Social control is a second mechanism through which

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Social control is a second mechanism through which parental school involvement promotes achievement. Social control occurs when families and schools work together to build a consensus about ap- propriate behavior that can be effectively communicated to children at both home and school (McNeal, 1999). Parents’ coming to know one another and agree on goals—both behavioral and academic—serves as a form of social constraint that reduces problem behaviors. When children and their peers receive similar messages about appropriate behavior across settings and from different sources, the messages become clear and salient, reducing confusion about expectations. Moreover, when families do not agree with each other or with schools about appropriate behavior, the authority and effectiveness of teach- ers, parents, or other adults may be undermined. Through both social capital and social control, children receive messages about the im- portance of schooling, and these messages increase children’s com- petence, motivation to learn, and engagement in school (Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994). FAMILY AND SCHOOL CHARACTERISTICS THAT INFLUENCE PARENTAL SCHOOL INVOLVEMENT Parent-school relationships do not occur in isolation, but in commu- nity and cultural contexts. One of the biggest challenges schools have today is the increasing diversity among students (Lichter, 1996). Demographic characteristics, such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and cultural background, and other parental characteristics are sys- tematically associated with parental school involvement. Overall, parents from higher socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to be involved in schooling than parents of lower socioeconomic status. A higher education level of parents is positively associated with a greater tendency for them to advocate for their children’s placement in honors courses and actively manage their children’s education (Baker & Stevenson, 1986). In contrast, parents from lower socioeconomic backgrounds face many more barriers to involvement, including nonflexible work schedules, lack of resources, transportation prob- lems, and stress due to residing in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Finally, because parents in lower-socioeconomic families often have fewer years of education themselves and potentially harbor more negative experiences with schools, they often feel ill equipped to question the teacher or school (Lareau, 1996). It is unfortunate that parents with children who would most benefit from parental involve- ment often find it most difficult to become and remain involved. Involvement in school sometimes varies across ethnic or cultural backgrounds as well. Often, teachers who are different culturally from their students are less likely to know the students and parents than are teachers who come from similar cultural backgrounds; culturally dif- ferent teachers are also more likely to believe that students and parents are disinterested or uninvolved in schooling (Epstein & Dauber, 1991).

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