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Families and Parenting


(links to source documents are in the postings below)

1. Family Structure for Children Under Age 18 - Child Health USA
2. Fertility Rates by Race/Ethnicity and Age - Child Trends
3. Impact of Family Involvement on the Education of Children Ages 3 to 8 - MDRC
4. Compendium of Parenting Interventions - ACF, DHHS
5. Parent, Family, and Community Involvement in Education - NEA
6. Strengthening Families - Center for the Study of Social Policy 
7. Parental Depression - Child Trends
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Family Structure, Child Health USA 2014
In 2013, more than two-thirds of all U.S. children less than 18 years of age lived in households with two parents (includes biological, adopted, or stepparents), nearly a quarter lived in a mother-only household, and 4.1 percent lived in a father-only household (Figure 1). A small proportion of children (1.9 percent) lived with a grandparent. Between 2000 and 2013, the percentages of children under 18 years of age living in two-parent and single-parent households remained relatively stable.
Family Structure 2000 to 2013.PNG
Families children living with at least o
Fertility Rates Drop to New Low in 2016
Child Trends
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Fertility Rates over Time.JPG
Fertility Rates by Age.JPG
Fertility Rates by Race Ethnicity.JPG

This report summarizes the research conducted over the past 10 years on the effects of family involvement activities at home and at school on literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional skills for children ages 3 to 8.

In addition, it provides new information on the impact of family involvement on these skills specifically for preschool children, and it pays special attention to the practices necessary to help prepare parents and children for the transition from preschool to kindergarten. Finally, this report identifies the gaps in knowledge that future research should address, and it discusses how to use research findings to inform and improve practice.

The family involvement research on both literacy and math were divided into four categories to reflect how parents support their children’s learning in a variety of ways and in different settings (Epstein, 2011; Epstein et al., 2009):  

1. Learning activities at home. These studies focused specifically on the home activities that parents engage in to promote literacy, math, or both (or more general academic activities). These activities may also occur wherever children learn with their parents, such as in libraries, museums, and family resource centers.

2. Family involvement at school. These studies examined the actions and interactions that parents and other family members have while at the school building (for example, during an open house or parent-teacher conference, while participating in the classroom, or volunteering).

3. School outreach to engage families. These studies examined the strategies and practices that schools and teachers use to engage families and make them feel welcome. Special attention was paid to the processes that schools used to prepare preschool children and families for the move to kindergarten.

4. Supportive parenting activities. These studies examined activities that parents conduct to support their children’s development and well-being, including the nature and quality of the parent-child relationship; parenting activities, such as setting rules at home; and caring behaviors that characterize the home environment in general. This is in contrast to parents’ conducting specific literacy or math activities at home with their children.

Research Results Across the studies reviewed, we were able to draw two main conclusions.

  • First, the majority of studies — including some RCTs — demonstrate that family involvement is positively linked to children’s literacy and math skills in preschool, kindergarten, and the early elementary grades. A few studies also show increases in children’s social-emotional skills. The weakest link was between family involvement at school and children’s outcomes.

  • Second, the most rigorous studies that use random assignment show that parents from diverse backgrounds, when given direction, can become more engaged with their children on literacy and math activities — and that their children can increase their reading and math skills, on average, more so than children whose parents are operating without support or direction.

  • These studies demonstrate that family-focused intervention has small-to-moderate effects on children’s learning. Note, however, that the study designs varied and that only five studies demonstrating positive effects also employed the gold standard from which to draw causal conclusions: random assignment.


The interventions that were both sustained and targeted were the most effective. Interventions that lasted for longer periods of time and that were clearly defined in relation to outcomes that logically flow from a theory of change were associated with greater gains in achievement.

Family Involvement in Education of Ages
The Impact of Family Involvement on the
Education of Children Ages 3 to 8
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Compendium of Parenting Interventions

Depending on their focus, (the) parenting interventions (in this compendium) have been shown to bring about positive child outcomes including:

  • Increased social and emotional competence

  • Increased language and literacy

  • Increased cognitive development

  • Increased child attachment and/or relationship with parent

  • Decreased problem behaviors

This collection of parenting interventions is designed to help you choose evidence-based parenting interventions that are most likely to be effective with families of young children in the settings in which you work. We hope this resource will be helpful to you in your roles as:

  • Early care and education staff and directors

  • School principals

  • Educators and leaders of programs, schools, communities, and state initiatives

  • Parents

  • Other stakeholders in the well-being of young children and their families

All of the interventions included in this compendium have a central focus on parenting. As defined here, a parenting intervention is a structured set of activities for children’s primary adult caregivers that is intended to positively influence parenting behaviors and achieve positive outcomes for children.

These interventions are implemented over a specific time period and offer a standardized manual for staff delivering the intervention. They can be offered in early care and education settings (center- and home- based), schools, and other community-based settings, and engage parents in promoting their infants’ and young children’s development and learning.

Here, parents refers not only to biological, adoptive, and step-parents, but also to other primary caregivers, such as grandparents, other adult family members, and foster parents. We use the term parenting intervention to refer to interventions for many types of primary caregivers.

Compendium of Parenting Programs.PNG
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NEA Parent Involvement.PNG
NEA Parent Involvement 2.PNG
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Strengthening Families - Center for the Study of Social Policy
Protective and Promotive Factors
Strenthening Families CSSP.PNG

Strengthening Families as identified five "Protective and Promotive Factors"

1. Parental Resilience

2. Social Connections

3. Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

4. Concrete Supports in Times of Need

5. Social Competence of Children

1.  Parental resilience

Being a parent can be a very rewarding and joyful experience. But being a parent can also have its share of stress. Parenting stress is caused by the pressures (stressors) that are placed on parents personally and in relation to their child:

  • typical events and life changes (e.g., moving to a new city or not being able to soothe a crying baby)

  • unexpected events (e.g., losing a job or discovering your child has a medical problem)

  • individual factors (e.g., substance abuse or traumatic experiences)

  • social factors (e.g., relationship problems or feelings of loneliness and isolation)

  • community, societal or environmental conditions (e.g., persistent poverty, racism or a natural disaster)


2.  Social Connections

People need people. Parents need people who care about them and their children, who can be good listeners, who they can turn to for well-informed advice and who they can call on for help in solving problems. Thus, the availability and quality of social connections are important considerations in the lives of parents. Parents’ constructive and supportive social connections—that is, relationships with family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, community members and service providers— are valuable resources who provide:

  • emotional support (e.g., affirming parenting skills or being empathic and non- judgmental)

  • informational support (e.g., providing parenting guidance or recommending a pediatric dentist)

  • instrumental support (e.g., providing transportation, financial assistance or links to jobs)

  • spiritual support (e.g., providing hope and encouragement)


3.  Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development

No parent knows everything about children or is a “perfect parent.” An understanding of parenting strategies and child development helps parents understand what to expect and how to provide what children need during each developmental phase. All parents, and

those who work with children, can benefit from increasing their knowledge and understanding of child development, including:

  • physical, cognitive, language, social and emotional development

  • signs indicating a child may have a developmental delay and needs special help

  • cultural factors that influence parenting practices and the perception of children

  • factors that promote or inhibit healthy child outcomes

  • discipline and how to positively impact child behavior


4. Concrete Support in Times of Need

When parents seek help, it should be provided in a manner that does not increase stress.

Services should be coordinated, respectful, caring and strengths-based. Strengths-based practice is grounded in the beliefs that:

  • It is essential to forge a trusting relationship between parents and service providers and among service providers working with the same families

  • Regardless of the number or level of adverse conditions parents are experiencing, they have assets within and around them, their family and their community that can be called upon to help mitigate the impact of stressful conditions and to create needed change

  • Parents have unrealized resources and competencies that must be identified, mobilized and appreciated

  • Parents must be active participants in the change process and not passive recipients of services

  • Parents must first be guided through, and subsequently learn how to navigate, the complex web of health care and social service systems

  • In addition to addressing each parent’s individual difficulties, strengths-based practitioners must understand—and work to change—the structural inequities and conditions that contribute to these difficulties. 

5.  Social-Emotional Competence of Children: 

Early childhood is a period of both great opportunity and vulnerability. Early childhood experiences set the stage for later health, well- being and learning. In the past, most of the focus was on building young children’s academic skills in an effort to ensure they were prepared for school. However, in recent years a growing body of research has demonstrated the strong link between young children’s social-emotional competence and their cognitive development, language skills, mental health and school success. The dimensions of social-emotional competence in early childhood include:

  • self-esteem - good feelings about oneself

  • self-confidence - being open to new challenges and willing to explore new environments

  • self-efficacy - believing that one is capable of performing an action

  • self-regulation/self-control - following rules, controlling impulses, acting appropriately based on the context

  • personal agency - planning and carrying out purposeful actions

  • executive functioning - staying focused on a task and avoiding distractions

  • patience - learning to wait

  • persistence - willingness to try again when first attempts are not successful

  • conflict resolution - resolving disagreements in a peaceful way

  • communication skills - understanding and expressing a range of positive and negative emotions

  • empathy - understanding and responding to the emotions and rights of others

  • social skills - making friends and getting along with others

  • morality - learning a sense of right and wrong

Parental Depression












One study found that when mothers are successfully treated for depression, their children also are less likely to be diagnosed with or show symptoms of depression. The effects of maternal depression on child outcomes may also be moderated by higher levels of maternal sensitivity, suggesting that policies aimed at increasing parental sensitivity, in addition to those reducing parental depression, may be effective in improving child outcomes.

Another factor moderating the negative effects of maternal depression on child behavior may be enrollment in formal child care. A recent study found that as little as a half-day per week in formal child care at age two buffered the effects of recurrent maternal depression on children’s behavior problems at age five.

Parents living in households that are poor or receiving public assistance are more likely than others to report symptoms of depression. Among single parents in 2013, 15 percent living in households with incomes below the federal poverty line reported symptoms of depression, compared with eight percent of single parents at or above the poverty line. In the same year, 15 percent of single parents who had at least one family member eligible to receive SNAP benefits (food stamps) reported symptoms of depression, compared with six percent of other single parents. A similar pattern is found among parents living in two-parent families.

Parental Depression Child Trends.PNG
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