Methods: Participants included two cohorts of four-year-old children (total N = 200, 55 % girls; 20 % Hispanic, 25 % African-American, 55 % European American) and their primary caregivers, randomly assigned to receive the REDI parent intervention or mail-home math games. Intervention included 16 home visits. Parents were provided with home learning materials and taught general parenting strategies to support growth in child language/literacy and social-emotional skills.
Results: Considerable variation emerged in two aspects of parent engagement in the intervention: 1) parent use of home learning materials, and 2) parent openness to and understanding of the parenting skills targeted in intervention. Use of home learning materials was predicted primarily by child baseline social-emotional skills and (inversely) by parent depressive symptoms. Use of home learning materials predicted post-intervention gains in both parenting skills and child skills. Interestingly, however, parent openness to and understanding of the parenting skills was a stronger predictor of sustained parent and child outcomes when assessed 3-4 years following intervention. In addition, initial intervention-related gains in child social-emotional competencies (controlling for baseline levels) predicted later improvements in parent-child relationships.
Conclusions: Parent engagement is multifaceted; in this study, one type of engagement (use of home learning materials) predicted immediate child outcomes but another type of engagement (openness to and understanding of parenting strategies) predicted later child outcomes. The finding that child social-emotional competencies (at pre-intervention assessments) played a key role in predicting parent engagement and later improvements suggests that child skills deserve further attention as predictors of parent engagement and factors influencing parent response to intervention in the context of preschool programs designed to enhance parent engagement in child learning. In addition, a longitudinal framework appears critical to understanding predictors and outcomes associated with parent engagement over time.