The path from child to adulthood is extremely critical, and often represents one of the most dynamic and influential periods of human development. Adolescents go through a series of physical, psychological, social, and cognitive changes that can be overwhelming. They go through puberty, learn their identity, and develop the independence and autonomy for self-sufficiency. Since adolescents are learning to be more independent, it is not uncommon for parents to become disengaged during this time, especially in their children’s academics. Ironically, this period of disengagement is also a period of vulnerability for adolescents since they are more susceptible to peer pressure and making poorer decisions. These vulnerabilities can put adolescents at risk in many areas, including their academic achievement. Academic achievement for adolescents is extremely important since it can affect outcomes on future aspirations, such as college and career opportunities. It is important that parents understand this and continue to show support for their children even through adolescence. Though they may not feel as needed, parents still play a crucial role in an adolescent’s life and can significantly influence their academic achievement.
Academic achievement is a multilayered concept and is commonly understood as performance outcomes regarding short and long-term scholastic goals. It covers a broad variety of educational outcomes and can be measured at numerous levels, such as one student’s performance or a whole country’s. Some educational outcomes include grade point averages (GPA), degrees and certificates, standardized test scores, and graduation rates. In contemporary societies, education is extremely important because it can be a strong indicator for career opportunities, as well as determine whether one can further their education. It is also a common practice for employers to require some level of education to work. For example, most jobs require at least a high school diploma to work, but in order to advance or apply for a full-time career, a bachelor’s degree or higher is needed. This trend is clearly indicating that as time goes on, education is becoming more pertinent.
There is an abundant amount of empirical studies that examine the impact parents have on their children’s education. When examining the influence of parents, much of the research has focused on parenting style and parental involvement. Parenting Style is a broad conceptualization and is measured along two dimensions, responsiveness and demandingness (Steinberg, 2017). Parents can fall into one of four categories depending on where they score along the responsive and demanding continuums. The four parenting styles are authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent or also known as permissive, and indifferent or also known as neglectful (Steinberg, 2017). On the other hand, parental involvement is a multifaceted construct and is generally understood by how much time, attention and resources parents invest in their children’s academics. Attending parent-teacher organization (PTO) meetings, volunteering at school functions, having parent-child discussions, and monitoring homework are all examples of parental involvement.
The aforementioned parenting styles were developed by Diana Baumrind in 1978 and originally included three different types, authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive (Steinberg, 2017). It wasn’t until later that Maccoby and Martin revised the construct and added neglectful as an additional parenting style, resulting in the four-fold classification known today (Steinberg, 2017). These parenting styles are measured along two continuums, demandingness and responsiveness. Demandingness can be defined as a measure of how rules and expectations are enforced on a child, whereas responsiveness can be defined as a measure of how supportive and receptive parents are to their children’s needs and demands (Steinberg, 2017). Authoritarian parents are high on demandingness and low on responsiveness, and are characterized as being strict, rigid, and controlling (Steinberg, 2017). Authoritative parents are both high on demandingness and responsiveness, and are characterized as being strict and rigid, but also warm and responsive (Steinberg, 2017). Indulgent/permissive parents are low on demandingness and high on responsiveness, and are characterized as being extremely supportive but have no control (Steinberg, 2017). Lastly, neglectful/indifferent parents are both low on demandingness and responsiveness, and are characterized as being emotionally distant or un-involved (Steinberg, 2017).
Since the development of parenting styles, researchers and educators alike have been interested as to how these different types of child-rearing practices influence academic development among adolescents. Empirical studies suggest that parenting styles have a significant influence on graduation and drop-out rates, grade point averages (GPA), and important mediating attributes in academic success, like self-efficacy and achievement strategies. (Blondal & Adalbjarnardottir, 2009, 2014; Rumberger, Ghatak, Poulos, Ritter, & Dornbusch, 1990).
Dropping out of school has major individual and societal repercussions. Compared to those who finish school, those who drop out face poorer prospects in the labor market, have lower lifetime earnings, and have higher rates of unemployment and antisocial behaviors (Blondal & Adalbjarnardottir, 2014). Some reasons teenagers drop out of school include low academic performance and lack of engagement. Such negative academic outcomes can be due to the lack of efficient parenting styles. Longitudinal studies have shown that parenting styles affect dropout rates in upper-secondary schools significantly (Blondal & Adalbjarnardottir, 2009, 2014). Adolescents who reported their parents as more authoritative were more likely to complete upper-secondary school, compared to those who had less authoritative parents (Blondal & Adalbjarnardottir, 2009). They also found that students who had parents characterized as autonomy granting, accepting, and supervising were less likely to be disengaged, have less negative school behavior, and less academic disinterest and disidentification (Blondal & Adalbjarnardottir, 2014). In contrast, students from permissive and neglectful families are more at risk for dropping out of school (Rumberger, Ghatak, Poulos, Ritter, & Dornbusch, 1990). Students from permissive and neglectful families are given the independence and autonomy without the proper supervision and guidance. Unfortunately, this lack of parental-control increases opportunities for adolescents to make impulsive decisions, like dropping out. Having autonomy is extremely important for adolescents, but it is also important that parents intervene when necessary since adolescents may not think of the long-term effects of their decisions.