Parental Involvement with Adolescents' Education: Do Daughters or Sons Get More Help?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This research examined whether parents were involved differently with the education of their adolescent daughters and sons. The investigation used data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), which collected information from approximately 25,000 eighth-grade students. Several types of parental involvement were analyzed for gender differences, including school discussion, parent-school connection, parental expectations, parental attendance at school events, and three measures of parental supervision (checking homework, limiting television watching, and limiting going out with friends). The results showed that, net of students' grades, tests scores, and educational aspirations, parents helped daughters in some ways and sons in other ways. Generally, daughters experienced more parental involvement with their education than did sons. The findings are discussed in terms of parents' traditional socialization practices versus a shift in parental treatment in response to social trends.

INTRODUCTION

Parental involvement with children's education has been the subject of research for several decades, and this topic continues to be of interest (recent studies include Bogenschneider, 1997; Eccles, Jacobs, & Harold, 1990; Epstein, 1991; Muller, 1998; Schneider & Coleman, 1993; Smith, 1992; Snow, Barnes, Chandler, Goodman, & Hemptill, 1991; Teachman, Paasch, & Carver, 1996; Useem, 1992). Generally, studies have found a positive relationship between the overall level of involvement by parents and the academic performance of students. While much of the research has focused on the early years of schooling, recent studies indicate that parental involvement is also important for older students. For example, researchers reported that parental involvement positively affected the grades and mathematics test scores of adolescent students (Muller, 1993, 1998), decreased the odds of a student dropping out of high school (Teachman et al., 1996), had positive effects on the grades of high school seniors and the amount of time they devoted to homework (Fehrmann, Keith, & Reimers, 1987), and contributed to successful placement of students in higher ability mathematics groups (Useem, 1992).

In short, research shows that parental involvement with children's education is important for positive academic experiences and successful outcomes. Yet, there is little information about whether parents' involvement differs for daughters and sons. Some of the literature suggests that traditional socialization practices result in parents shortchanging daughters (Smith, 1992; Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, 1992; Wigfield & Eccles, 1994). Thus, investigating differences in parental involvement is important because it could help explain gender differences in the educational experiences of adolescents, and contribute to knowledge about conditions that foster gender stratification in work outcomes.

The present research examined whether parents were involved differently with the education of their adolescent daughters and sons. The study used data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), which collected information from approximately 25,000 eighth-grade students. Several types of parental involvement were analyzed for gender differences, including school discussion, parent-school connection, parental expectations, parental supervision, and parental attendance at school events.

Gender Differences

Gender equality has achieved greater acceptance in society, and one would expect parents to be more likely to treat their female and male children equally. Nevertheless, the results of recent studies suggest that parents favor sons over daughters in various ways. For example, researchers have reported that fathers who have sons are more involved with their children (Harris & Morgan, 1991), mothers of sons are more concerned about child obedience and the possible negative effects of their own employment (Downey, Jackson, & Powell, 1994), and parents of sons are less likely to divorce (Morgan, Lye, & Condran, 1988). …