Dissonance Between Home and School: Does it Exist and How Should it be Measured?

Henderson, Lora, Clinical Psychology - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Williams, Joanna, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This study seeks to provide insight into the measurement of home-school dissonance (HSD), or conflict between values, beliefs, and behavioral expectations at home and school that make it difficult for students to negotiate the boundaries between the two contexts (Arunkumar, Midgley, & Urdan, 1999). HSD may be an often-overlooked contributor to the achievement and discipline gaps that exist between White students and many students of color. To date, studies using the only quantitative measure of HSD, the “Dissonance Between Home and School (DBHS)” scale have found no differences in levels of HSD between Black and White students (Arunkumar et al., 1999) nor have they included racial ethnic groups other than Black and White. This study sought to interrogate the scale to determine why the expected differences might not be occurring, and to gain additional insight into HSD from the perspective of early adolescent students, and their parents and teachers.
Mixed-methods, including cognitive interviews, semi-structured interviews, and surveys, were used to learn more about the DBHS scale and the broader landscape of HSD. Middle school students (n=6), their parents (n=6) and teachers from their school (n=5) participated in semi-structured interviews. Data from the literature as well as the interview data were used to propose a pilot 10-item HSD scale, which was administered to 238 students in three middle schools. The pilot items were all examined individually (i.e., descriptive statistics and mean differences across groups) and then an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was run to determine if the items measured the latent construct, HSD.
Qualitative findings suggest that students, parents, and teachers discuss HSD differently. Students say that differences between home and school do not bother them, while teachers make assumptions and generalizations as they classify students into groups with low, medium, and high levels of HSD. Parents talked less in terms of HSD, but more about their experiences and satisfaction with school officials. The parents of two Black boys were particularly dissatisfied with their sons’ schooling and felt that race and stereotypes towards their group impacted their sons at school.
The quantitative findings showed few significant differences across racial groups; however, students who received free or reduced-price lunch had higher mean scores on all pilot HSD items. This is particularly important since there was an overrepresentation of students of color in the free or reduced-price lunch group. A five-factor scale, which was identified in the EFA, was invariant for students across broad racial categories (e.g., White/non-White) and for students who did and did not report receiving free or reduced-price lunch, suggesting the items were assessing the same construct in both groups. Findings from this study demonstrate the need to better define and measure HSD and to examine intersectionality across race and social class. Additionally, there continues to be a need to explore discrepancies in the quantitative and qualitative findings from studies examining HSD.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Home-school dissonance, Cultural discontinuity , Achievement gap
Issued Date: