Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Predictors of Parent Involvement across Contexts in Asian American and European American Families

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Predictors of Parent Involvement across Contexts in Asian American and European American Families

Article excerpt

Why do some parents become involved in their children's education more than others? Over the past two decades, there has been extensive discussion of the important role of parent involvement in children's educational success. Parent involvement has been linked to children's academic achievement (Christenson, 1999;Desimone, 1999; Martini, 1995; Reynolds, 1992), social and behavioral adjustment in schools (Ladd, 1996; Reynolds et al., 1992), and lower high school dropout rates (National Center for Education Statistics, 1992). Despite the abundance of literature on the relationship between parent involvement and children's achievement, there is relatively little research focusing on the predictors of parent involvement and the interrelationships among multiple types of parent involvement (Grolnick et al., 1997). Furthermore, even fewer studies have focused on within and between ethnic group variation in these relationships, although several researchers have examined ethnicity as a predictor of the quality and level of parent involvement (Griffith, 1998; Hill, 2001 ; Mau, 1997; Peng and Wright, 1994).

The aim of this paper is to examine the predictors of and relations among multiple aspects of parent involvement in Asian American and European American families. Because prior research has indicated that these two groups of parents may become involved in their children's education in different ways (Kerbow and Bernhardt, 1993; Mau, 1997), examining the predictors of Asian American and European American parents' involvement may broaden the existing perspective on components of, and variations in, parent involvement.

Defining Parent Involvement

Because parent involvement is a broad term that can refer to a wide variety of behaviors, it is important to identify how the existing literature typically defines parent involvement and how it is defined in the current study. Researchers and practitioners have defined parent involvement primarily as parents' participation in school activities (volunteering in the classroom, and attending school events, open houses, and back-to-school nights), possibly because high expectations for this type of involvement tend to be the norm within the American school system (Morrow, 1989). However, an ecological perspective on parent involvement suggests that there are many ways parents may become involved in their child's early education without participating directly in school activities. For example, parents may become involved at home by engaging with their child in activities that develop general cognitive skills such as problem-solving (Baker et al., 1999; Hoover-Dempsey et al., 1992), by providing direct and indirect instruction of academic skills (Baker et al. 1999; Hoover-Dempsey et al. 1992), or by structuring the child's environment so that it is conducive to learning (Chao, 2000a; Chao, 2000b; Choi, Bempechat, and Ginsburg, 1994; García Coll et al., 2002; Kirn, 2002 ; Mau, 1997). Parents may become involved in learning activities outside of the home and school by utilizing community resources such as libraries, museums, concerts, and plays to enhance their child's educational experience (Grolnick and Slowiaczek, 1994; Gutman and McLoyd, 2000; Sun, 1998).

In addition to categorizing parent involvement by the context in which it occurs, others have used direct versus indirect activities to describe parent involvement (Chao, 2000a; Chao, 2000b; Huntsinger et al., 1997). For example, Chao (2000a; 2000b) suggested two general categories of involvement: managerial and structural. Managerial involvement includes direct hands-on practices (e.g., reading with children, participating in school activities and events), while structural involvement includes indirect practices, such as exerting control over the child's home environment (e.g., maintaining rules about after-school time use) (see also Garcia Coll et al., 2002). Although managerial involvement may occur in the home, school, or other settings, structural involvement typically occurs within the home. …

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