Methods: Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY97), a nationally representative longitudinal sample of adolescents, this study assessed the effects of parental involvement on the educational progress of adolescents. Because of the rich dataset, we were able to include controls for family income, race/ethnicity, family structure, student ability (measured by ASVAB scores), and student engagement. We were also able to analyze separate models by race/ethnicity.
Results: We found that regardless of race or ethnicity, parental expectations were significantly related to high school graduation. Respondents whose parents reported above average parent expectations of high school graduation were all significantly more likely to graduate by the time they were 20 years old than those respondents with below average parent expectations. However, the magnitude of the effect was almost twice as large for non-Hispanic White respondents than either Hispanic or non-Hispanic Black students. Similarly, non-Hispanic White respondents whose parents participated sometimes or often in the PTA were 65% more likely to graduate than non-Hispanic White respondents whose parents never participated in the PTA, while PTA participation was not significant for either Hispanic or non-Hispanic Black students. Also, a parent volunteering in the classroom was significantly related to high school graduation by age 20 only for non-Hispanic White respondents. The influence of family structure, family income, student ability, and student engagement also varied substantially between the racial models.
Implications: This study confirms previous research regarding the significance of parental involvement for children’s academic outcomes. Students whose parents volunteered in the classroom were 50% more likely to graduate from high school by the time they were 20 years old than those whose parents did not volunteer in the classroom. However, unique race/ethnicity models revealed that the relationships between PTA involvement, parents volunteering in the classroom, and high school graduation were only significant for White respondents. These nationally representative findings support literature documenting the existence of racial and ethnic differences in parental involvement, suggesting that minority parents may have different ways of being involved in their children’s academic lives than the more studied PTA and classroom volunteer models.