Dr. Kathryn Fletcher
Dr. Kathryn Fletcher
<b>Department: </b>Educational Psychology<br><b>Research Area: </b>How do parents help children navigate challenging online learning tasks?

Department: Educational Psychology

Research Focus: How do parents help children navigate challenging online learning tasks? 

Perfectionism is a multidimensional construct, with seemingly positive aspects such as exceedingly high personal standards for oneself (i.e., perfectionistic strivings) and other negative aspects such as hypersensitivity to criticism and mistakes, feelings of being overwhelmed by failure, and disappointing others (i.e., perfectionistic concerns).  Perfectionism has increased in college students over the last three decades, overlapping with a rise in mental health concerns for college students such as anxiety, depression, and social disconnection (Curran & Hill, 2017).  Despite a wealth of research on the consequences of perfectionism in adolescents and adults, only a few studies have examined perfectionism in middle childhood (7 – 11 years). Perfectionism in middle childhood predicted children’s anxiety and was also associated with children having a fearful temperament (e.g., avoidance and anxiousness to novel situations). To our knowledge, there is no research on children younger than age seven.  Given the negative consequences of perfectionism, research is needed on the precursors of perfectionism in young children. Parenting practices and children’s temperament stand out as potential precursors based on research with school-aged children.  Children with fearful temperaments might avoid novel tasks or be afraid of judgment and evaluation on challenging tasks.

Parents will be provided with a link to a challenging task to complete over Zoom.  Once parents have submitted their Zoom session, interviews will be conducted with questions related to children’s temperament, perfectionistic tendencies, and children’s approaches to learning.  Interviewers will also ask parents to report how they tend to handle these behaviors.  Children’s temperament and kindergarten readiness measures will also be collected from parents.  Research questions include: 1) Does children’s temperament and perfectionism predict children’s approaches to learning scores? 2) Does parental intrusiveness during the challenging learning task relate to their children’s temperament and perfectionism?

Parents are struggling with how to navigate their connection with schools, teachers, and their children’s learning in an online school environment. The proposed research would provide information to inform parents how to work with their children in productive and caring ways, particularly those children that display fearful temperaments.  As we consider the concept of “perfectionistic climate” and an online environment for children’s learning, promoting positive parent-child learning interactions in these spaces has the potential to buffer children from the detrimental impact of perfectionism. 

Potential Student Project(s):

One potential student project would involve researching, creating, and piloting an observational coding protocol to capture the parent and child behaviors, as well as the emotional climate, during these recorded interactions.

Another potential student project would involve examining the parent interviews  to examine the connections among children’s temperament, perfectionistic tendencies, and children’s approaches to learning and how parents handle these behaviors. 

Attributes/skills/background sought in undergraduate:

Students that are interested in child development and/or have taken courses in child development would have content background about the constructs in this study. Students that have observed or assessed children would be helpful as well. 

Mentoring Plan: I will meet with the student once a week for 1-2 hours and the other 2-3 hours will involve independent work each week. Fall 2021 August:  Spend time getting to know the student and collaborating on a mentoring compact and establishing expectations for each other and goals for each of us. September:  Literature review on research that has involve coding parental behaviors during parent-child interactions.  Establish a draft of the observational coding protocol. October and November:  We will independently watch zoom videos of parents and their children from pilot work and check our reliability.  The coding protocol will be revised and edited until we have reached acceptable reliability. Although I will be on special assigned leave in spring of 2022, there would still be an opportunity for the student to continue working on this project. 

Contact: 317-937-2405, Teachers College 515