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Parental Involvement Can Hinder Academic Success

Lifestyle & Opinion

Parental Involvement in Education: A Hindrance?

Keith Robinson, Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan, as well as Angel Harris, another Professor of Sociology, were interviewed last week about a case study involving student academics and their parents. The study had to do with the success of parental involvement within a child’s education and if it actually had a positive effect or not. Of course, as American ideals go, and as parents, that answer would be answered without hesitation- yes, parental involvement is necessary. We see this ideal broadcasted by George Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and Obama’s Race To The Top program. These programs pushed for parental involvement in a child’s educational career, however, a new study showed that parental involvement could actually hinder their advancement.

The Study

Keith and Angel stated how they pooled large amounts of data together and analyzed it to form their theory. They took longitudinal surveys from 1980 to the 2000’s that grouped up families by race, ethnicity and academic success within the family. What they found was that the families that had little academic success were those families where parents felt education was not important, however, there was no great difference in he amount of parental involvement from a parent who devalues education to one that values it. Also, there was no large gap between large parental involvement and tests scores.

Test scores ranged all over the spectrum regardless of parental involvement, so there is no way to attach parental involvement to test success unless you attach parental involvement to test failure.

What was extremely interesting was the fact that most children who had little parental involvement had the best overall academic success. Is this because the child knows that they have to try harder due to lack of parental involvement? Does that give them a harder academic drive?

Of course, all examples are dependent on factors such as socioeconomic standing, race and ethnicity. Someone who was born into a family who owns a large business, therefore their parents can not be around as often, probably would work harder to attain the same success as their parents.

Now Keith and Angel both agree that parental involvement in certain aspects are beneficial for the child. (The examples given differ for different ethnic groups and socioeconomic standings)These areas include simply talking about the school day with the child and reading to the child. Both these examples were based off of elementary children and become more complicated further into their academic life.

So what about helping with homework? Keith and Angel found that there were no links to good test scores and consistent parental involvement in homework, though bad tests scores and parental involvement went well together.

To conclude, Keith and Angel agree that some form of parental involvement is a necessity for child success, but it is not as extensive as society portrays it to be. Little things like talking with the child about school, picking a specific teacher, and getting the child involved in school activities showed success, while everything else showed little to no success.

Parents May Not Agree

As a parent, it will be hard to wrap around this idea. A person wants to feel like they made an impact in their child’s life involving all aspects. This feeling does not degrade when it comes to a child’s education because a child’s education is what will define that child as a person, and parents can often be overbearing to their children since the world is a dangerous place, so it is understandable to be strict about education.

However, the negative effects to an overbearing relationship are very apparent. For example, a study done at the University of Michigan surveyed three-hundred students and proposed that “helicopter” parenting can cause higher anxiety, depression, and a decrease in overall satisfaction for the child. The study above, combined with this example, can give some insight into why issues may arise if a parent is overly involved in the education process. Taking a step back comes to mind and can give the child some well needed breathing room to thrive. (Hodgekiss)

Remember, these studies do not suggest that the parenting aspect should be drastically lessened. It only argues for a less extreme approach. Heather Sandstrom and Sandra Huerta from the Urban Institute wrote a research synthesis on child development and instability. Instability can come from a number of factors which include economic, educational, and employment, and is defined as an abrupt negative change in the way a family unit runs. This is the main factor in the developmental process of a child. Heather and Sandra states,

  • “Children thrive in stable and nurturing environments where they have a routine and generally know what to expect from their daily lives. Although some change in children’s lives is normal and anticipated, sudden and dramatic disruptions can be extremely stressful and affect children’s feeling of security.”

A child’s development contains many psychological changes. Instability is a force that will truly define a child’s perception of what is and what is not. An overbearing outlook toward the child creates negativity in the forms of anxiety and depression while being too separated causes similar outcomes. One must find the Golden Mean (middle ground) between the two extremes when raising a child properly. Giving a child enough space to grow and be free to make choices is part of a healthy life style.

My Opinion

This has been something that I think of often. I am not a parent, but I am on the road to forming a family, and I find myself wondering what kind of parent I would be? Like most often do. The biggest thing that comes to mind is the child’s education.

It is the stepping stone into life and will either breed success for your child, or leave them in an unsatisfying situation. Of course a parent would wish success upon the child, but how do you get them there? I would say that Keith and Angel are correct. There is very little you can do in a child’s education past a certain point. Teaching them their basic colors and numbers and letters is about as far as one can hope for. Once the child’s mind gets going it will go at their own pace, it will give them their own emotions about certain subjects, and it will drive them in a certain direction that you can not hope to comprehend or follow. The only thing I can say for certain is that I would be there to show my support for my child regardless of the path they take and I think that is all that’s needed. A child has to learn on their own, they can use their parents wisdom to make it easier, but in the end it is their life to live.


1. “Parental Involvement Is Overrated.” Opinionator Parental Involvement Is Overrated Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

2. “Study Finds Parental Involvement Can ‘hinder’ Academic Achievement | Al Jazeera America.” Study Finds Parental Involvement Can ‘hinder’ Academic Achievement | Al Jazeera America. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2014.

3. “Study: Parental Involvement Doesn’t Help Kids in School.” NewsCut. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2014.

4. “On the Necessity of Parental Involvement in Education.” YouTube. YouTube, 01 July 2013. Web. 19 Apr. 2014.

5. Sandstrom, Heather, and Sandra Huerta. The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis (n.d.): 1-45. The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis. Urban Institute, Sept. 2013. Web. 8 Aug. 2014.

6. Hodgekiss, Anna. “Children with Controlling ‘helicopter Parents’ Are More Likely to Be Depressed.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 14 Feb. 2013. Web. 14 Aug. 2014.

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