“'Everything that is for her benefit, I do': Parental Engagement in STEM among Mexican-Descent Families"
Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Biennial Meeting
April 12-14, 2018
Presentation Title: “'Everything that is for her benefit, I do': Parental Engagement in STEM among Mexican-Descent Families" (poster)
Authors: Stephanie Soto-Lara, Sandra Simpkins
Literature suggests that parents are an important source of support for adolescents and positively impact their academic trajectories, specifically for racial/ethnic minorities in STEM (Kilman, 2006; Sheldon and Epstein, 2005). Of the Latino population in the U.S., 63.4% are of Mexican-descent (Census Bureau, 2016), yet there is little research documenting parental engagement among this growing population (Nava, 2012). A plethora of research on parental involvement focuses on traditional forms of involvement (e.g., homework help, parent-teacher meetings, going to museums) among predominantly white families, that may deem parents, particularly of Mexican-descent, as not involved (Calabrese Barton et al., 2004; Hill & Tyson, 2009). Among Mexican-descent families, involvement includes the concept of “educacion”, a broader definition of how parents engage with their adolescents (Valdez, 1996). Involvement is also shaped by socio-economic factors and parents’ experiences (Nava, 2012). The aim of this study is to contribute to the gap in the literature by focusing on parental engagement in science among Mexican-descent families. Using a mixed-method approach, we will examine two research questions: 1) What forms of parental engagement are mentioned by Mexican-descent parents as best practices in supporting their adolescent in science, and 2) to what extent does parental engagement differ by parent education, nativity, and employment status?
Ninety-three parents were interviewed when the child was in 10th grade (see Table 1 for demographic characteristics). Fifty-one interviews of parents who self-identified as Mexican or of Mexican-descent were qualitatively analyzed through an inductive and deductive approach (Saldana, 2016) using a coding framework with In-Vino and descriptive codes. To test the differences in parental engagement by parents’ background characteristics, chi-squares were used (Figure 1).
Findings suggest that in addition to school-based involvement, parents are providing emotional support, leveraging resources (e.g., economic support, providing learning spaces/opportunities, and providing resources), and cultivating agency (e.g., strategies for decision-making and instilling cultural values and beliefs). Some themes of parental engagement differed by employment status and nativity, but not by parent education. Specifically, parents with employment are more likely to provide their adolescents with resources compared with parents who are unemployed, x2(1) = 4.09, p = .045. Parents who are unemployed are more likely to provide emotional support compared with parents who are employed, x2(1) = 4.09, p = .043. Parents who use more English when speaking, writing, reading, and thinking are more likely to provide economic support compared with parents who use more Spanish, x2(1) = 11.94, p = .018. The results highlight the unique and meaningful ways parents engage with their adolescents and how demographic characteristics may shape how parents engage. This study highlights the important of expanding the definition of parental engagement where focusing on isolated behaviors or school-based involvement alone does not capture the complexity of how parents of Mexican-descent engage with their adolescents in STEM.