Family Decision-Making Style, Peer Group Affiliation and Prior Academic Achievement as Predictors of the Academic Achievement of African American Students

Article excerpt

This study examined family decision-making style, peer group affiliation, and prior academic achievement as predictors of academic achievement of African American students. The sample for this study was 16,489 students who participated in both the first follow-up (10th grade) and second follow-up (12th grade) student questionnaire of the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88). However, findings were only discussed for the 1,628 African American participants. Logistic regression models were constructed. Findings indicated that prior academic performance and socioeconomic status (SES) predicted academic achievement. The study includes a discussion of the relevance of the findings for educational practice and/or policy.

INTRODUCTION

Educators, political leaders, and the American public are concerned with the current trends in the academic achievement of African American students. In order for African Americans to receive equal opportunity in America, they are required to leave school with skills that would allow them to compete fairly in the nation's democratic occupational structure (Rothstein, 2004). Therefore, it is essential for African American students to achieve on high levels. However, this is not always possible. During high school, peers and parents serve as social groups where adolescents form bonds and learn attitudes and values about societal issues that influence their academic achievement. Moreover, as adolescents seek autonomy, peer pressure challenges parental authority (Fuligni & Eccles, 1993).

Since adolescence is such a critical period of development, relationships with peers and parents can impact African American students' future educational outcomes. Furthermore, the impact of these parent and peer relationships on adolescent outcomes possibly differ based on ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES, Berk, 2000; Rothstein, 2004). Ethnic groups have distinct child-rearing beliefs and practices, and SES profoundly affects family functioning (Berk, 2000). For example, Blacks tend to be more authoritarian than Whites; and families with high SES tend to be less authoritarian (Smetana, 2000).

Previous studies reveal that strong relationships exist among family decision-making styles, peer group affiliations, and academic achievement (Brown, Mounts, Lamborn, & Steinberg, 1993; Jenkins, & Zunguze, 1998; Mason & Windle, 2001; Razzino, Ribordy, Grant, Ferrari, Bowden, & Zeisz, 2004; Simon, Chao, Conger, & Elder, 2001; Steinberg, Lamborn, Darling, Mounts, & Dornbusch, 1994; Walker & Satterwhite, 2002). For instance, ineffective parenting practices were found to lead to adolescents' affiliation with deviant peers (Ary, Duncan, Biglan, Metzler, Noell, & Smolkowski, 1999; Razzino et al., 2004). Furthermore, specific parenting practices were associated with academic achievement, which, in turn, was related to adolescents' peer group affiliation (Brown, Mounts, Lamborn, Steinberg, 1993). While previous studies have noted relationships among these variables, the focus has not included examining their predictability in assessing later academic performance of African American students. Therefore, the purpose of the present study is to further examine family decision-making style, peer group affiliation, and academic achievement as predictors of future academic achievement for African American students.

BACKGROUND LITERATURE

Family Decision-Making Style

This study conceptualized family decision-making style as a depiction of Baumrind's (1991) three types of parenting styles: authoritarian; authoritative; and permissive. An authoritarian parenting style is one in which parents control their children and set strict standards of conduct. They allow minimal personal freedom and expect absolute obedience. Authoritative parenting style creates an environment of being consistent and supportive, and they respect their child's individuality. …