Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Parental Involvement, Familismo, and Academic Performance in Hispanic and Caucasian Adolescents

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Parental Involvement, Familismo, and Academic Performance in Hispanic and Caucasian Adolescents

Article excerpt

According to the United States Census Bureau, one out of eight people in the United States is of Hispanic origin (Ramirez & de la Cruz, 2003). It is estimated that the size of this population will continue to grow. However, the data describing this population are not encouraging. Compared to 88.7% of non-Hispanic whites, only 57% of Hispanics over the age of 25 have graduated from high school. Additionally, Hispanics are more likely to be unemployed and less likely to earn as much money as non-Hispanic whites. Finally, 21.4% of Hispanics are living below the poverty line compared to 7.8% of non-Hispanics. These statistics suggest that the Hispanic population in the United States is struggling to reach certain economic and educational goals in this country.

The Hispanic population in the U.S. is young, with 34.4% of the population currently below the age of 18 and projections estimating that by the year 2020, Hispanics will comprise 22% of youth (individuals under the age of 18) in the U.S. (Ramirez & de la Cruz, 2003). Because this population is so young, there is hope that the children will have the ability to change some of these discouraging statistics. Unfortunately, research on Hispanic youth has historically focused on those who display a variety of problem behaviors, such as school dropout, drug use, and other delinquent behaviors (Davalos, Chavez, & Guardiola, 2005; Dinh, Roosa, Tein, & Lopez., 2002; Fuligni, 1997; Weiss, Goebel, Page, Wilson, & Warda, 1999).

We believe that it is important to redirect the focus toward protective factors that may promote academic success in this population. Researchers have begun to turn their attention to these protective factors, but much is still unknown about this population (Alva, 1991; Gonzalez & Padilla, 1997; Waxman, Huang, & Padron, 1997). Variables such as higher academic motivation (Waxman et al., 1997), supportive academic environments (Waxman et al., 1997), sense of school belonging, (Alva, 1991; Gonzalez & Padilla, 1997) and positive subjective appraisals of competence (Alva, 1991) appear to be predictive of academic performance. This study examined how parental involvement and familismo (a cultural value important to Hispanics) may be related to academic performance in both Hispanic and Caucasian students.

Parental Involvement

Many researchers have studied the role that parental involvement plays in the academic performance of adolescents (e.g., Grolnick, Ryan, & Deci, 1991; Lopez, Scribner, & Mahitivanichcha, 2001). As the family is the central source of social support in Hispanic culture, it is reasonable to expect that parental involvement is an important factor that affects the academic success of Hispanic students. However, the meaning of parental involvement in academic work may vary across cultures. Researchers have begun to focus on this issue, but much of the research conducted has been in the form of case studies (Lopez et al., 2001). This study examined cross-cultural perception of academic parental involvement in a sample of Hispanic and Caucasian adolescents.

Currently, many parents, school teachers and administrators in the United States define "academic parental involvement" as parents' active involvement in the school setting, via various behaviors such as attending PTA meetings, parent-teacher meetings, or being involved in extracurricular events (Catterall, 1998; Lopez et al., 2001). However, among Hispanic parents, academic parental involvement may involve activities that take place in the home, such as checking homework as well as other activities that are less traditionally associated with school involvement such as "instilling cultural values, talking with their children, and sending them to school clean and rested" (Lopez et al., 2001; p.256). Thus, the nature of academic parental involvement may be very different among Hispanic parents and parents from other ethnic groups. …

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