Parents' social networks have an impact on their children's educational attainment. WZB researcher Anette Fasang and two US-based colleagues have studied the details of how parental networks affect the educational careers of adolescents. Their findings show that close contacts among parents primarily benefit students in affluent communities. In economically depressed communities, by contrast, frequent informal parental exchange tends to disadvantage students by reinforcing social inequities and standing in the way of upward social mobility.
The three researchers looked at about 10,000 adolescents and their parents surveyed in the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Educational attainment was defined using the grade point average in students' high school diploma (roughly the equivalent of the German Abitur) and their likelihood of obtaining such a diploma in the first place.
Depending on how many students at a given school live in poverty, strong parental networks have a favorable or inhibiting effect on the academic achievements of their children. At schools with a student poverty rate of more than 30 percent, students whose parents are involved in parental networks are up to 5 percent less likely to graduate from high school than students whose parents do not have such connections. "In view of the fact that the likelihood of earning a high school degree is generally high to begin with, this is an unexpectedly strong effect," says Anette Fasang. At schools with a student poverty rate of below 10 percent, by contrast, the research team found that regular informal exchange among parents helps improve students' grade point average and makes them more likely to graduate. However, once more than 10 percent of students at a school are poor, the positive influence of informal parental networks is reversed.
Materials provided by WZB Berlin Social Science Center / Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin fuer Sozialforschung. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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