Perceived Parental Involvement and Academic Achievement of College Students: The Mediating Role of Academic Self-Concept

By Mailhot, Brittney A. E.; Feeney, Sarah L. | North American Journal of Psychology, December 2017 | Go to article overview

Perceived Parental Involvement and Academic Achievement of College Students: The Mediating Role of Academic Self-Concept


Mailhot, Brittney A. E., Feeney, Sarah L., North American Journal of Psychology


A substantial body of research has explored a wide variety of determinants of academic success of college students. However, few studies have taken into account the close nature of the relationship the current generation of college students has with their parents, and specifically how these ties may be associated with students' academic success (DeDonno & Fagan, 2013; Harper, Sax, & Wolf, 2012; Wintre & Yaffee, 2000). With college enrollment rates on the rise, yet only 59% of postsecondary students obtaining a degree, it is important to understand what specific factors impact academic success in a higher educational setting, including parent-child relationships (Allen, Robbins, Casillas, & Oh, 2008; U.S. Department of Education, 2013).

Numerous researchers have examined importance of the parent-child relationship with regard to student success (Jeynes, 2007; Wilder, 2014). These studies, however, tend to focus on students in high school or younger children, excluding the possibility that this relationship may continue to be associated with outcomes in young adulthood (Wintre & Yaffe, 2000). One mechanism of influence explored in this line of research is the way the parent-child relationship shapes identity development. Studies have made note of the association between one's perceived academic ability and belonging, known as academic self-concept, and academic success (Johnson, 2005; Pittman & Richmond, 2008). The relationships emerging adults attending college have with their parents may influence their academic self-concept, leading to academic achievement and success. Accordingly, the present study aims to examine the connection between perceived parental involvement, academic self-concept, and academic achievement among college students.

In the United States, college enrollment is more prevalent than ever before. As of 2014, 40.5% of emerging adults between the ages of 18 and 24 were enrolled in accredited colleges and universities, rising from 35.5% in 2000 (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). With college attendance becoming a norm in American society, the pressure to obtain a degree has undoubtedly increased in recent years. Given the social and economic contexts emerging adults confront, academic achievement has become essential to realizing life's goals.

Despite the increase in enrollment, rates of retention and degree attainment are still low; on average, only 53% of college students graduate within six years (Carey, 2004). Often measured by grade point average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale, academic achievement is an important indicator of success in college. Through a multitude of studies, academic achievement has been associated with student retention, persistence, and completion of college (Allen et al., 2008; Carey, 2004). With GPA established as a vital factor affecting college retention and completion, it is critical to focus on what factors positively influence the GPAs of college students.

Self-concept is a hierarchical, multidimensional construct that has been habitually used interchangeably with terms such as self-efficacy, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-identity (Bong & Skaalvik, 2003). As research has evolved, the need to create a uniform definition of self-concept has been recognized, though one has yet to be formally established (Bennett, 2009). Some define self-concept as a person's perception of self, formed through experiences and interpretations of their environment and reinforced by personal behaviors, while others explain self-concept as a conscious reflection of one's own being or identity, typically involving beliefs, attitudes, and opinions about one's personal existence (Huitt, 2004; Shavelson & Bolus, 1982).

Despite multiple definitions of this construct, researchers commonly agree on the hierarchical nature of self-concept in that it can be conceptualized into specific domains (Shavelson & Bolus, 1982). For the purpose of the current study, academic self-concept was the domain of focus. …

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