Parents Do Matter

Students whose parents are involved in their schooling have higher career and educational goals, according to a new study of middle- and high-school students. And parents' influence on how their children think about the future and perform in school continues through adolescence, according to the study, which followed nearly 500 black and white children from seventh through eleventh grades.

"Some previous research has indicated that parents' involvement isn't that significant as children move into adolescence," says Nancy E. Hill, associate professor of social psychology at Duke. "But our research shows that parents do matter, especially in adolescence, when children decide whether or not they want to go to college and begin thinking about what jobs they'd like to have as adults."

The study also found that the effect of parental involvement varied depending on the race and educational achievement of the parents. The research was conducted by Hill and Duke colleagues Domini R. Castellino, Jennifer E. Lansford, and Kenneth A. Dodge; Patrick Nowlin and John E. Bates at Indiana University: and Gregory S. Pettit at Auburn University. It appeared in the September-October issue of Child Development, the flagship journal of the Society for Research in Child Development.

The researchers measured how often parents visited their children's schools and how comfortable teachers felt talking to the parents. They also asked students whether their parents helped them choose classes, kept tabs on their school performance, and talked to them about school work.

Though higher levels of parental involvement correlated across the board with increased aspirations among their children, better-educated parents made a bigger difference in school performance than did less-educated parents.

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