Monday, October 15, 2012
Increase Your Family Capital
We all want our children to do well in school. I would bet that even those parents who didn't value school too much while they were in it would be happy as a clam to see their child on the A Honor Roll. Still, not every child does well in school. And, many parents are quick to find fault and place blame with their child's school and teacher. I hear everything from, "That teacher doesn't like my child." to "My child shouldn't have to do group work." And, sometimes, parents are correct. There are school variables that greatly impact a child's success, and unfortunately, not all schools and teachers are willing and able to meet individual child academic needs.
But, maybe school variables aren't the most important factors in your child's success. New research from North Carolina State University, Brigham Young University and the University of California, Irvine finds that parental involvement is a more significant factor in a child's academic performance than the qualities of the school itself.
Researchers looked at data from over 10,000 students, parents, and teachers from all parts of the country. They were trying to determine if "family social capital" or "school social capital" were more important to students' academic achievement. Let me explain those terms, as most of us don't refer to them often. Sociologists use the term "social capital" to refer to the benefits (emotional, economic, academic, etc.) a social network (such as family or school) offers it's members. Or, in other words, what is the value of the social network to the individual?
Family social capital is, in essence, the bonds between parents and children, such as trust, open lines of communication and active engagement in a child's academic life. School social capital, on the other hand, refers to a school's ability to serve as a positive environment for learning, and includes benefits such involvement in extracurricular activities and the ability of teachers to address the needs of individual students.
The researchers found that students with high levels of family social capital and low levels of school social capital performed better academically than students with high levels of school social capital but low family social capital. So, parents, even if your child's school isn't equipped to meet all your child's needs, you can greatly influence your child's ability to achieve.
The key to increasing your family capital is simple . . . be interested! Ask your child about school, check their homework, discuss other activities they are involved in at school, and attend school functions. You don't have to be a scholar yourself to encourage high achievement. You can provide the "social capital" needed to have an A Honor Roll student. Isn't nice to know some of the power is in YOUR hands?!
Mikaela J. Dufur, Toby L. Parcel, Kelly P. Troutman. Does Capital at Home Matter More than Capital at School?: Social Capital Effects on Academic Achievement*. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.rssm.2012.08.002