The study also found that father
involvement lessens the impact of growing up in a low-income home or
poor neighborhood or attending a school that has few resources.
"When fathers are involved in their child's education, it mediates
some of the negative effects these environmental stressors have on
the child," McBride said.
the study, the researcher worked with 1,334 families with children
between the ages of five and 12 to learn how men engage in the
educational process with their children, how their activity compares
to what mothers are doing and whether father involvement makes a
unique contribution to the student's development.
"We already know from research that
a mother's involvement has a direct impact on student achievement,"
McBride said. "In this study, we found that when fathers get
involved, especially when they're communicating and partnering with
teachers, there's a significant additive effect over and above the
mother's involvement," he said.
The researcher looked at three ways
parents could be involved with the school system. "The first was
talking with their children about what's going on at school, asking
what they're learning and knowing who their friends are. Then we
tried to learn if parents went to parent-teacher conferences,
volunteered for PTA activities, that sort of thing. The third thing
we looked at was the kind of involvement parents had with teachers
and administrators -- whether they were communicating with them in a
McBride used a special model that
allowed him to chart all these influences at the same time,
statistically controlling for what other influences the other
factors would have.
He was struck by the finding that
father involvement can compensate for some of the negative
influences children face. "Research shows that kids from poor homes
don't do as well in school for lots of different reasons. It's
important to know that it helps when the man in the child's life
gets involved in the educational process," McBride said.
Other interesting findings were that
black fathers, biological fathers and fathers of boys tend to be
more involved with their children's education.
"We weren't really expecting to find
differences in communication patterns based on race and ethnicity,
but if African-American fathers already have this relationship,
schools should be building on that to make it even stronger," he
[to top of second column in
McBride said a significant number of
homes in the study contained family configurations that included
stepparents or partners of a child's parent. When biological parents
aren't on the scene, schools should encourage these "father figures"
to get involved, he said, convincing them that they can play an
important role in that child's life.
And research has consistently shown
that fathers are more involved with their sons not only in school,
but in other ways as well, said McBride. "Dads do play more with
sons than with daughters and assume more responsibility for male
children. It's not necessarily good, but it's a reality," he said.
Given these realities, McBride urged
schools to abandon the mindset that moms alone can make the
difference. "When schools talk about parent involvement, they're
usually talking about mother involvement. Frankly, not all teachers
are comfortable reaching out to fathers," he said.
"Most teachers, especially in
elementary and middle school, are women. And teachers who are
working with children from single-parent homes or blended families
in high-risk, low-income backgrounds may not have the tools, the
repertoire in their language and so on, to deal with fathers
effectively. We may have to help schools change the way they look at
parent involvement and give teachers the tools to reach out to men,"
McBride urged school personnel to
get fathers involved when they are working with low-income kids who
And he encourages fathers and father
figures to get involved at school. "Talk to your children about what
they're doing in their classes. Find out what their day is like so
you'll know if they're being shunned and isolated by their peers. Be
aware of what the teachers expect from your child in the course of a
school year and help them meet those expectations," he said.
McBride's study will be published
early in 2005 in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.
The research was funded by the American Educational Research
[University of Illinois news