Study Aims

Rising social inequality and diminishing returns to education make early investment in children's different living environments (Lebenswelten) – their learning, leisure, and school – increasingly important for their development, well-being, and academic achievement. In particular, structural changes in the family, limited time budgets, and changing learning and support networks require adaptations in individual and collaborative learning.

To create new knowledge to promote organizational skills to learn, especially time structuring and planning skills, executive functions, and sleep, we develop and evaluate targeted interventions that involve all stakeholders (parents, teachers, child) in the design of healthy, developmentally stimulating daily routines and to facilitate both communication and networking among parents, teachers, and children. We pay special attention to transitional phases (e.g. starting school, changes within and between schools), in which structural changes take place in a natural way, and roles, relations and identity evolve. How do children and parents develop daily routines (leisure activities, time with the family, time with the child) that contribute to child development and learning, and why do some find it easier than others? How do families support their children’s acquisition of organizational skills to learn, especially during school transitions (e.g., do they discuss everyday experiences in the family)? How can social networks help children develop healthy daily routines that promote development? How quickly do social networks and daily routines consolidate after school transitions, and how does the pace of adaptation affect a child's learning, development, and well-being? These are the main questions we are exploring.

Key dimensions related to these questions are as follows:

Well-being and development

Based on theoretical work by Brooks-Gunn (1990) and Deci and Ryan (2008), our understanding of well-being and development includes 6 dimensions: Academic, cognitive, social emotional, somatic, physical, and behavioral. In addition, we distinguish subjective and objective dimensions of well-being in analogy to the distinction chosen by UNICEF: Material security, health, education, housing situation, and regional conditions. A combined analysis of these dimensions allows us to gain more precise insights into mechanisms of child development and well-being in different domains of life.

Family as a site for learning

The family, including co-resident adults and siblings, is an important site of socialization and learning, and thus, along with the school environment, an essential place where "learning" occurs, experiences are gained, and behavior is tested (Reardon, 2011; Snow, 2020). Especially school transitions are key moments in which the role of the family in learning is redefined, social relations and identity evolve. Observing different families´ ability to accompany children in such transitions contributes to explain heterogeneity in children's learning, development, and well-being. Our goal is to survey objective conditions such as family structure, socioeconomic status, and parental educational attainment, as well as social (e.g., family relationships) and cultural (e.g., language, migration background, media use, attitudes) conditions for their association with children's development and well-being.

The following questions guide our project:

  • How do parents support their children in their development and learning?
  • What social and cultural differences (e.g. parental involvement, educational aspirations, attitudes) are apparent in the structuring and co-creation of the family as a place of learning - in the sense of structuring everyday life, time use, parental organization, media use?
  • What influence does the family context, parental values and identity, and its everyday organization have on children's individual abilities, motivation, and school self-assessments ?

Learning in and through relationships

Social networks are sites of learning, emotional support, or information sharing (Putnam, 1993). We explore the role of social networks around families and their children to find out what role they have in learning progress and child development. In doing so, we focus on the role of networks in the emergence of conditions conducive to learning and child development in general.

The following questions guide our project:

  • What role do social networks (parent-child-teacher) play in promoting children's developmental progress, learning, and well-being?
  • How do social networks facilitate school transitions or changes?
  • What predicts variation in consolidating social networks and time allocation patterns after school transitions, and how does this impact learning, wellbeing and development?

 

The project is structured in the following phases