Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Christina Sinding




The goal of this research was to explore the implications for families when a child struggles at school. This study was designed to bring attention to the significant obstacles, sacrifices, and struggles that parents and families must face when a child experiences difficulties at school.

In order to gather data a focus group approach was utilized. Counselors who provide services to families with children who have school difficulties were recruited from a local counseling agency.

The data gathered through the focus group revealed many ways that a child's school struggles impact her or his family. General themes included the disruption to family routines and interactions, the drain on family resources, and the strained relationships between family members. Children's school difficulties were also seen to influence the perceptions that parents had of their abilities as advocates for their children.

Although the study was small in scale, these research findings have contributed to a better understanding of the complexities that school struggles add to famiiy Hfe and how families are forced to adapt, and uitimateiy change their lives, to support a child at school. Findings from this study suggest that family members are affected emotionally, economically, and practically: that all aspects of their daily lives are affected by a child's school struggles.

It appears that the impact of a child's struggle at school is seldom recognized and acknowledged and therefore it appears that there is room for more research in this area. Parents, educators, as well as political representatives would benefit from more attention to these issues. Although this study did not focus specifically on foster families, fmdings suggest that a foster child's school struggles may affect the permanency and success of the foster placements; this is another area for future study.

I hope that by validating and acknowledging parents' lived experiences and struggles, they may feel less alone and that this knowledge will provide them with a little renewed energy to continue challenging the barriers that they face.

McMaster University Library

Included in

Social Work Commons