Mexican American Adolescents' Academic Achievement and Aspirations: The Role of Perceived Parental Educational Involvement, Acculturation, and Self-Esteem

Article excerpt

The Mexican American population is the largest Latino subgroup (64%) and is currently among the fastest growing ethnic subpopulations in the United States (Ramirez & de la Cruz, 2002; Lollock, 2001). The growing numbers of Mexican American children in public schools require serious attention because their persistent and disproportionate academic underachievement continues to be a concern for families, students, educators, and society at large (Aguirre & Turner, 2001; Ramirez & de la Cruz, 2002; Padilla & Gonzalez, 2001). As a group, Mexican American children's achievement levels fall further behind as they progress through school (Lopez, Ehly, & Garcia-Basquez, 2002; Stanton-Salazar, 2001; Valenzuela, 1999). By the time they reach high school, they have significantly lower achievement and higher dropout rates than the school population as a whole as well as to other immigrant populations (Lopez & Stanton-Salazar, 2001); Lopez et al., 2002; Rong & Preissle, 1998).

This study focused exclusively on Mexican American students, rather than Latino/Hispanic youth as a single aggregated group. Combining Latinos of different ethnicities into a single group obscures a number of key disparities. For example, only 50% of adults of Mexican origin were reported to have at least a high school education compared with 71% of Cubans (Ramirez & de la Cruz, 2003). Other, more recent immigrants from Central and South America, also tend to be better educated and have children who generally do better in school than children of Mexican descent (Gibson & Ogbu, 1991; Suarez-Orozco, 1987).

The literature suggests that Mexican American students' school performance is influenced by a number of psychosocial factors including acculturation, parent involvement, and self-esteem. However, our understanding of how these variables work together to influence the educational outcomes of Mexican American children, especially adolescents, remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to examine how multiple factors interact to directly or indirectly influence academic performance and aspirations of Mexican American high school students.

Perceived Parental Educational Involvement

Many studies suggest that parental involvement in their children's education plays a significant role in their academic success (Cherian, 1995; Epstein, 1987, 1992; Griffith, 1996; Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994; Jeynes, 2007; Pena, 2000). However, few of these studies have concentrated specifically on Mexican American adolescents (Cornelius-White, Garza, & Hoey, 2004; Lopez, Ehly, & Garcia-Vazquez, 2002; Tapia, 2000; Trusty, Plata, & Salazar, 2003). While the literature has documented the benefits of parental involvement for children's academic trajectory, the construct itself has been operationally defined and measured in various and often inconsistent ways. Two main strategies are typical: studies that focus on a single type of involvement (Fehrmann, Keith & Reimers, 1987; Lopez, Rodriguez, & Sanchez, 1995; Marcon, 1999; Stevenson & Baker, 1987; Trusty et al., 2003; Waxman, Huang, & Padron, 1997) and those that capture multiple dimensions of involvement (Cherian, 1995). Most studies of parental involvement center upon volunteering at school, communication with school, and attendance at school events. While some research has attempted to measure less direct]active forms of parent involvement, the majority of studies were interested in parents' active presence at the school.

Although several models of parent involvement activities are present in the literature (e.g., Epstein, 1987, 1992; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1995) they do not adequately portray involvement activities for all families or do not include student perspectives, an omission that may be problematic because parents and students may perceive parental involvement differently (Desimone, 1999; Gibson & Jefferson, 2006). …


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