Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Parental Involvement and Achievement Outcomes in African American Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Parental Involvement and Achievement Outcomes in African American Adolescents

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Federal and state policies in the United States of America have elevated parental involvement in schools to a national priority in part due to the large number of failing schools and increased achievement gap between White students and African American and other ethnic minority students (Green, 2001;Lewis, James, Hancock, and Hill- Jackson, 2008). Parental involvement has consistently been associated with school success in a multitude of areas such as better achievement and behavior, lower absenteeism, and more positive attitudes toward school (Cole-Henderson, 2000; Jeynes, 2005a; Taylor, Hinton, & Wilson, 1995). Although social scientists have conducted a number of studies examining the benefits of parental involvement, several issues remain inadequately addressed, especially as it relates to African American adolescent students. The current study attempts to address some of the questions regarding parental involvement in urban African American families with high school adolescents. Specifically, this study examined parental ratings of a multidimensional construct of parental involvement in order to answer the following research questions: (a) are specific parental involvement behaviors better predictors of achievement outcomes in urban African American adolescents?, (b) does specific parental involvement behaviors impact the achievement outcomes of younger versus older high school adolescents differently?, and (c) does specific family demographic variables influence how parents' involvement behaviors predict the achievement outcomes of urban African American adolescents?

LIMITATIONS IN PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT RESEARCH

Research examining parental involvement continues to be burdened by the ambiguities in how this construct is defined (Falbo, Lein, & Amador, 2001). Parental involvement includes not only direct involvement in schools, such as volunteering in classrooms and attending school parent-teacher conferences, but also indirect or hidden behaviors, such as discussing school and family issues and conveying educational expectations (Epstein & Sanders, 2002; Mc Wayne, Hampton, Fantuzzo, Cohen, & Sekino, 2004). Despite the evidence of parental involvement being a multidimensional construct, many researchers continue to discuss either a generic global concept of parental involvement or choose to only examine one type of involvement without any consideration of the effects different parental involvement behaviors would have on student outcomes (Jeynes, 2005a; Jeynes, 2005b). The gap in the knowledge of what kind of parental involvement is most important in the school achievement of urban African American students, high school adolescents in particular, prevents parents and teachers from effectively engaging in appropriate parental involvement programs (Fan & Chen, 2001; Hayes & Cunningham, 2003; Jeynes, 2003).

Second, the majority of studies on parental involvement have generally focused on the general population rather than on urban African American students (Jeynes, 2005b; Jeynes, 2007; Yan, 1999). Yan argues that this issue remains present even when large national data sets are examined because African American students are often compared to majority White students which in some instances has lead to a focus on risk factors rather than the positive benefits of involvement from African American families. Finally, when studies have focused on African American students they have relied primarily on underprivileged African Americans without consideration of the effects parental involvement has across various socioeconomic levels of African American families (McBride & Lin, 1996; Müller, 1998, Overstreet, Devine, Bevans, & Efreom, 2005). According to Howard and Reynolds (2008) most of the general parental involvement literature fails to fully consider not only the role of race but also class when examining parenting practices within schools. They noted that when race and class were considered, rarely were upper-class families of color considered in the analysis. …

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