355) theories. The lack of research to support kindergarten programs based on maturational theories was discussed.

The positive results of this meta-analysis should encourage program planners and policy-makers to support the widespread implementation of structured early intervention and prevention programs at the kindergarten level.

Manning, M., Homel, R., & Smith, C (2010)

We present the results of a meta-analytic review of early developmental prevention programs (children aged 0–5: structured preschool programs, center-based developmental day care, home visitation, family support services and parental education) delivered to at-risk populations on non-health outcomes during adolescence (educational success, cognitive development, social–emotional development, deviance, social participation, involvement in criminal justice, and family well-being). This review improves on previous meta-analyses because it includes a more comprehensive set of adolescent outcomes, it focuses on measures that are psychometrically valid, and it includes a more detailed analysis of program moderator effects. Seventeen studies, based on eleven interventions (all US-based) met the ten criteria for inclusion into the analysis. The mean effect size across all programs and outcomes was 0.313, equivalent to a 62% higher mean score for an intervention group than for a control group. The largest effect was for educational success during adolescence (effect size 0.53) followed by social deviance (0.48), social participation (0.37), cognitive development (0.34), involvement in criminal justice (0.24), family well-being (0.18), and social–emotional development (0.16). Programs that lasted longer than three years were associated with larger sample means than programs that were longer than one year but shorter than three years. More intense programs (those with more than 500 sessions per participant) also had larger means than less intense programs. There was a marginally significant trend for programs with a follow-through component into the early primary school years (e.g. preschool to Grade 3) to have more positive effects than programs without a follow-through. We conclude that the impact of well-conducted early development programs on quality of life in adolescence can be substantial for social policy purposes.

Manz, P. H., Hughes, C., Barnabas, E., Bracaliello, C., & Ginsburg-Block, M (2010)

The acquisition of emergent literacy for young children who are ethnic-minority, low-income or non-English speaking is threatened by myriad social risks. Given the need for empirically-supported interventions for these groups, a comprehensive literature review was undertaken, involving both a descriptive review and a meta-analysis. The 31 selected published articles each satisfied criteria for being an intervention study involving caregivers in its delivery to children between the ages of two to six years. A meta-analysis was conducted using a subset of 14 studies that utilized an experimental or quasi-experimental design. This two-pronged review demonstrated significant limitations in the generalizability of this literature to these important groups of children. Future directions for advancing intervention development are presented.

Van Steensel, R., McElvany, N., Kurvers, J., & Herppich, S (2011)

This meta-analysis examines the effects of family literacy programs on children’s literacy development. It analyzes the results of 30 recent effect studies (1990–2010); covering 47 samples, and distinguishes between effects in two domains: comprehension-related skills and code-related skills. A small but significant mean effect emerged (d = 0.18). There was only a minor difference between comprehension- and code-related effect measures (d = 0.22 vs. d =0.17). Moderator analyses revealed no statistically significant effects of the program, sample, and study characteristics inferred from the reviewed publications. The results highlight the need for further research into how programs are carried out by parents and children, how program activities are incorporated into existing family literacy practices, and how program contents are transferred to parents.