Brock University

Parenting, Schools and Educational Achievement

This session examines the role that families play in schooling outcomes. Topics include by are not limited to: parenting culture, the organization of family and non-school time (e.g., summer vacations) and competitive parenting strategies. Papers that draw from qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches are welcome.

Session Organizer: Janice Aurini, University of Waterloo,


Differentiating Levels of Parent Engagement: Symbolic and Learning Partnerships

Janice Aurini, University of Waterloo, , Emily Milne, University of Waterloo, , Cathlene Hillier, University of Waterloo,

Parent engagement initiatives are premised on the assumption that it promotes children’s emotional development and academic achievement. Yet, quantitative researchers have failed to consistently substantiate this relationship, often citing the varied ways it has been defined and measured. This paper asks: How do parents understand parent engagement? What actions do parents associate with these definitions, and how do these understandings inform parent engagement strategies adopted? Drawing on 118 interviews with 122 parents at two lower-income neighbourhood schools, we argue that definitional problems not only generate quantitative inconsistencies, but also qualitative differences in how parents understand “parent engagement”. While all parents in our sample see themselves as “vigilant”, our data finds that philosophies of parent engagement vary in three key ways: (1) Connections and Comfort Levels; (2) Roles and Responsibility; and (3) Agency and (Re)Activity. In conclusion, we articulate how understandings may inspire more “symbolic partnerships” versus “learning partnerships” that are more directly related to literacy and numeracy learning.


The Theory that Keeps on Going: Renewing and Integrating Theories of Cultural Capital

Scott Davies, Department of Sociology, McMaster University, , Jessica Rizk, Department of Sociology, McMaster University,

Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of Cultural Capital has a mixed record in sociology since it was conceived forty years ago. It has been a very influential explanation of educational inequality, having generated several fruitful branches of empirical research, but has also been faulted for being conceptually ambiguous, insensitive towards important empirical matters, and having spawned contradictory research streams. We aim to renew Cultural Capital Theory in two ways. First, we identify central premises that need to be adapted to important organizational and cultural changes that have emerged since Bourdieu originally conceived his ideas, including the ongoing expansion of higher education, new accommodations for students, and the intensifying of school choice, educator professionalism, and parenting cultures. Second, to integrate empirical research on cultural capital, we identify 3 promising streams - DiMaggio’s cultural resources, Lareau’s family routines and Collins’ ritual interactions – and argue that rather than being incompatible as often portrayed, each instead captures different elements of the emergence of educational inequalities. We review fruitful elaborations of each branch from the past decade, and suggest directions for future research.


Parents’ Choice: Education, Identity and Religion in French Ontario – The case of Orleans

Jean-François Nault, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto,

An overview of the literature published on Franco-Ontarian identity since the early 1970s reveals an almost exclusive definition of Franco-Ontarian identity in terms of language. The strong cultural tie which once linked French Canada to Catholicism seems, at first glance, to have faded from Franco-Ontarians' cultural reference. However, a closer look at the Franco-Ontarian schooling context reveals that today, eight of the twelve French language Ontario School Boards are still Catholic, and a vast majority of Franco-Ontarian parents continue to choose French language Catholic schools for their children. This paper presents the results of research completed in 2013 based on a series of semi-structured interviews conducted with Franco-Ontarian parents choosing a French language Catholic school for their children. I present a typology of French language Catholic school choice, which I argue contributes to the understanding of the Francophone and Catholic dimensions of school choice in Ontario while providing insight into the enduring yet uncertain place of Catholicism as a cultural religion which continues to play an important role in defining Franco-Ontarian identity. I also discuss the implications of these findings for the future of French language Catholic education in Ontario.


Parental Education, Gender and Children’s Education

Rania Tfaily, Carleton University,

This paper uses cohort analyses to examine how disparities in education changed over time. It specifically compares the impact of parental education on children’s education for different cohorts of school-aged boys and girls and across various grades. Human capital theory predicts that inequalities based on ascribed family traits would decrease over time. In contrast, reproduction theory argues that the education system perpetuates social inequalities and that family-based disparities in education are maintained. The empirical evidence has been mixed. This paper focuses on Egypt which has recently witnessed massive protests and social unrest that were driven at least in part by worsening social and economic conditions and increasing poverty. Using Demographic and Health Survey data from 2000, 2005 and 2008, this paper models schooling as a series of grade progressions and controls for family characteristics. The results show that children’s education is strongly determined by their parents’ educational level. Even when using conditional grade progression ratios, the strong effects of parental education persist across various cohorts and grades. While the wide disparities in education decreased over time for girls, they were generally maintained for boys. The paper discusses these findings and their social implications.


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