Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Delores E. Smith

Committee Members

Cara Djonko-Moore, Barbara Thayer-Bacon


The purpose of the current study was to examine Iraqi refugee mothers’ perceptions of their involvement in and experiences within their children’s schools. Research was informed by symbolic interaction framework, which views human behaviors in relation to their perceptions of and experiences with the world around them. Therefore, qualitative methodology was employed in order to ask participants specific questions related to their perceptions of parental involvement and their experiences with the local school system. Four participants were recruited, and recruitment of participants was facilitated through an organization that aids refugees as they resettle in the United States. The organization assisted with the distribution of recruitment brochures and provided space for the researcher to conduct private meetings with prospective participants.

The findings from participant interviews indicate that although Iraqi refugee mothers understand the traditional meaning of parental involvement and do practice traditional models of involvement in schools, they also engage in more non-traditional models of parental involvement that emphasize support through listening and ‘advice-giving’ to their children. Furthermore, findings indicate that Iraqi refugee mothers have had both negative and positive experiences with their children's schools; and many of their experiences are related to the ages of their children. For instance, participants with older children described more negative experiences related to their children's high school experiences than they did to their children's elementary school experiences.

The implications of this study point to a need for school personnel to recognize the relational needs of Iraqi refugee children in schools and to understand immigrants’ non-traditional views of parental involvement in schools in order to build meaningful relationships with Iraqi refugee families.


The purpose of the proposed research study is to explore the perceptions of Iraqi refugee mothers’ involvement in their children’s academic lives. The purpose of narrowing the sample to include only Iraqi refugees is twofold: First, Iraqi refugees are the largest group of refugees resettled in the United States (Martin & Yankay, 2014; Office of Refugee Resettlement, 2015; UNHCR Mid-year Trends, 2015). Second, very little research exists on Arab refugees broadly and Iraqi refugees specifically. What is assumed about Iraqis has been primarily extrapolated from research on refugees in general. Therefore, a study targeting Iraqi refugee’ perceptions of parental involvement in United States’ schools is needed in order to address the problems inherent in applying findings within diverse groups.

In order to better understand the perceptions of Iraqi refugee mothers’ experiences with schools in the U.S., data will be collected from one interview participant at a time. Interview participants will be asked open-ended questions that encourage participants to relate their experiences with their children’s school systems.

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