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Citation:McNeal, R. B. J. (1999). Parental involvement as social capital: Differential effectiveness on science achievement, truancy, and dropping out. Social Forces, 78(1), 117-144. EJ593784.

This study details how parent involvement can be conceptualized as social capital and examines how various dimensions of parent involvement affect cognitive outcomes (e.g. science achievement) and behavioral outcomes (e.g., truancy and dropping out). This study found that social capital (parent involvement) is associated with increased student achievement and less deviant behavior for traditionally advantaged sections of the population. Comparable levels of parent involvement in lower socioeconomic status families get comparatively smaller results. It is unclear whether this was due to the quality of the involvement or because schools treat lower SES students differently. A second finding was that parent involvement, consisting of specific parent-teacher contact and interaction, does not significantly improve achievement or reduce problematic behavior for any students. This is particularly surprising to the researcher since parent-teacher contact has long been believed to be crucial for student success (Lareau, 1989). The researcher speculates that it may be because the types of contacts reported in these data are reactive and that teachers are more likely to contact parents about behavior problems than about achievement. This study is based on a sample of 17,049 parents from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) data for 8th and 10th grade students. It used a principal-components factor analysis with a promax rotation to analyze parent involvement for the entire 8th grade sample and extracted the weighted factors. It is important to keep in mind that NELS:88 data have limitations and more research is needed to understand how social capital conceptualized as parent involvement affects a range of variables that can influence academic achievement.

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