The Effects of Parental Involvement on the Academic Achievement of African American Youth

By Jeynes, William H. | The Journal of Negro Education, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

The Effects of Parental Involvement on the Academic Achievement of African American Youth


Jeynes, William H., The Journal of Negro Education


Using the 1992 National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) data set, this study assessed the effects of parental involvement on the academic achievement of African American 12th grade youth, using several models. The results indicate that parental involvement had a positive impact on the educational outcomes of these youth. However, this influence was no longer statistically significant when variables for socioeconomic status (SES) were included in the analysis. All the sets of results were reasonably consistent across the different kinds of academic variables. The analyses also indicated that parents were slightly more likely to be involved in the education of their daughters than they were in the education of their sons. The results of these sets of analyses were discussed.

Parental involvement as related to African American educational outcomes has emerged as one of the most discussed topics in educational circles today. Parental involvement alone has especially become a popular topic, because the stability of the American family has declined over the last four decades (Hetherington & Jodl, 1994; Wallerstein & Lewis, 1998). Although social scientists have conducted a number of studies indicating that parental involvement has a beneficial impact, these studies have generally not focused on African American students specifically, and, generally, they have had either small sample sizes or have been specialized samples. Concurrently, over the last four decades perhaps, the most persistent debate in education has been on how to close the achievement gap between White students on the one hand and Black and Hispanic students on the other (Green, 2001; Simpson, 1981). This achievement gap exists in virtually every measure of educational progress, including standardized tests, GPA, the dropout rate, the extent to which students are left back a grade, and so forth. The United States was founded on the principle of equality. As a result, Americans tend to feel uncomfortable when unequal results emerge. When inequalities emerge, American educators have frequently tried to reduce those inequalities (Green, 2001).

The benefits of parental involvement are well-documented; therefore, there is reason to believe that a high level of parental involvement could benefit African American children. Research indicates that parental involvement makes it more likely for children to do their homework (Balli, 1998; Balli, Demo, & Wedman, 1998; Villas-Boas, 1998), improve their language skills (Bermudez & Padron, 1990), have low school absentee rates (Nesbitt, 1993), and even have strong musical skills (Zdzinski, 1996).

Of all the inequalities that exist in the American education system, researchers have probably tried to address racial inequality more than any other (Orfield, Kahlenberg, Gordon, Genessee, Slocumb, & Payne, 2000). One indication that racial inequality still exists in the United States is the presence of a persistent academic achievement gap between African Americans (as well as Latinos) and White Americans. Many educators and sociologists note that this achievement gap both reflects racial inequality and causes it to continue (Cross & Slater, 1995; Green, 2001; Hedges & Nowell, 1999; Slavin & Madden, 2001). In spite of many attempts to reduce the achievement gap, a large difference in test scores still exists (Green, 2001). By some measures, the achievement gap closed some during the 1980s. Nevertheless, the achievement gap remains a thorny issue among American educators. Given that parental involvement has been demonstrated to help the general population of students, some researchers believe that parental participation in education is one possible way of bridging the achievement gap (Jeynes, 2003b; Slavin & Madden, 2001). Unfortunately, because of the lack of research on large samples of children of color, it is not known whether parental involvement really influences African American achievement in a major way. …

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