Literature Review

Haley Schultz

SOCL 345

Literature Review of Parental Engagement and Trauma Informed Theory

Parental engagement and involvement is a necessity to a child’s development because of its impact on future morals, decision making, and perceptions of the world. A child’s schooling can help them progress academically and socially; however, the importance of parental involvement in the child’s learning can affect the outcome of what type of person they become. Parents who are involved and take an active role in a child’s life have a better relationship with their children. Parental engagement facilitates a safe space that is open for communication and a structured learning environment that teaches the importance of self actualization. 

The conceptual definition of parental involvement and engagement focuses on a parents ability to take part in activities and finding ways to be apart of the child’s life. A journal article written by Kotila, Shoppe-Sullivan, and Kamp Dush (as cited in Lang, et al, 2014), states that parental involvement is “the amount of “quality” time parents spend directly interacting with their young children in engagement (play) and caregiving activities” (Kotila, Shoppe-Sullivan & Kamp Dush, 2016). The time spent with the child can drastically change their actions and is “crucial for child development” (Kotila, et al, 2016). This definition targets exactly how to be involved in their child’s life. It describes how the interaction can be through playing and participating in activities. In this journal Kotila describes parental engagement activities as “intellectually and emotionally stimulating and involve positive affect and responsiveness from parents” (Kotila et al, 2016). Another example of a conceptual definition of parental engagement and involvement, mentioned in Walsh, Cromer and Weigel (as cited in LaRocque, 2011), is the “parents or caregivers investment in the education of their children” (Walsh, Cromer & Weigel, 2014). The time a parents spends with their child will further mold the child’s development. 

The importance of parental involvement and engagement and its long term effects on a child are vital for a child to reach self actualization. Parents cannot fully rely on a school system to be the only level of support and the foundational aspects of a child’s growth and development. It is a parents job to create and open line of communication and a home learning environment. The environment at home is suppose to teach skills in a creative way that helps children form a sense of individualism and self proficiency. These skills have to be established in order for further development. An educational review by Goodall and Montgomery, makes the argument that parents need to move away from just having involvement with the school and to make a greater effort to have more involvement with their children. The review expresses that the commitment to engage with their child should be much greater than their involvement with their child’s school (Goodall & Montgomery, 2014). Parents should still have a good relationship and an amount of involvement with their child’s school, but not solely survive on the schools engagement with the child. Also, having a good relationship with the school helps the parental involvement at home. The insight to what their child is learning at school can help the parents better coincide some of their activities at home with the activities and learning goals that they are currently being taught in the classroom. 

Having parental involvement with children under five years old is vital because of its long term effects on a child’s development. Stacer and Perrucci (2012) introduce (as cited in Coleman, 1988 and Lareau, 2003) that “time spent with children can have positive instrumental and emotional benefits and may provide access to social and cultural capital that provides advantages in social and intellectual development” (Stacer & Perrucci, 2012). When a child has a deep-seated relationship with their parents it leads to gaining good communication skills, academic skills, social skills and skills to better express emotions. The long term effects of parental engagement and involvement are attributed to academic success and a stronger family unit (Stacer & Perrucci, 2012). Parental involvement with children under the age of five years old can benefit them later on in life because they know they have support of their parents and a good developmental foundation to build off of. Children will acknowledge that they are important in their parents lives. Stacer And Perrucci (2012) includes this in their explanation of importance of parental engagement and involvement in the home. Stacer (2012) states (as cited in Benson and Mokhtari 2011; DiMaggio 1982), that “parent activities with children at home reading or playing games can strengthen parent-child emotional bonds, expand parental influence, and strengthen achievement skills” (Stacer & Perrucci, 2012). Parental involvement will help a child be able to acquire effectiveness of controlling emotions, having academic successes and generating a a good moral compass in the long term. 

Trauma Theory

Trauma deeply impacts those who experience it. Trauma theory is an explanation of how trauma can infiltrate a person’s life on a daily basis. The researchers Rice and Grooves (2005) indicated that trauma is the response in relation to the event, not the event itself. The event ends; however, the trauma stays with that person. In trauma theory one must be able to break down why certain behaviors and symptoms arise in victims of abuse. The behaviors and symptoms are adaptive measures that the victims now use as a necessary response when encountering triggers of the abuse (Kemp, 2017). These responses are means of coping with the trauma that they have endured. 

Bloom (1999) categorizes the body’s stress responses as flight, fight or freeze responses. Flight, fight, or freeze responses happen when the person feels threatened or encounters a trigger. The body’s organs facilitate these responses in order to protect the person. When a person experiences traumatic events for an extended period of time their stress response may be continuously activated. In Burke and Ghayour (2018) there is a analogy that explains what the stress response is of a person or child who has gone through adverse childhood experiences. The researchers compare the stress response to having a bear living in your house. The person’s body never shuts off its fear response, because they are in a constant state of fear and panic. 

These trauma induced responses adapt as time goes on. Briere (1992) categorizes these adaptations in three stages. The first stage is the abuse survivors initial reactions to the traumatic event. Reactions are severe in this stage because they are in a crisis that is non normative and they usually do not have the right parental support needed in order to deal with the event. The second stage is accommodation. During this stage the survivor resorts to any behavior that helps them cope. The third stage is long term elaboration and secondary accommodation. Biere (1992) suggests that is when the survivor combines the coping strategies and behaviors with their trauma. As the survivor processes the traumatic event there is a change in how they cope as time goes on to better suit what they are experiencing. Briere (1992) describes these individualized ways of coping as the survivors “functional attempts to cope”. The strategies the survivors use are their best attempt to function as they normally would. 


Trauma Informed Care

Developing programs that adequately recognize trauma is essential when working with the affected population. Children who have either witnessed our endured abuse need a trauma informed environment to help promote healthy ways of coping. One way to promote these healthy coping strategies is “positive [and] developmentally oriented programs that serve as a point of contact between” the child and their support system (Kemp, 2017). Kemp (2017) mentions that “children benefit from programs that promote positive and responsible parent-child relationships”. To develop programs and activities for children, that experience adverse childhood experiences, one must use guiding principles of trauma informed care. Cole et al 2013 developed a set of guiding principles for those working with populations who experiences trauma. The principles of trauma informed care encompass safety, trustworthiness, encouragement/empowerment, collaboration, choice, and respect of cultural, historical, and gender issues. The facilitator must be able to “recognize the prevalence and the effects of trauma” in order to adapt their environment using the guiding principles of trauma informed care (Cole. et al, 2013). Using these principles when developing programs help promote an environment that is well versed to accommodate those with trauma.

ACE Study 

Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) are non normative experiences that can happen in a child’s life. Some examples being, physical or sexual abuse, parental separation, witness to mother being treated violently, and emotional and/or physical neglect. Adverse experiences can dramatically affect a child and their future risk for health and social problems. The ACE study was performed to gather data to see if there was a graded dose-response relationship (positive correlation) between adverse childhood experiences and the risk for health and social problems. The researchers in the ACE study studied 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members by using surveys to detect ACE’s and their current state of health. The researchers found that there was a positive correlation between between ACEs and future health and well being. 


SSNREs stands for safe stable, and nurturing relationships and environments. SSNREs are vital to a child because they promote healthy growth and development. A parent child relationship needs to be developed in order for the child to flourish in their environment. Without SSNREs, the child could experience impacts on their health and development. SSNREs impacts are similar to how ACEs have an effect on future life problems with health pertaining to development (social, emotional, and cognitive) that can lead to disease, disability, and/or early death.  

Developing activities that are trauma informed and promote parent child involvement will form safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments. Providing parents with fun and engaging activities with their child will build back the relationship between the parent and child. The activities are made to encourage the parents to dedicate time with their child to participate in something fun they do together. 

Emotion Regulation

Children who experience trauma may have a hard time regulating their emotions because they have to quickly adapt to the aftermath of the traumatic event. The child could express different types of maladaptive emotions. Some examples of maladaptive emotions are “avoidance, negative emotions, anxiety, self-destructive behaviors, maladaptive cognitions, behavioral difficulties, emotional suppression, and/or erratic emotional responses” (Rudenstine, Espinosa, McGee, & Routhier (2018). These all stem from the child trying to cope and compartmentalize the stress caused by their trauma. Children who experience trauma live their day to day lives being hypervigilant. They constantly feel as though there is an immediate threat. Being hypervigilant and stressed for an extended amount of time increases cortisol levels, which is a factor in why it is difficult for them to regulate their emotions. 

Activities that encompass parent child involvement and “foster an acceptance of emotions will likely improve psychological well-being” (Rudenstine, Espinosa, McGee, & Routhier 2018). Since the children at Madeline’s House have experienced trauma, they may have trouble regulating their emotions. Things such as screaming, tantrums, and hitting may be common because of the situation they are in. Negative emotions and behaviors can be exacerbated because of things they see their parent(s) doing. This causes the child to model or project what they see because those behaviors and emotions are demonstrated by their parent(s). The activities provided are meant to create an environment to redirect the negative emotions the child is feeling. The activities are not designed to cause frustration that may in turn cause negative emotions. Every activity is meant to encourage the parent and child to de-stress and spend time together, where the child is the main focus. 

Setting the Tone of the Activities using Guiding Principles of Trauma Informed Care

These activities are designed to encompass the guiding principles of trauma informed practice and care mentioned in Cole, Eisher, Gregory and Ristuccia (2013). Starting with safety, the activities are structured so the parent can take breaks during the activities to talk and have check-ins with the child. The parent can guide a conversation to regain insight into the child’s life and try to focus on their relationship. 

For a smooth transition during the activity there are clear and concise instructions and all the materials that are needed. By making sure everything is prepared prior I wanted to make sure there was no confusion or frustration that could disrupt the child’s emotional regulation. Making sure there is trustworthiness in the activities is the main focus to avoid any impediments that may arise. 

Next, I want the activities to provide encouragement and empowerment for the child. To do this I am providing the parent with a brief statement to “practice the power of yet” in each set of instructions (Cole, Eisher, Gregory and Ristuccia 2013). This way if the child is having trouble with the activity the parent would change negative or doubt thoughts into encouraging and positive ideations. By using productive wording it will keep the positivity consistent throughout the activity.

To capture the aspect of the collaboration and choice guiding principle, I have alternative activities for each age group. There is a high possibility that the activity is not something the child would enjoy. To counteract that problem, I have options for the child to choose from. This also applies to the parents because their child might be at a different skill level than the activity that they were provided with. This way the parent can participate in the activities that will produce the best outcome for them and their child. 

Lastly, making sure that the activities I am providing are best suited for the people in which I am working with. The activities are developed with the understanding and respect for cultural, historical, and gender issues. The activities are meant to be fun and are not meant to disrespect or offend any of the participants. 


Works Cited

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). (n.d.). Retrieved from

Benson, L., & Mokhtari, M. (2011). Parental employment, shared parent-child activities and childhood obesity. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 32, 233-244. Doi: 10.1007/s10834-011-9249-0

Burke, D. L., Ghaour, R. M. (2018). Trauma informed educational practices in higher education. NCFR.

(n.d.). Retrieved from

Coleman, J. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94, S95-S120. Doi: 10.1086/228943

DiMaggio, P. J. (1982). Cultural capital and school success: The impact of status culture participation on grades of U.S. highschool students. American Sociological Review, 47, 189-201. Doi: 10.2307/2094962

Goodall, J., & Montgomery, C. (2014). Parental Involvement to Parental Engagement: a continuum. Educational Review, 66, 399-410.

Kemp, A. R. (2017) Abuse in Society An Introduction. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc. 

Kotila, L. E., Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J., & Kamp Dush, C. M. (2016). New Parents’ Psychological Adjustment and Trajectories of Early Parental Involvement. Journal of Marriage and Family. 78, 197-211. DOI:10.1111/jomf.12263

Lang, S., Shoppe-Sullivan, S., Kotila, L., Feng, X., Kamp Dush, C., & Johnson, S. (2014). Relations between fathers’ and mothers’ infant engagement patterns in dual-earner families and toddler com-petence. Journal of Family Issues, 35, 1107–1127. doi:10.1177/0192513X14522243

Lareau, A. (2003). Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

LaRocque, M., Kleiman, I., & Darling, S. M. (2011). Parental Involvement: The missing link in school achievement. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 55, 115-122. Doi 10.1080/10459880903472876

Masten, A. S. (2011). Resilience in children threatened by extreme adversity: Frameworks for research, practice, and translational synergy. Development and Psychopathology, 23(02), 493-506. doi:10.1017/s0954579411000198

Rudenstine, S., Espinosa, A., McGee, A. B., & Routhier, E. (2018). Adverse childhood events, adult distress, and the role of emotion regulation. Traumatology. Advance online publication.

Stacer, M. J., & Perrucci, R. (2012). Parental Involvement with Children at School, Home, and Community. J Fam Econ Iss, 34, 340-354. DOI 10.1007/s10834-012-9335-y

Walsh, B. A., Cromer, H., & Weigel, D. J. (2014). Classroom-to-Home Connections: Young Children’s Experiences With a Technology- Based Parent Involvement Tool. Early Education and Development, 25, 1142-1161. DOI: 10.1080//10409289.2014.904647