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Leading family scholar: Theorists understate parental involvement among African Americans, Latinos

Thursday, April 14, 2016  
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WASHINGTON — In a speech before former government officials and academics, William Jeynes, a senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton and a professor at California State University-Long Beach, asserted that theorists often understate the parental involvement levels among minorities. He asserted that Latino- and African American- parents often express their engagement in subtler ways than their white counterparts that many academics do not fully appreciate. Dr. Jeynes, a Harvard graduate who has also spoken for the White House and various government departments, shared that his meta-analytic studies on Latino and African American achievement indicate that parents of color often express their involvement by having high expectations of their children, positive and open communication, and a parental style that combines a balance a love and structure. Jeynes avers, “African American and Latino parents that are involved have a dramatically positive influence on their children.”

As much as Jeynes’ speech had an upbeat tone in sharing these findings, his optimism was tempered by statistics he shared that presently undermine the hope that parental involvement can bring to African American and Latino families. Jeynes, who is a leading researcher on the achievement gap, states, “According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 72% of African Americans are raised in a single parent home. The percentage for Latinos is also extremely high. Until those numbers come down, I don’t see the achievement gap going away. A child coming from an intact two-parent family is the leading predictor parental involvement. The literal epidemic of alternative family structures puts a cap on potential levels of parental involvement. Naturally, there are many devoted single parents out there, but the reality is that high parental involvement levels are much more easily reached when there are two devoted parents available rather than just one. Two parent homes, on average, provide all kinds of personal, psychological, financial, educational, role modeling, and moral advantages to children that are extremely difficult for single parent families to match. Single parents, overall, face financial and child-rearing responsibilities that should not be underestimated.”

Jeynes continues, “What the results of my meta-analyses indicate is that when Latino and African American parents become involved, the academic- and behavioral benefits in their children is monumental. However, family dissolution rates need to fall substantially to experience this potential.”

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Contact

William Jeynes
whjharvard@post.harvard.edu
714-901-4274


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