Parental involvement in middle school linked to greater student engagement

iStock_000003798811XSmallParental involvement typically declines during the middle school years, but a new study in the Journal of Early Adolescence emphasizes the importance of continued involvement by parents.  In this study of 184 seventh and eighth graders from two suburban middle schools in Maryland, Christopher Spera from the State University of New York at Albany found that parental involvement was linked to student interest in school.

“An important finding was the relationship between students’ reports of parental involvement and their reports of interest in school, which suggests that parental involvement practices, such as helping children with homework or a class project, may engender interest in school for children,” he writes.

The study, which was based on student responses to questionnaires, examined the links between adolescent outcomes and parental aspirations, goals and values, parenting practices and parenting style.  While previous studies have found relationships between student achievement and parenting style (child-centered vs. authoritative), this study uses an expanded contextual model of parenting to better understand the process of socialization.

Unlike some previous research, Spera did not find differences in parental educational goals and values across ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Adolescents of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds reported that their parents held high goals and values for their education, indicating that some other key variable, such as parents’ own level of education or their view of the quality of the school system may be at play in earlier reported differences, he says.

However, parental aspirations did vary by ethnicity with children from African American families reporting that their parents held higher aspirations for them than did Hispanic and Caucasian adolescents. Girls reported higher parental goals and values than boys, perhaps because girls are more receptive to their parents’ goals and values than boys, Spera speculates.

The importance of parental involvement for adolescents’ interest and motivation suggests that educators should encourage parental involvement by inviting parents into the school and classroom, Spera says.

“Adolescents’ Perceptions of Parental Goals, Practices, and Styles in Relation to Their Motivation and Achievement”, Journal of Early Adolescence ,Volume 26, Number 4,  November 2006, pps. 456-490.

Published in ERN November 2006 Volume 19 Number 8


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