Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Perceived Family Process Factors and Mathematics Performance among Latino, African and European American Middle School Students

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Perceived Family Process Factors and Mathematics Performance among Latino, African and European American Middle School Students

Article excerpt

Perceived Family Process Factors and Mathematics Performance Among Latino, African, and European American Middle School Students

Efforts to identify factors that contribute to mathematics performance among school children have been on-going for several decades (e.g., Friedman, 1994; Gardner, Ritbiatt, & Beatty, 2000), including the study of the impact of parental involvement (e.g., Keith, Keith, Troutman, Bickley, Trivette & Sing, 1993). Evidence suggest that parental involvement may improve student learning overall (Epstein, 1991), as well as mathematics performance (Mathews, Carpenter, Lindquist & Silver, 1984). However, the findings tend to vary depending on different factors such as age or grade level (Jimerson, Egeland & Teo, 1999), socioeconomic status (White, 1982), gender (Friedman, 1994), definition of parental involvement (Seginer, 1983), and ethnic background (Mathews et al., 1984).

Ethnic differences in mathematics performance have generated as much political debate as they have stimulated scholarly research (Goals 2000, 1995). The general intergroup differences suggest that African American and Latino American students tend to score lower than Asian Americans and European Americans (Mathews et ai., 1984; Peng, Wright & Hill, 1995). However, it is well established that ethnicity interacts with other factors to affect mathematics performance such as socioeconomic status, gender, environmental factors, and family involvement (Keith et al., 1993; Tissot, 1997). Moreover, there appears to be a reciprocal relationship between attitude toward mathematics and achievement in mathematics (Fennema and Sherman, 1976). Also, a child's perception of the expectations of significant others influences the child's attitude and mathematics performance (Eccles, Adler, Futterman, Goff, Kaczala, Meece & Midgly, 1983).

The focus of this study is to examine middle school children's perceptions of family process factors, including parental attitudes about mathematics, and their relationship to mathematics performance. Furthermore, instead of emphasizing ethnic group differences, this study explores the differential contribution of family process factors to mathematics performance within each ethnic group. Such a focus is consistent with an ecological approach (Trickett, Kelly & Todd, 1972) that explains human behavior by looking at population specific variables that are salient within a cultural group (Sue, 1999).

Consequently, it is hypothesized that family process factors as predictors of mathematics performance will be different for Latino Americans, African Americans, and European American middle school students. Since this is an exploratory study, no specific predictions are made about each ethnic group.

This study attempts to establish the relative contributions of (a) family process variables: perceived parental interest in school, parental involvement in school, parental support of the student, parental expectations, and (b) parental attitudes: fathers' and mothers' attitude toward students' ability in mathematics, to mathematics performance.



All together 2,078 seventh and eighth grade students in four of the six middle schools of a Southern California school district who were enrolled in regular math, pre-algebra, and algebra classes participated in the survey. The sample is predominantly Latino Americans (64 percent), followed by European Americans (19 percent), and African Americans (12 percent). This breakdown is a fairly good representation of the ethnic-racial composition of the entire district.


Family process factors and parental attitudes were measured as perceived by students. Dornbusch, Patter, Leiderraan, Roberts, Fraleigh(1987)have found that students' own perceptions of parenting are reliable predictors of their achievement.

Family process measures

There were four family process factors. …

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