The impact of parents' demographic and psychological characteristics and parent involvement on young children's reading and math outcomes

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Parents' involvement in children's education as a means to increase children's academic achievement has received national attention due to findings from studies and current educational legislation. The current study explores the impact of parents' demographic and psychological characteristics and their involvement in activities both school and at home on children's reading and math outcomes within the framework of Bronfenbrenner's bioecological theory. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K), a nationally representative sample of children and families, this study addresses the following research questions: what are the effects of parents' characteristics on child outcomes and on parent involvement, what is the effect of parent involvement on child outcomes, and to what extent does parent involvement mediate the association between parent characteristics and child outcomes. Results from the study revealed that parents' level of education and income were associated with both parent involvement and children's reading and math outcomes. In addition, parents' beliefs about their children's academic abilities also were strongly predictive of children's outcomes. Parent involvement in school was positively associated with children's reading and math outcomes, whereas parent involvement at home was negatively associated with children's outcomes. Lastly, parent involvement in school was found to partially mediate the association between parents' education and children's reading and math outcomes. This study highlights the impact parents have on their children's academic outcomes and findings suggest that programs aimed at helping parents build human capital is an important way to increase parent involvement at school and help children to succeed.