Children and parents' participation: socio-ecological perspectives on health promotion in schools
John-Akinola, Yetunde O.
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Schools are a key setting for health promotion. The development of Health Promoting Schools (HPS) draws on the settings-based approach to health promotion and includes child participation as one of its basic values. The psycho-social environment of the school is an important dimension for promoting the health and wellbeing of children but has rarely been directly investigated empirically. Parental participation is important for strengthening and sustaining the concept of school health promotion but little is written on the processes involved. This study explored the participation of children and their parents in school life and investigated the relevance of pupil participation for school environment and health and wellbeing of pupils. The study was conducted in two phases: a qualitative study was carried out in the first phase to document children (n=248) and parents¿ (n=39) views about participation in school life. Results from phase 1 indicated that the most common categories of what made pupils feel a part of their school were school uniforms, sports, friends, teachers and their school/classroom environment. Increase in the number of school activities, encouraging friendship and equal participation were key indicators of how pupils would ensure that everybody felt a part of the school. Parents also highlighted participation in school activities, feeling a part of school and encouraging parents to talk about how they feel as their most common categories on school participation. The findings from pupils and parents' conceptualisations of participation in school life, in the first phase, were used to develop pupil and parent questionnaires for the second phase (the quantitative study) thus linking the first phase to the second phase. A survey was carried out in the second phase to assess children (n=231) and parents' (n=218) current participation in Irish primary schools, and associations between school participation, school socio-ecological environment and health and wellbeing outcomes for pupils. Logistic regression analyses indicated positive associations between school participation and health and wellbeing outcomes, and school socio-ecological environment. Findings from the four journal articles that comprise this PhD research are discussed and references are made to the extant literature, general implications and recommendations for research, policy and practice, and implications of the findings for theory.
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