School engagement and the mother-child relationship [thesis]

Elizabeth Ann Brown Ackerson
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. Frederick Douglass iv Acknowledgements Thanks to Dr. Kathy Schuh, my mentor and advisor at the University of Iowa. She has always expected my best effort. She has been an inspiration to me throughout my Ph.D. program. I have deep respect for her as a teacher and a researcher. Dr. Walter Vispoel spent countless hours helping me work through both my writing and the statistical analysis for this thesis, and I appreciate his
more » ... ciate his consistently positive attitude and easy demeanor, as well as his expertise. I also acknowledge the rest of my incredible My love to my husband, Kris, and my son, James. They were cheerful and supportive as I spent time writing, reading, out in the field collecting data, and working with my peers and mentors at the university. Most recently, Kris allowed me to read my entire dissertation to him. It took 4 hours! James will most likely never remember all the time I spent reading and writing when he was little. My boys always come first to me. I acknowledge my raters, who are friends and colleagues, too -Michelle Rogers and Leslie Fitzpatrick. They were both so patient and articulate as we worked through the data in this project. I couldn't have completed this work, or my degree, without the two of them. I was fortunate to receive some edits and cheering from my Elizabeth Goldberg, who has been lovingly helping me with my writing for the last 25 years! My brother Dave was always a text or phone call away to provide emotional support as a fellow grad student and Beth supporter. Finally I thank my dearest friends and family-you know who you are, who always support me, respect me, and make every day of my life brighter. v Abstract In the present study, I examined how the quality of relatedness (operationalized as Mutually Responsive Orientation) in the mother-child relationship in kindergarten students affects the association between the mother's values about school and the child's emotional engagement in school. Relatedness, as described by Self-Determination Theory, posits when a child feels a sense of relatedness-supported, respected, and connected with another individual-the child will be more likely to integrate that person's values into their own belief system. Sixty-six mother-child dyads were observed and videotaped doing four everyday activities (mother worked while child played independently, mother and child had a snack, mother and child played a game, mother and child cleaned up). In addition, the mothers filled out a questionnaire reporting their own valuing of school, and children participated in the Berkeley Puppet Interview, a semi-structured interview between researcher and child in which children reported their levels of emotional engagement in school to two dog puppets. Data were coded and then analyzed using multiple regression analysis. Relatedness between mother and child was found to have a moderating effect on the relation between mothers' values about school and children's school engagement. The strongest relation between mothers' values and children's school engagement was found when mother-child relatedness was low. When mother-child relatedness was high, the engagement of the child was not affected by the mother's valuing of school. The study findings offer implications for how children experiencing high levels of relatedness with their mothers will be able to be more successful in the school setting, regardless of the mothers' valuing of their own school experiences. vi Public Abstract This study focused on how children's engagement in school might be affected by their mothers' values about school and the emotional qualities present in the mother-child relationship. Other research suggests that when a child feels connected, supported, and respected in a relationship, the child experiences a sense of relatedness, and will be more likely to embrace the values of the other person in the relationship and adopt those values as their own. In this study, 66 mother-child pairs were observed and videotaped doing four everyday activities (mother worked while child played independently, mother and child had a snack, mother and child played a game, mother and child cleaned up). In addition, the mothers filled out a questionnaire reporting their own valuing of school, and children participated in the Berkeley Puppet Interview, an interview between researcher and child in which children reported their engagement in school through talking with two dog puppets. Data were analyzed to look at relations among child engagement in school, the relatedness present in the mother-child relationship, and the mother's values about school. It was found that the connection between mother's values about school and the child's engagement in school depended on the amount of relatedness present in the mother-child relationship. When mother-child relatedness was low, the values of the mother were strongly associated with child engagement in school, with low relatedness and low valuing associated with the lowest observed levels of engagement. However, when mother-child relatedness was medium to high, the engagement of the child was not affected by the mother's valuing of school. Overall, these findings underscore the importance of mother-child relatedness in understanding children's engagement in school. vii
doi:10.17077/etd.v4vrija9 fatcat:kprrlp7dprg65hhx25anrux7a4