Emotional Involvement Matters: An Analysis of Parenting Patterns and Academic Outcomes of High School Students in 1980, 1990, and 2002
University of Kansas
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
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This dissertation addresses the relationship between parental practices and educational and developmental outcomes of high school students in 1980, 1990 and 2002 to explore these three questions: (1) if social capital at home is the key characteristic of parental involvement in education; and (2) if the historical shifts between 1980 and 2002 affected the way in which parents are involved in their children's education. The datasets used for this study were: High School and Beyond (HBS), National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), and Educational Longitudinal Study (ELS). Early theory and research focused mainly on the transformation and activation of cultural capital through parental involvement in education. It was found that students from middle- and higher-income families have the advantage of receiving higher levels of parental involvement than their peers from low-income families. However, recent research reports that students from high-income families experience severe levels of emotional distress and behavioral problems even if they do well at school. A large body of psychological research also indicates that the parental marital status and the quality of time with parents can influence children's behavioral and emotional outcomes. Consequently, the historical shifts between 1980 and 2002 in mothers' occupational status, gender roles, and family composition can indicate how parenting practices and good relationships between parents and children influence educational and developmental outcomes of high school students. Previous studies ignored three other important dimensions of parenting practices: emotional involvement, autonomy support, and structure. This study examined this relationship using parenting dimensions to determine how cultural capital and social capital within the family interact to indicate educational outcome, high school graduation or Grade Point Average (GPA), positive attitudes toward school, and behavioral problems of lower-class and upper-middle-class students. The results showed that parental emotional involvement is the significant indicator of increased levels of positive attitudes toward school, which was the key characteristic that was associated with high GPAs and high school completion. This finding was consistent across the three different time periods. It suggests the importance of well-established relationships between parents and children, that is, strong social capital between the two agents, which indicate a good consistency with Coleman's (1989) social capital theory. These relationships at home can be at risk when students have mothers with professional careers who work for long hours and live in households with marital disruptions or a single parent, all of which tend to decrease the quality and quantity of time spent together.
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