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William Jeynes, from California State University at Long Beach, describes a meta-analysis of 52 studies that confirm parental involvement is associated with higher student achievement in secondary school.

Although much research has focused on the importance of parental involvement in children’s education, no detailed meta-analysis examines the influence of parental involvement on the academic achievement of the secondary-student population. This fact largely contributes to the limited body of knowledge regarding which aspects of parental involvement help student education and just what components of this involvement are most important.¹ I conducted a meta-analysis to determine the overall effects of parental involvement and to determine the extent to which certain aspects of parental involvement are beneficial to children.

A meta-analysis statistically combines all the relevant existing studies on a given subject in order to determine the aggregated results of the research. The reasonably large amount of available research on parental involvement suggests that this research area has developed to a point at which a meta-analysis would be beneficial; it would yield some answers to questions that the individual studies by themselves are too narrowly focused to address.

A quantitative synthesis of 52 studies examining the effects of parental involvement on secondary students’ academic achievement addressed the following questions:

1. How does the academic achievement of secondary students whose parents are actively involved in their education compare to that of their counterparts whose parents are not involved?

The results of the meta-analysis indicate that parental involvement is associated with higher student achievement outcomes. This trend holds not only for parental involvement overall but for most components of parental involvement that were examined in the meta-analysis. Also, the pattern holds not only for the overall student population but for minority students as well. Although the influence of parental involvement generally holds across academic variables, it appeared to produce statistically significant effects slightly more often for grades and other measures than for standardized tests. For the overall population of students, the academic advantage for those whose parents were highly involved in their education averaged in the general range of about 1/2 of a standard deviation for overall educational outcomes, grades, and academic achievement when no sophisticated controls were used. What this means is that the academic achievement score distribution for children whose parents were highly involved in their education was substantially higher than that of their counterparts whose parents were less involved.

2. What is the particular influence of specific aspects of parental involvement?

One of the most vital aspects of this study was its examination of specific components of parental involvement to see which aspects influenced student achievement. One of the patterns that emerged from the findings was that subtle aspects of parental involvement, such as parental style and expectations, had a greater impact on student educational outcomes than some of the more demonstrative aspects of parental involvement, such as having household rules, and parental attendance and participation at school functions.

3. Which aspects of parental involvement have the greatest impact on academic achievement?

The largest effect sizes² emerged for parental expectations and style. The effect sizes for family communication about school were smaller than for either parental style or expectations. Parent involvement programs also influenced educational outcomes, although to a lesser degree than preexisting expressions of parental support.

4. Do the effects of parental involvement hold for racial minority children?

The results for studies examining 100% minority students and mostly minority students were also close to about 1/2 a standard deviation unit. For overall achievement, the effect size was .46 standard deviation units for studies that examined all minority children, and .53 standard deviation units for those studies that included mostly minority children. These results highlight the consistency of the impact of parental involvement.

Taken together the results of this study are very enlightening. First, these findings are fairly substantial and support the notion that parental involvement has salient effects across various populations. Second, not only does voluntary parental involvement have an effect, but parental programs do as well. Third, this meta-analysis suggests that among the most important aspects of parental involvement are some of the more subtle facets of this practice, among them parental style and parental expectations.

¹ Ballantine, J. H. (1999). Getting involved in our children’s education. Childhood Education, 75(3), 170–171; Christian, K., Morrison, F. J., & Bryant, F. B. (1998). Predicting kindergarten academic skills: Interactions among child care, maternal education, and family literacy environments. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 13(3), 501–521; Hara, S. R. (1998). Parent involvement: The key to improved student achievement. School Community Journal, 8(2), 9–19.
² An effect size measurement calculates the difference between two or more groups. The magnitude of the differences among groups is measured in standard deviation units using the d index. A d index of .20 is small, .50 moderate, and .80 large. For more on standard deviation units, see McCartney, K., & Dearing, E. (2002). Evaluating effect sizes in the policy arena. The Evaluation Exchange, 8(1), 4, 7.

William H. Jeynes
Department of Teacher Education
College of Education
California State University at Long Beach
Long Beach, CA 90840

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