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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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About Family Involvement Research Digests

Harvard Family Research Project's (HFRP) Family Involvement Research Digests summarize research written and published by non-HFRP authors and/or written by HFRP authors but published by organizations other than HFRP.  To access the full research publication summarized in this digest, please see the citation below. For help citing this article, click here.


This report summarizes the most dependable evidence on the effect of parental involvement intervention programs for improving the academic performance of elementary school-age children. The authors show that parent involvement has a positive and significant effect on children's overall academic performance.¹

Research Background

Parent involvement programs have been assumed to be important contributors to elementary school children's educational success. These programs include direct parent involvement outside school hours, parent volunteer programs in the classroom, parent attendance, and participation in nonacademic activities (e.g., PTO, fund raising, etc.). For many years, researchers, educators, parent groups, and policymakers have debated whether or not parent involvement has a beneficial effect on the academic achievement of children.

Research Objective

The purpose of this review was to summarize the most dependable evidence on the effect of parental involvement for improving the academic performance of elementary school-age children in grades K–6. The most dependable evidence was defined as studies that include at least two groups and use random assignment to form a fair comparison between groups.

Search Strategy

We began with a search of 27 electronic databases in the United States, Canada, Britain, and China including Campbell Collaboration SPECTR, Cochrane Central Trials Register, and all the major behavioral and educational databases (e.g., ERIC, PsychInfo, Dissertation Abstracts). Experts in the field were contacted for relevant citations. A total of 800 potentially relevant citations were identified.

Selection Criteria

Studies selected for review included those in which parents were actively engaged in academic support activities with their child (grades K–6) outside of school (e.g., reading activities or completing supplemental math problems with the child) for a minimum of 20 days. Measured outcomes included academic performance in reading, mathematics, spelling, writing, language arts, or science.

In all included studies, participants were assigned to an experimental and control (or comparison) group prior to intervention to create a fair comparison on measured outcomes. A control group was defined as a nonintervention condition, whereas a comparison group was defined as an alternative intervention condition. Studies that utilized other types of research designs such as a quasi-experimental, single group, single subject, or qualitative approaches to the study of parent involvement were excluded from the review.

Data Collection and Analysis

We reported on 19 studies that met the selection criteria. Effect sizes were computed for each study and statistically summarized using a random effects model to assess the impact of parent involvement on academic outcomes.

Research Findings

This review found that parent involvement had a positive and significant effect on children's overall academic performance. The effect was educationally meaningful and large enough to have practical implications for parents, family involvement practitioners, and policymakers. When parents participated in academic enrichment activities with their children outside of school for an average of less than 12 weeks, children demonstrated an equivalent of 4 to 5 months improvement in reading or math performance.

Authors' Conclusions

Evidence from this review supports the following recommendations:

  1. Involve parents in academic-related activities outside of school to improve academic performance of children in school.
  2. Use parent involvement as an effective supplementary intervention to improve academic performance in school.
  3. Implement the parent involvement component of the No Child Left Behind mandate.

¹ Summarized from Nye, C., Turner, H. M., & Schwartz, J. B. (2006). Approaches to parental involvement for improving the academic performance of elementary school children in grades K–6. London: The Campbell Collaboration. Available online at

Chad Nye
UCF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities
12001 Science Drive, Suite 145
Orlando, FL 38286

Herbert Turner, Ph.D.
Scientific Research Project Director
The Campbell Collaboration at Penn
3701 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Tel: 215-794-9849

Jamie Schwartz, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Communicative Disorders

Free. Available online only.

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project