Racial/Ethnic Variations in Adolescent Aspirations: The Relative Influence of Parental Involvement

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:00 AM
Room: 419
Distributed Paper
Sampson Lee BLAIR , The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY
Patricia Neff CLASTER , Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA
Previous research on the occupational and educational aspirations of adolescents have noted that teenagers’ desires in regard to their future statuses are often influenced significantly by family and parental characteristics.  In this study, we examine the relative effect of parental involvement upon adolescent aspirations.  This involvement comes in a variety of forms, including direct involvement (such as helping their child with their homework) and indirect involvement (such as participating in parent-teacher organizations).  Using data from the High School Longitudinal Study, the relationship between parental involvement and adolescents’ aspirations is examined, with particular emphasis upon racial- and ethnic-group differences.  The analyses demonstrate that significant differences exist in the aspirations of adolescents, across the various groups, and that the social and cultural capital of parents vary substantially, as well.  Asian and White adolescents are shown to have higher aspirations for educational attainment, and for working in a professional career, as compared to their African-American and Latino counterparts.  Across all of the groups, significant gender differences are also shown, with female adolescents expressing higher educational and occupational aspirations than males.  While structural characteristics such as household income and parental educational attainment are positively associated with adolescents’ aspirations, parental involvement is shown to also be significantly associated, suggesting that the direct forms of social capital are, indeed, influential in the development of adolescent aspirations.  Distinct racial/ethnic patterns are revealed in the findings, with cultural capital traits (e.g., language used in the family, recent immigrant status) being significant related to both levels of parental involvement and adolescent aspirations.  Overall, the relationship between parental involvement and adolescent aspirations is shown to vary considerably across racial and ethnic groups.  The results are discussed within a social capital paradigm, and the potential long-term implications for adolescent aspirations and eventual status attainment are addressed.