Academic journal article Family Relations

Latino Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Schools

Academic journal article Family Relations

Latino Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Schools

Article excerpt

Latinos make up the largest racial/ethnic minority group in the United States, yet we know very little about Latino fathers ' involvement in their children's lives. This article adds school participation to conceptualizations of paternal involvement and contributes to an understanding of the role of immigrant acculturation in shaping Latino parenting practices. Drawing on nationally representative data, the author finds that U.S.-born Latino fathers are just as likely as U.S.-born White fathers to participate in children 's school activities, after controlling for other covariates. The author also shows that indicators of immigrant acculturation account for some variation in parental school participation among Latino fathers. Findings point to recommendations for engaging Latino fathers in educational interventions that benefit their children and communities.

Key Words: father involvement, parental school involvement, Latino families.

Research has demonstrated that fathers' involvement in children's lives can benefit children's academic and social development (Alfaro, Umaña-Taylor, & Bácama, 2006; McBride, Schoppe-Sullivan, & Ho, 2005; Plunkett, Behnke, Sands, & Choi, 2009; Yeung, Duncan, & Hill, 2000). Yet even though Latinos make up the largest racial/ethnic minority group in the United States and immigration continues to expand their proportion of the nation's population, we still know very little about Latino fathers' parenting roles. Most research on paternal involvement has focused on White fathers (Cabrera & Bradley, 2012; Campos, 2008; Parke et al., 2004). Studies have only begun to explore whether or not Latino fathers differ from White fathers in their paternal involvement (Hofiferth, 2003; Toth & Xu, 1999; Yeung, Sandberg, Davis-Kean, & Hofferth, 2001), and if immigrant acculturation shapes the roles they assume in their children's lives (Coltrane, Parke, & Adams, 2004; Taylor & Behnke, 2005). This article focuses on one dimension of paternal involvement often ignored by family scholars: fathers' participation in children's schools. Exploring Latino paternal involvement in children's schools is important because Latino students average lower high school graduation and postsecondary participation rates than any other major racial/ethnic group in the nation (National Center for Education Statistics, 2011). Parental school participation can improve students' educational outcomes (Behnke & Kelly, 2011; Desimone, 1999; Domina, 2005; Jeynes, 2005, 2007; Marschall, 2006; Plunkett et al., 2009). Therefore, investigating Latino fathers' school participation not only furthers an understanding of paternal roles in children's lives, but also has implications for the educational outcomes of a population of children who encounter challenges to educational attainment.

This article explores patterns of Latino fathers' school involvement and makes important contributions to theorizations of fathers' roles in children's lives. First, it adds school participation to conceptualizations of paternal involvement, thus bridging the family literature on fathers' roles in children's lives and the education literature on parental school participation. Second, this study draws on nationally representative data to examine the roles of immigrant socioeconomic status and acculturation in contributing to differences in patterns of participation between White and Latino fathers, and among Latino fathers. Such analyses are important not to expose deficits in the parenting practices of Latino fathers but rather to guide future research that seeks to investigate the social processes and contexts that structure paternal behaviors across and within racial/ethnic groups (Dilworth-Anderson, Burton, & Johnson, 1993). Third, this study reveals that Latino fathers participate in children's schooling activities in significant numbers. Although some encounter challenges to school participation, findings point to possible directions for engaging Latino fathers in educational interventions that benefit their children and communities. …

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