Date Approved

2006

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Committee Member

C.M. Achilles, EdD, Chair

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy, PhD

Committee Member

Robert Cross, PhD

Abstract

The researcher studied the cultural trends of a group of at-risk mothers who reside within Kent County, the majority of whom live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The null hypothesis states: Environmental and cultural beliefs do not affect generational parenting beliefs or risk factors within the Kent County and Grand Rapids area. Cultural factors and four areas of the mothers’ lives were studied: (a) number of parents within the household, (b) parental levels of education, (c) socioeconomic status, and (d) occurrence ratio of low birth weight.

Mothers (n=37) responded to questionnaires; 24 were interviewed in person; 13 completed questionnaire forms on their own. Data were also obtained from intake forms completed when the mothers entered the program between late 2002 and early 2003. Questionnaire responses were analyzed and generational comparisons were made. Responses to questions and to interviews were compared to determine how the mothers were raised and how they are currently raising their own children. The four at-risk themes addressed by the questionnaire and in-take forms were generational and similar for the mothers and their children.

Two key findings include a) the mothers involved in the study felt they were parenting differently than their parents had parented them but by all observation and questionnaire answers they were not, and b) the mothers involved in the study reported that education was important to them and for their children’s future, but by all observation and interview discussion it did not appear that their actions were trying to support an increase in their child’s chances for school success. This is important information for educators because it suggests that even with early intervention programming, parents may feel that they are readying their children for future school success when in reality they are not. Therefore, early intervention program coordinators may need to change strategies in order to teach parents how to promote education to their young children so that they can arrive at school ready to learn. Also, this information lets educators know that even though a family may have participated in an early intervention program, the children may still not be ready for school. This study emphasizes how important it is for educators to learn about at-risk factors and intervene, as risk factors can diminish a child’s chances for school success by a large margin. If a national goal is for all children entering kindergarten be ready to learn at a kindergarten level, then understanding the high risk population’s pre-entrance educational resources from conception until entrance to school is essential.

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