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Citation:Yan, W. F. (1999). Successful African American students: The role of parental involvement. Journal of Negro Education, 68(1), 5-22. EJ606013.

This study identifies unique characteristics of social capital (Coleman, 1988) held by successful African American students compared to successful White and non-successful African American peers. The researcher examined social capital along four dimensions: parent-teen interactions, parent-school interactions, parent-parent interactions, and family norms. Results showed that, generally, African American students were more likely to come from low socioeconomic status (SES) homes than White students and had higher occurrences of single and less-educated parents. A higher level of family income was related to a higher level of social capital, but most of the social capital measures of successful African American students were near zero or positive, which indicated those families possessed average or above-average social capital. Successful African American families possessed higher levels of home discussion as a family norm and parent-school interaction than White families, but they possessed lower levels of parent-parent and parent-teen interaction than White families. Data for this study were drawn from the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS: 88). The target group consisted of successful African American students and two comparison groups, one composed of successful White students and one composed of non-successful African American students. Successful is defined as those students in the data set who completed high school and enrolled in post-secondary education. The total sample included 6,459 students. It is important to note that families of successful African American students demonstrated equal or higher levels of parental involvement than successful White students, despite the formersÕ comparatively disadvantaged environments. The researcher suggests that educators should increase their awareness of cultural differences in family involvement so they can create warm, welcoming environments that actively empower African American parents to be involved and help increase their social capital. Policymakers should pay particular attention to the social and cultural differences between African American and White families and build more effective strategies and programs for family involvement in education. The researcher cautions that this study compares only general group differences between African American and White students in the NELS:88 sample. Also, the regression model used emphasized the Òethnicity effectÓ over factors that might have explained the variations in family and social capital. Further study with more variables is needed to explain the variance in social capital among these groups. Third, the study did not directly evaluate the effects of parent involvement on educational attainment. Fourth, as a survey study, this investigation cannot account for any cause-effect relationship evident in the data, and therefore cannot provide reasoning for the responses given.

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