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Mothers’ Responses to Low Grades, Cognitive Stimulation in the Home, and Low-Income African-American Adolescents’ Achievement

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Parental involvement in education is associated with positive academic and psychosocial outcomes for youth (Benner, Boyle, & Sadler, 2016; Jeynes, 2016; Wang & Sheikh-Khalil, 2014). Parental responses to grades (e.g., talking to the child’s teacher, punishing the child, or talking with the child) and cognitive stimulation in the home are two aspects of parental involvement that are understudied, especially among African American adolescents. Parental responses to grades, particularly grades that are poor or lower than expected, are an important aspect of parental involvement to consider, as how parents respond to grades may support or undermine later academic achievement (Robinson & Harris, 2013; Tang & Davis-Kean, 2015). Cognitive stimulation in the home is another form of parental involvement that includes having educational materials and engaging in enrichment activities and experiences thought to promote cognitive development and learning. Despite evidence of links between cognitive stimulation in the home and adolescent academic achievement (Simpkins et al., 2009; Tang & Davis-Kean, 2015), very little research has focused on cognitive stimulation in the home as a predictor of academic achievement specifically for African-American adolescents. To address these gaps in the literature, this study uses two waves of data to evaluate whether parental responses to inadequate academic achievement (i.e., punitive and proactive responses) and cognitive stimulation in the home are related to academic achievement for low-income African-American adolescents. Sex differences in the hypothesized model are also examined.

Respondents included 226 African-American mothers and adolescents (48% girls) who were interviewed when adolescents were age 14 (M age = 14.44 years) and again when adolescents were 16 (M age = 16.44 years). Punitive responses, proactive responses, and cognitive stimulation in the home were assessed at age 14. The outcome variable, academic achievement, was assessed at age 16. Covariates included child sex, maternal education, and age 14 academic achievement.

Path analysis was used for data analysis. The analyses were conducted in three steps. First, the hypothesized model, using the full sample and controlling for child sex and maternal education, was tested. Second, the same model with an additional control for age 14 academic achievement was tested. Third, multiple group analysis was performed to examine relationships between parental involvement and academic achievement for boys and girls.

Endorsement of proactive responses to inadequate grades and cognitive stimulation in the home at age 14 were positively related to academic achievement at 16 (Figure 1). Cognitive stimulation in the home but not proactive responses was related to changes in academic achievement (Figure 2). Results from multiple group analyses showed that endorsement of punitive responses was negatively related to academic achievement for boys but not girls and that cognitive stimulation in the home was positively associated with academic achievement for girls but not boys. However, there were no significant differences by sex in model paths.

This study points to the importance of cognitive stimulation in the home for low-income African American adolescents and suggests that punitive responses to grades may be particularly harmful for boys.

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