Selena R. Emond, Ph.D. (December 2008)
(Mentor: Linda Baker)
With increasing frequency, parents are deciding to hold their child out of kindergarten for an additional year. This is referred to as delayed entry or academic redshirting. Factors underlying decisions to delay entry range from child age, gender, and athletic potential to social and emotional development. Since there are no clear definitions of exactly what it means to be school ready, parents are often persuaded by their community and the message being sent from their elementary schools. This can lead to increased rates of delayed entry. Despite research showing no advantages for children who are delayed for an extra year of development, parents are not being informed of the findings.
Parent education programs can be effective at reducing stress, improving perceptions of problem behaviors, and increasing knowledge of parenting skills. Of interest in the present study was whether a parent education program on school readiness would have an impact on a parent’s likelihood to delay entry into kindergarten. The study examined how a school readiness plus behavior parent training program, compared to behavior training alone, affected parents’ perceptions about their child's school readiness, their personal ability to help their child succeed in school, and the likelihood they would delay their child's entry into kindergarten.
Sixty parents from an upper-middle class suburban area, with preschool-aged children, were randomly assigned to the school readiness plus behavior training group or the behavior training only comparison group. Both groups received at least some behavior training, but only the school readiness group received training based on The Incredible Years Parenting Program. Parents were assessed before and after 4 weeks of training. Assessments included the Parent Efficacy to Help My Child Succeed in School Scale and a Parent Questionnaire designed specifically to measure the school readiness and behavior skills taught to the training groups, the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory and the Parenting Stress Index.
The School Readiness group improved on skills taught specifically to their group, whereas the behavior only group did not, validating the differences in training content. Both training programs were effective in significantly reducing parent stress, raising parental efficacy, and improving parent perceptions of their child's behaviors.
The finding of particular interest was that the participants in the school readiness group who were initially inclined to delay their child’s school entry significantly decreased their likelihood to delay after training. Further exploration revealed that these findings were not related to demographics, such as gender, age, or parent education. The results of the study suggest that parent education programs can significantly improve parent efficacy, reduce parenting stress, and increase parent beliefs that their child is ready for school.