Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Longitudinal Effects of Parenting on Children's Academic Achievement in African American Families

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Longitudinal Effects of Parenting on Children's Academic Achievement in African American Families

Article excerpt

By using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics, this study investigated the concurrent and longitudinal effects of parenting practice on children's academic achievement in 2,247 African American families. Parental expectations of children's highest educational attainment and parental beliefs in children's academic competency were found to have the most consistent and significant effects on children's reading, math, and general knowledge or science test scores in kindergarten, first grade, and third grade. The effects of parental involvement in school and at home were mixed. Family socioeconomic status (SES) remained the most powerful predictor of children's academic achievement in elementary school. Single-parent family status showed no significant effect on child outcome in this study.

Few scholars of African American studies will dispute the notion that children are highly valued by their parents and their extended families in Black culture (Hill, 2001; McAdoo, 1991; Trotman, 2001). Nevertheless, in the past decades, widely referenced statistics (Edelman, 1989; The Gale Group Inc., 2002; Trotman, 2001) have painted an unfavorable picture of African American children and their families. For example, research evidence repeatedly indicated that African American children are more likely to fall behind academically than children in other minority groups (Children's Defense Fund, 2005; The Gale Group Inc., 2002).

Since the general belief in the society is that parents are children's first teachers who play a critical role in their children's education experiences, more and more researchers and educators are turning to the families in search for solutions to the "problem" (e.g., Scott-Jones, 1987; Slaughter-Defoe, Kakagawa, Takanishi, & Johnson, 1990; Trotman, 2001; Yan, 1999; Yan & Lin, 2005). Through cross-racial comparisons, researchers were able to identify multiple factors that are believed to have contributed to African American children's academic "failures." These factors include family socioeconomic status (SES), family structure (Cherian & Malehase, 2000; Johnson, 1992), parental involvement in children's education (McWayne, Hampton, Fantuzzo, Cohen, & Sekino, 2004; Pezdek, Berry, & Renno, 2002; Yan, 1999; Yan & Lin, 2005), parental expectations and beliefs (Drummond & Stipek, 2004; Halle, Kurtz-Sostes, & Mahoney, 1997; Sonuga-Barke & Stevenson, 1995; Thompson, Alexander, & Entwisle, 1988), parental control (Cherian & Malehase, 2000), as well as parenting styles (Bradley, 1998; Ferrari, 2002; Pittman & Chase-Lansdale, 2001). Apparently, the general consensus is that, in addition to the demographic factors such as low SES and single-parent family structure, low parent expectation, lack of parental involvement, and authoritarian parenting styles are also risk factors for African American children

One major concern about these research findings, however, is selective bias of the study samples. Many cross-racial studies compared affluent middle-class Caucasian or Asian families and poverty-stricken low-income African American families (e.g., Slaughter-Defoe, Kakagawa, Takanishi, & Johnson, 1990; Van & Lin, 2004). Bronfenbrenner (1979) characterized this kind of studies under the social address model. He pointed out that the social address paradigm, although widely used in the study of environmental influences on development, has some serious limitations; one of which is its focus on the environmental label while losing sight of what is really happening in that environment that affects the child (Bronfenbrenner, 1986). In addition, the authors found that in some investigations that did focus specifically on African American families, the samples were often characterized by low-income households, single-parent homes, inner-city neighborhoods, and "at-risk" children (e. …

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