Social capital predictors of children s school status in Mexico

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1 DOI: /j x Int J Soc Welfare 2006: 15: Social capital predictors of children s school status in Mexico INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WELFARE ISSN Ferguson KM. Social capital predictors of children s school status in Mexico Int J Soc Welfare 2006: 15: , Journal compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare. This study explores whether family and community social capital variables influence children s school status in Mexico. Additional predictors related to human and financial capital were included as control variables. Two hundred and four mothers were interviewed as part of a larger study on the impact of social capital on children s street work in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico. Logistic regression results suggest that family and community protective factors associated with children s academic achievement include parental help with homework, mothers academic aspirations, extended family support and mothers social support networks. The author reports on family- and community-based predictors of children s school status and discusses the social work profession s role in strengthening families and communities to enhance children s academic achievement. Kristin M. Ferguson University of Southern California, Los Angeles Key words: academic achievement, financial capital, human capital, logistic regression, social capital, community social capital Kristin M. Ferguson, University of Southern California, School of Social Work, 669 West 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA , USA Accepted for publication July 7, 2005 Recognising interpersonal ties and relationships as a source of strength in families, researchers across multiple disciplines have recently turned to exploring how a family s stock of social capital can serve as a protective factor for children s overall wellbeing, and more specifically in the area of academic success (Coleman & Hoffer, 1987; Stanton-Salazar, 2001; Teachman, Paasch & Carver, 1996, 1997; Voydanoff & Donnelly, 1999). The extant social capital literature suggests the influence of various factors on children s overall academic success: human capital, financial capital, family social capital and community social capital. Despite considerable empirical evidence indicating that such stocks of human, financial and social capital constitute protective factors for children, no study has yet aggregated these predictors and explored their influence on Mexican children s overall academic achievement. To understand more fully the influential role that interpersonal and community-level relationships can have on individuals in terms of influencing their decisions, behaviours and actions, sociologists, social workers, anthropologists and psychologists alike have assumed a key role in conceptualising social capital. Their definition has its origins in the theoretical and empirical works of two principal authors: James Coleman (1988, 1990) and Robert Putnam (1993, 1995, 2000). Although the concept of social capital can have different meanings across disciplines, United States sociologist James Coleman is best known within the social sciences as the researcher who generated the first theoretical framework for the notion of social capital, as well as the one who systematically related the concept to children and youth. According to Coleman (1988), interior (i.e. family) social capital connotes the relationships between parents and their children, which encompass the time, efforts, resources and energy that parents invest in their children. In contrast, exterior social capital or community social capital represents the family s interactions and relationships with the surrounding community, both with residents and with local institutions of socialisation, such as schools (Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 2000). Furthermore, a family s stock of financial capital refers to the total amount of household income that the family has to invest in the wellbeing of its members, whereas human capital represents the intellectual abilities of the parents in a given household, both of which influence parents child-rearing capacities (Coleman, 1988). Figure 1 below delineates findings from the literature, which indicate that social capital can facilitate positive outcomes related to children s wellbeing, including reducing academic failure, poverty, delinquency and child maltreatment (Putnam, 2000). Given that few empirical precedents have sought to identify the effects of these social capital indicators on children s academic achievement (Teachman, Paasch & Carver, 1996, 1997), this study aims to explore the Journal compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA 321

2 Ferguson levels of human capital, financial capital, family social capital and community social capital? (2) If so, what are the social capital variables that best predict this status? The present study builds on the existing theoretical and empirical precedents by testing the effects of four dimensions of capital on children s academic status in Mexico. This is likely to advance current knowledge regarding the strength of the effects of individual family and community predictive factors on children s academic success, in comparison with other factors. It will also offer information to social service providers and social policy makers as to the most effective entry points for micro- and meso-level interventions that aim to strengthen families and communities in order to enhance outcomes for children s overall school achievement. Figure 1. Hypothesised influence of social capital indicators on children s well-being. relationship between family and community social capital and children s academic success in Mexico. Often-cited predictors of children s academic achievement, namely human capital and financial capital, are included in the model as control variables. Family and community social capital variables from the existing literature are tested to determine whether families with children who were in the correct academic grade for their chronological age differed in levels of social capital from families with children who were in the incorrect grade for their age. The outcome measure of children s school status was chosen as a proxy measure for academic success, given the association in the literature between academic failure (i.e. repeating grades that contribute to children being in the incorrect grade for their chronological age) and school drop-out. The following research questions guided this study: (1) Can children s school status be accurately predicted from knowledge of a family s Empirical precedents of children s academic success A review of the social capital literature reveals four microand meso-level variables that can influence children s academic success: human capital, family financial capital, family social capital and community social capital (Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 2000; Runyan et al., 1998; Stevenson, 1998; Teachman, Paasch & Carver, 1996). Table 1 displays the conceptual and operational definitions of each with the oft-cited variable(s) or scale(s) used to measure each concept. Human capital According to Coleman (1990), human capital encompasses the acquired knowledge, intelligence, common sense, personal abilities and talents housed within a particular person. In research on children s welfare and outcomes, human capital is generally measured at the family level, commonly referring to the parents educational levels, which can influence the type of cognitive environment within a home. The specific amount of support and aid that children receive from their parents in the home Table 1. Theoretical and empirical predictors of children s academic achievement. Variable Conceptual definition Operational definition Family human capital Family financial capital Interior social capital/ Family social capital Exterior social capital/ Community social capital Intellectual abilities of the parents or primary caregivers in a given household (Coleman, 1988) Total amount of household income that the family unit has to invest in wellbeing of its members (Coleman, 1988) Relationships and interactions between parents (and other household adults) and their children; Family attitudes regarding areas such as desired educational attainment of children and children s overall wellbeing (Coleman, 1988) Social support networks, collective norms towards the local institutions and social infrastructure, and the civic participation present in a given community, which together facilitate collective coordination and cooperation towards a mutual benefit (Putnam, 1993, 2000) Parental educational levels (Coleman, 1988) Amount of family income (i.e., father, mother, other adults in household) (Coleman, 1988) Family structure, quality of parent child relationships, adult s interest in child, parents monitoring of child s activities; degree of extended family support (Coleman, 1988; Coleman & Hoffer 1987) Neighbourhood connections, civic participation, trust and safety (Social Capital Index) (Onyx & Bullen, 2000); religiosity (Coleman, 1988); neighbourhood quality (Earls, 1997) 322 Journal compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare

3 Social capital predictors of children s school status environment can either enhance or hinder the children s own learning processes (Coleman, 1988). Financial capital The notion of financial capital, also defined by Coleman (1988), refers to a family s physical and material resources which, depending on the specific amount, can either stimulate or thwart children s achievement and future outcomes, much like the effects of human capital mentioned above. In the literature on social capital and children s wellbeing, financial capital is typically measured as the family s total household income. Family social capital Coleman (1988) defines family social capital as the relationships between parents and their children (as well as between children and other family members who reside in the house) which encompass the time, efforts, resources and energy that parents (and other adult members within the house) devote to their children. Adopting Coleman and Hoffer s (1987) High School and Beyond study of 4,000 randomly selected high school students as an empirical precedent, numerous subsequent studies have followed the present authors initial operationalisation of family social capital into five main components: family structure, quality of parent child relations, adult s interest in the child, parents monitoring of the child s activities, and extended family exchange and support. Findings across studies suggest that families with high social capital are more likely to produce children who fare positively in areas of general wellbeing, including mental and physical health, educational attainment and formal labour-market participation (Coleman, 1988; Coleman & Hoffer, 1987; Furstenberg & Hughes, 1995; Johnson, 1999; Putnam, 2000; Runyan et al., 1998; Stevenson, 1998; Teachman, Paasch & Carver, 1996, 1997). One explanation is that ongoing stocks of parental human and financial capital are made available to children through their family social capital. Community social capital Following Coleman (1988), exterior social capital consists of the quality, structure and density of social relationships and interactions between and among parents and families, as well as the collective social relationships between parents and local community institutions, for instance schools. Multiple studies suggest that a community s social institutions and infrastructure, as well as the social support provided to parents through their participation in formal and informal social networks, are strongly associated with the healthy development of children and their achievement of positive future outcomes, such as in school (Coleman & Hoffer, 1987; Furstenberg & Hughes, 1995; Johnson, 1999; Putnam, 2000; Runyan et al., 1998; Stevenson, 1998; Teachman, Paasch & Carver, 1996, 1997). This pattern may be a result of the increased access to other forms of capital and human and social resources for families through their social relationships and interactions that transpire at the community level. Synthesising the findings across studies, it is possible to create a profile of families with high family and community social capital. Empirical precedents suggest that families with high levels of family social capital have a two-parent family structure, with the presence of a paternal figure, either biological or a stepfather. They are typically families characterised by frequent parent child interactions, high parental interest in children s daily lives and high parental monitoring of children s activities. The parents of families with high community social capital are more likely to be embedded in surrounding social networks, comprised of both immediate and extended family supports, as well as to participate in local social institutions. Levels of trust and safety are perceived to be higher among these parents as well. Lastly, there is some evidence that regular church attendance by families is also positively correlated with high levels of community social capital. The present study seeks to explore the aforementioned dimensions of capital on children s academic status within families residing in Monterrey, Mexico. By controlling for the effects of parents educational levels and income, it is possible to separate out the true effects of familyand community-based variables on children s school status from those effects which have merely been confounded by income and education variables. Method Setting of the study With a population of 1,110,997 residents, Monterrey, Nuevo León is considered to be the most important industrial, commercial and cultural centre in the northern region of Mexico. The city of Monterrey is exclusively urban, with 100 per cent of the population residing in localities of 2,500 or more inhabitants. Monterrey is also characterised by high literacy rates. Of the total population of adults 15 and older, 96.8 per cent are literate. Regarding the demographic composition of Monterrey, 26.4 per cent of the occupants of the capital city are under 15 years of age, while 66.6 per cent range from 15 to 64 years of age (INEGI, 2001). Data The data used in this analysis originate from a 2002 study conducted in Monterrey, Mexico that sought to explore whether families with street-working children Journal compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare 323

4 Ferguson and families with non-working children differed in levels of family social capital and community social capital. Two hundred and four families of both working and non-working children who resided in the neighbourhood of Genaro Vázquez, Monterrey, participated in the original study. The principal eligibility criterion for inclusion was that the family had a son or daughter living in the household who was between the ages of 6 and 16 years. Measures In the absence of an actual instrument that measured the effects of human, financial and social capital on children s tendency to work in the streets, existing scales and variables from other related instruments were adapted for the original instrument. Measures of financial capital and family social capital were based on the Survey of Parents and Children, 1990 (National Commission on Children, 1990), while indicators of community social capital were drawn from the Social Capital Scale (Onyx & Bullen, 2000) and the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods: Community Survey, (Earls, 1997). All original scales were translated from English to Spanish, and the back-translation method (i.e. Spanish to English) was used to ensure the accuracy of translation between languages. Several items were modified according to the Mexican culture. A pilot study was conducted in a geographically adjacent community with 20 families who shared many sociodemographic characteristics with the families included in the original study s sample. Criterion variable. The criterion variable, child s school status, was dichotomous in nature, consisting of a categorical (dummy) variable that was calculated from two variables: child s current grade and child s age (as of the date of the interview). School status was coded as follows: 0 (i.e. incorrect grade for age) = child is behind in school for his/her age (± 1 grade) or child is not attending school, and 1 (i.e. correct grade for age) = child is in the correct academic grade (± 1 grade) for his/her chronological age. In Mexico, children enter kindergarten at the age of 6. Thus, the correct grade for a 6-year-old child (± 1 grade) is kindergarten or 1st grade. As such, the correct grade for a 7-year-old child (± 1 grade) is kindergarten, 1st grade or 2nd grade, and so forth. By age 16, the correct grade for a youth (± 1 grade) would be 9th, 10th or 11th grade. Predictor variables. Four dimensions of capital were assessed as potential predictor variables that influence children s school status: (1) family social capital, (2) community social capital, (3) human capital and (4) financial capital. Family social capital was comprised of five sub-factors: (1) family structure, (2) quality of parent child relationship, (3) adult s interest in child, (4) parents monitoring of child s activities and (5) degree of extended family exchange and support. Community social capital, on the other hand, consisted of the following six sub-factors: (1) quality of school, (2) quality of neighbourhood, (3) social support networks, (4) civic engagement, (5) trust and safety and (6) degree of religiosity. Additionally, the significant correlates related to human capital and financial capital were included in the study as control variables, given that empirical precedents indicate that both the parents and child s educational levels, as well as family income, are important predictors of children s street work (DIF et al., 1997; Sandoval, 1999; Wittig, 1994). Human capital referred to both parents human capital (i.e. mother s and father s highest educational level attained) and child s human capital (i.e. child s current school status and final grades from previous academic year). Financial capital was comprised of the following six items: (1) household income, (2) public assistance, (3) kin financial help, (4) financial support networks, (5) economic hardship and (6) perceived financial need. Sampling procedure The city of Monterrey was chosen as the geographic context for the original study, given that over half of the total number of expulsive zones (i.e. marginal communities) within the greater metropolitan area of Monterrey are located within the city of Monterrey. The neighbourhood of Genaro Vázquez, located in the city s northern strip, was selected from an annual list of expulsive zones produced by the Mexican Institution for the Integral Development of the Family (DIF). During the year that the original study was performed, Genaro Vázquez had the largest number of street-working children of all neighbourhoods in Monterrey. Non-probability, purposive sampling was utilised to select cases for the study. Five preliminary questions were derived from UNICEF s (1998) operational definition of child labour to screen families for inclusion: 1. In the past year, has your child contributed money to the household income from his/her work in the streets? 2. Does your child usually accompany you (i.e. the mother) to work in the streets to help? 3. Does your child usually accompany your partner to his work in the streets to help? 4. Does your child currently work in the streets? 5. In the past year, has your child engaged in paid or unpaid work in the streets for someone who is not a member of the household? All screening questions were answered in a yes or no fashion. If a mother/female caregiver answered yes to any one of the questions, the family was considered to be a family with street-working children. In contrast, 324 Journal compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare

5 Social capital predictors of children s school status Table 2. Selected demographic characteristics for sample families. Variable Range Mean N Per cent CG a IG CG IG CG IG CG IG Child s age Gender Male Female Child work status Not working Working Grades (2001 2) Parent s age Mother Father Parents education Mother Father Parent income b Mother per month $200 5,600 $240 3,600 $1,510 $1,448 Father per month $200 16,000 $560 7,200 $3,337 $2,627 Parenting status Single parent Dual parent Family ethnicity Non-indigenous Indigenous Notes: a CG = Correct grade for age; IG = Incorrect grade for age. b All amounts are in Mexican pesos (US$1 = $10 Mexican pesos in 2002) and rounded to nearest whole peso. if a mother/female caregiver answered no to all of the questions, the family was classified as a family with non-working children. The starting point for locating the families with street-working children consisted of consultation of a list of all families in the community who were participating in the Mejores Menores (Better Children) programme for child street workers, under the auspices of DIF in Monterrey. Additional families of both working and non-working children were located via the snowball sampling technique. Three research assistants were recruited from the School of Social Work at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León, and were hired and trained by the principal investigator. Over the course of three months, anonymous, quantitative surveys were administered in the neighbourhood of Genaro Vázquez to 204 female heads-of-household via face-to-face interviews. All participants provided verbal consent prior to conducting the interview and received a 50 peso (US$5.00) food voucher for use at their local supermarket. The small payment to families served as a gesture of respect and gratitude for their time and participation. Results Descriptive statistics of sample participants For the purposes of the present study, exploring the relationship between social capital and children s academic achievement, the total sample size was 201, of which 142 cases were included in the analysis. Fifty-nine cases were excluded due to partial missing data. Within the sample of families, 71 per cent of the children were in the correct grade for their chronological age (N = 143), while 29 per cent (N = 58) were in the incorrect grade for their age. Table 2 displays selected individual, parent and family characteristics by the children s school status. Child characteristics. Children in the correct grade for their age were on average three years younger than those in the incorrect grade (11.2 versus 14.1 years). Of the children in the correct grade, only 39 per cent were working children, while in the group of children who were academically behind, 79 per cent were working. On average, children in the correct grade scored almost one point higher than children in the incorrect grade on their final grade-point averages (on a 10-point scale) (8.4 versus 7.6). Parent characteristics. Mothers of children in the correct grade for their age were on average four years younger than mothers of children in the incorrect grade. Likewise, fathers of the former group were about three years younger than the fathers of children in the latter group. Higher parent educational levels can also be observed for parents of children in the correct grade. Mothers of these children averaged 2.6 years more of formal education than mothers of children who were Journal compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare 325

6 Ferguson Table 3. Regression coefficients. Predictor B SE Wald df p Exp(B) B x SD a Mother s nghbrhd connections Help with homework Child visits extended family Mother s educational level Father s educational level Verbally encourage Sharing activities School-related interactions Mother s academic aspirations Parental empathy Neighbourhood grade Safe places Mother s social networks Mother s civic engagement Trust and safety Mother s religious attendance Total family income Constant Note: a In logistic regression, regressors can be compared by multiplying each coefficient (B) by the standard deviation (SD) of the corresponding variable. Their ranking reflects the relative importance of each variable, controlling for the effects of other predictors in the model (Lea, 1997) (Note: Values computed for significant variables only). behind in school. Similarly, fathers of children in the correct grade had an average of 2.4 years more of formal schooling than fathers of children who were behind. Both mothers and fathers of children in the correct grade also had higher earnings than the parents of children in the incorrect grade. Lastly, at the household level, 12 per cent of the families were headed by single parents and 22 per cent were of indigenous origin, comprising the Otomí, Mixteco and Nahuatal indigenous groups. Within these households, one or both parents spoke an indigenous language or dialect other than Spanish as the primary language in the household. Logistic regression findings This study aimed to identify a combination of family and community-related variables that most accurately predicts a family s membership in one of two groups related to children s school status. Binary logistic regression using the Enter method facilitated the detection of which of the selected correlates are most important in the prediction of children s academic status, as well as how precise the proposed model is in classifying families. The logistic regression model included a total of 17 predictors related to the four dimensions of capital. Regression results reveal that the overall model was significant in differentiating families whose children were in the correct academic grade for their age, from families whose children were in the incorrect grade for their age ( 2 Log Likelihood = 88.17; Model Chi-Square = 34.28; p < 0.01). With knowledge of the predictors included in the analysis, the model correctly classified 88.7 per cent of the cases. Table 3 depicts the regression coefficients for the variables included in the logistic model. The Wald statistics and accompanying significance levels reveal that three variables were significantly reliable in predicting children s correct school status at the p < 0.05 level, controlling for the influences of the other predictors in the model. First, mother s neighbourhood connections was a significant predictor of children s school status in the multivariate analysis (Wald = 4.224, p = 0.040). The Exp(B) statistic, or odds ratio, reflects the increase (or decrease if the ratio is negative) in odds of being classified in one outcome category when the predictor variable increases by one unit (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1996). In this case, the odds ratio was 1.273, signifying that a one-unit increase in a mother s score on the neighbourhood connections sub-scale multiplies the odds of her child being in the correct academic grade for his/her age by 1.27, or 27 per cent. Results from t- tests indicate that on average, children who were in the correct grade for their age had mothers who scored a 5.75 (range = 0 15) on the Social Capital Scale, for the five questions pertaining to the factor, neighbourhood connections (Onyx & Bullen, 2000). In contrast, the mothers of children who were not in the correct grade for their age scored a point lower, with The regression coefficient multiplied by the standard deviation of the corresponding variable denotes that mother s neighbourhood connections was the strongest variable in the prediction of children s school status. The variable help with homework (number of times per week that the parent(s) help the child with homework or arrange for another adult to help) also significantly predicted the academic status of children (Wald = 4.200, 326 Journal compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare

7 Social capital predictors of children s school status p = 0.040). As parents increased by one unit the number of days per week that they helped their children with their homework (or arranged for another adult to do so if the parents were illiterate or spoke only an indigenous language), a child was almost 36 per cent times more likely to be in the correct academic grade for his/her age (Exp(B) = 1.356). T-test results reveal that for children who were in the correct grade for their age, parents helped them with their homework on average 3 times per week, while parents of children who were not in the correct grade for their age helped their children on average 2 times per week. Of the three variables in the model, help with homework was the second strongest predictor of children s school status. The variable, child visits extended family, was the third significant predictor of children s school status in the logistic regression analysis (Wald = 4.406, p = 0.036). As the number of days per month that children visited their extended relatives increased by one, children were 6 per cent more likely to be in the correct academic grade for their age (Exp(B) = 1.055). Findings from t-tests indicate that children who were in the correct grade for their age visited their extended relatives on average 16 times per month, while children who were not in the correct grade for their age visited their relatives 10 times per month. Child visits extended family was the third strongest predictor of children s school status in the model. Wald statistics indicate that three variables significantly predicted children s school status at the 0.05 level. Nonetheless, several sources suggest that because the Wald statistic is generally conservative, a more liberal significance level (e.g. p < 0.10) should be adopted (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1996). When the commonly accepted criteria or statistical significance were relaxed to the 0.10 level, two additional predictors of children s school status emerged. First, mother s academic aspirations for her child was a significant predictor of children s school status at the 0.10 level (Wald = 2.935, p = 0.087). This composite-score variable was adapted from the Survey of Parents and Children, 1990 (National Commission on Children, 1990) and measured how far mothers believed their children would go in formal schooling. As the amount of formal education in years which the mother desired for her child increased, children were 79 per cent more likely to be in the correct academic grade for their age (Exp(B) = 1.788). Second, civic engagement (i.e. the extent to which the mother was involved in various types of community projects since she lived in the neighbourhood) also significantly predicted children s school status at the 0.10 level (Wald = 3.224, p = 0.073). Civic engagement was measured via a seven-item scale adapted from Earls (1997) Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. These items assessed whether the mother had spoken to or collaborated with other neighbours to address different community problems. In contrast to the aforementioned predictors, however, civic engagement had a negative impact on children s school status. As the number of instances in which mothers talked to local leaders and/or collaborated with other residents to address neighbourhood problems increased by one, children were 1.4 times less likely to be in the correct academic grade for their age (Exp(B) = 0.716) (1/0.716) (Mertler & Vannatta, 2002). Discussion The results suggest that several family and community social capital variables do differ among families with children in the correct grade for their age and families with children who are not in the correct grade for their age. With knowledge of these variables, the findings also reveal that correct school status can be more accurately predicted than incorrect status. Regarding the two significant family social capital variables, help with homework and child s visits to extended family members were predictors of children s school status in the multivariate model. As parents increased the amount of time per week that they helped their children with their homework, children were approximately 36 per cent more likely to be in the correct academic grade for their age. Consistent with the existing social capital literature, parent child interactions and parental help with homework were positively related to children s academic success (Coleman & Hoffer, 1987; McNeal, 1999; Stanton-Salazar, 2001; Teachman, Paasch & Carver, 1996, 1997). Nevertheless, prior research on parental involvement in children s academic achievement has also uncovered inconsistent findings. Several studies reveal a negative relationship between parental help with homework and student achievement (see McNeal, 1999). In these studies, findings reveal that the gains for children from parental help are evident only in certain academic outcomes (i.e. overall grades, but not math and reading test scores) and only for some races (i.e. for Blacks but not Whites). It is important to note here, however, that because the English language was a constant across these studies, earlier researchers did not explore the alternative ways in which monolingual parents help their bilingual children with homework, or arrange for other adults to assist them, and how these strategies can reflect a family s stock of interior (i.e. family) social capital. In the context of the present study, which was conducted in Spanish and used interpreters for mothers who were monolingual in a local indigenous language, 22 per cent of the families spoke a language other than Spanish as the primary language in the household. As a result of the indigenous mothers unfamiliarity with Spanish (i.e. the language used in Mexican schools) or inability to read altogether, they frequently reported that Journal compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare 327

8 Ferguson they were unable to help their children with their homework. To compensate for their inability to directly help their children, these mothers often arranged for some other adult family member to assist their children with their homework. One-third of the families (31.5 per cent) in the study had between four and nine adults living in the home, which offers a rich pool of adults in the household to support children with their learning outside of school. As a result, children in homes in which the language from the majority culture was not spoken were not consistently at a linguistic and/ or academic disadvantage. Many monolingual (non- Spanish speaking) mothers employed their interior social capital by arranging for other family members to help their children with their homework. Given the presence of monolingual households with bilingual children in the USA and other countries around the world as a result of migration and immigration, future studies in this area are vital for understanding how children of monolingual parents can receive the academic support they need in the home in order to succeed at school. Also, it is important for researchers to consider amplifying the definition of family social capital variables, such as parental help with homework, to account for instances in which, despite linguistic or literacy barriers, parents undertake means to ensure that their children receive academic support in the home environment. Second, as children increased the amount of time that they visited their extended relatives, they were slightly more likely (6 per cent) to be in the correct academic grade for their age. In the present study, 97 per cent of the families reported having close relatives in the community. Mothers reported that their children visited these relatives an average of 14 times per month. Several studies have explored the relationship between extended family support and positive outcomes for children (Coleman & Hoffer, 1987; Furstenberg & Hughes, 1995; Stevenson, 1998). Findings suggest that social support from extended family members reduces the likelihood that children will drop out of school or experience mental-health problems. These findings also support empirical precedents indicating a positive relationship between immigrant children s academic success and their connection to extended family members (Zhou, 1997). Given the consistency in findings of the benefits of extended family support for both native and immigrant children, future research can be helpful in determining the different ways in which kin living outside the home operate to enhance children s academic achievement. Prior quantitative studies have established a positive relationship between kin support and children s academic outcomes. However, explanations of how and why such support influences positive outcomes for children are less clear. Future qualitative analysis will be useful for exploring the myriad roles of extended family members in the lives of youth and how certain roles serve as protective factors for children at risk of academic failure or dropout. Lastly, even though the variable, mother s academic aspirations, achieved significance at the 0.10 level only, it suggests an avenue for future exploration that can provide new insight into how parents expectations for their children s schooling may play a role in fomenting children s academic success. Findings from the extant literature reveal that mothers academic aspirations for their children positively predict youths graduation from high school, enrolment in college and attainment of economic autonomy (Furstenberg & Hughes, 1995). A later study by Hao and Bonstead-Bruns (1998) that included measures for both parents and children reveals that higher shared expectations between parents and children enhance academic achievement, while disparity between parent child expectations suppresses achievement. Future studies that employ multiple units of observation in data collection will be helpful to elucidate how parents and their children conceive academic expectations and whether harmonious expectations are associated with higher academic achievement. This is particularly important for immigrant families in which monolingual parents who are raising bilingual children might not have had the same academic opportunities and experiences in their countries of origin as their children have today. Studies that demonstrate a positive relationship between high shared expectations and children s academic success can be valuable in designing parental interventions that seek to educate immigrant parents about the benefits of encouraging their children to pursue advanced formal education. With respect to the indicators of community social capital, the variable, mother s neighbourhood connections, was also a significant predictor of children s school status. Mothers whose children were in the correct academic grade for their age had significantly more social support networks than mothers whose children were in the incorrect grade for their age. As mothers increased by one unit the number of times they could turn to friends and neighbours for assistance, children were 27 per cent more likely to be in the correct academic grade for their age. In the extant literature on children s academic achievement, there has been considerable focus on the parents support networks and how such social relationships are an advantage to children s school achievement. Empirical precedents suggest that parents increased relationships with other parents and community members are associated with a decreased likelihood that their children will drop out of school (Furstenberg & Hughes, 1995; Pong, 1997; Teachman, Paasch & Carver, 1996, 1997). Nonetheless, in prior studies that have divided samples by income (i.e. high- and low-income families), significant benefits of parental access to time and money help have been reaped by children from high-income families, but not by those 328 Journal compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare

9 Social capital predictors of children s school status in low-income families (Hofferth, Boisjoly & Duncan, 1998). In the present study, the sample comprised lowincome families exclusively who were earning less than twice the daily minimum wage in The mean parental monthly income in the study was $3,608 pesos (US$361). It is important to note here that despite the low-income status of families in the study, mothers neighbourhood connections was the strongest predictor of whether children were in the correct grade for their age. Additional research that examines the composition and utilisation patterns of mothers neighbourhood connections within low-income families is needed, given that considerable evidence indicates that children from less economically advantaged families are more likely to drop out of school than those from more advantaged families (Haveman & Wolfe, 1994; Rumberger, 1995). The final community social capital variable, civic engagement, was slightly outside the accepted significance level in this study (p = 0.073) and, in contrast to the aforementioned predictors, was negatively associated with children s school status. That is, the more mothers were involved in addressing local neighbourhood problems, the less likely their children were to be in the correct grade for their age. This finding poses an intriguing set of questions: Does a mother s civic engagement divert time from her children that she could otherwise dedicate to enhancing their academic success? Do civically engaged mothers spend less time with their children? What are the school outcomes of children of civically engaged mothers? The negative relationship found here (albeit one that approaches statistical significance) raises the issue of whether parents collective efficacy can detract from their children s academic achievement. The notion of collective efficacy refers to the civic engagement activities performed by community members in an effort to act together to generate solutions to local problems (Sampson, 2001). Future studies that seek to answer these and similar questions will help clarify whether parental involvement in (non-school) community-based efforts can be a risk or a protective factor for children in their academic achievement. Implications for social work practice and social welfare policy Strengthening families and communities from within through empowerment strategies in an effort to promote academic opportunities for children and youth is strongly tied to the value system espoused by the social work profession. Data from the present study indicate that with knowledge of specific family and community social capital indicators, one can accurately predict children s school status. The positive impact of both 1 The minimum daily wage in Nuevo León in the year 2002 was $40.10 pesos (US$4.01) (CNSM, 2002). family and community social capital variables on children s academic status has direct implications for social work practice and social welfare policy. First, it is crucial for social workers to tailor their interventions to the specific needs of both children and families. For instance, the older ages of children who are in the incorrect grade for their age may mean that they have emotional, physical and developmental needs distinct from their younger classmates. Similarly, lower grades and substantially lower parental educational levels of children in the incorrect academic grades may put them at a further disadvantage both within and outside the classroom with respect to assignments. Parental factors such as illiteracy, work schedules and inability to speak the language of the dominant culture can inhibit many parents from helping their children with their homework outside school. Given the social work profession s holistic focus on the family as a unit, these data can be helpful in guiding the design of interventions that address the specific needs of children and families. Initiatives such as support groups for older children in the classroom, individualised mentoring and academic tutoring may be helpful measures to reduce disadvantage in the classroom as well as to meet the emotional and developmental needs of older children in school settings. Likewise, efforts that aim to enhance parents education levels and language proficiency as well as to provide instruction on how to better help their children to achieve academic success are more comprehensive, family-centred responses than those that focus primarily on the children s needs. Enlisting the support of extended family members in the lives of the children to assist them in their academic progress is one additional family-focused strategy. Second, in addition to the design of interventions targeted at children who are already in the incorrect grade for their age, preventive efforts to promote children s school success can be directed at children in all school grades. Data from this and other studies indicate that a mother s involvement in her children s schooling as well as her interconnectedness with community resources and support networks can be beneficial to her children s school success. The positive influence of community social capital on children s academic achievement supports the presence of Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA) and other means of enhancing parental involvement in the school (i.e. teaching assistants, and playground and lunchtime aides). Likewise, parental involvement in community-based efforts that establish new and reinforce existing formal and informal helping systems can assist parents in supporting their children s academic growth. A likely byproduct of these school and community groups is the strengthening of informal relationships among parents and formal linkages with school and community resources, both rich sources of community social capital. Journal compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare 329

10 Ferguson Lastly, with these data, policy makers can also be informed about the family and community protective factors associated with academic achievement in children: parent-school involvement, aspirations for the academic progress of children, extended family support and mothers social support networks. Currently in Mexico, annual educational indicators produced by the Mexican Secretary of Education reveal a gradual decline in high-school enrolment rates since 1998 for young people who have completed their secondary education (through ninth grade). For the school year , 71.8 per cent of junior-high graduates enrolled in high school. For the academic year , only 66.3 per cent of junior-high graduates enrolled in high school (SEP, 2001). Although compulsory education for children in Mexico terminates with the completion of ninth grade (i.e. junior high school), young people who want to continue with high school education are often deterred from entering due to factors such as costly enrolment fees, on-going school-related expenses, standardised admission exams and lack of proximity to area high schools. Many young people may also choose to enter the workforce as an alternative to continuing with high school education. Creating ways for young people to continue with and excel in secondary and higher education will likely contribute to a more highly educated workforce, which, in turn, has implications for the social and economic development of both regions and countries. Social welfare and educational policies should seek to maximise the protective factors of families (i.e. parental involvement in schools and support networks) that foment children s school success, while minimising the risk factors (i.e. disengagement in children s education and social isolation) that can thwart their achievement. In conclusion, the data from this study support the continued efforts to operationalise social capital into its specific, measurable components and to examine how different types of social capital are related to various aspects of children s academic success. This is likely to advance current knowledge regarding the effects of individual, family and community predictive factors on children s academic achievement. Findings from this and other related studies are useful to inform social policy makers and social service providers in the design of interventions to strengthen families and communities in order to enhance outcomes for children s overall school success. Acknowledgements The original data from which this analysis was performed were collected in a study that was partly funded by a graduate research fellowship from the Organization of American States (Washington, DC) and by the International Education Fee Scholarship from the International Office at the University of Texas at Arlington. References Coleman J (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. In: Dasgupta P, Serageldin I, eds. Social capital: A multifaceted perspective. Washington, DC, World Bank. Coleman J (1990). The foundations of social theory. Cambridge, Harvard University Press. Coleman JS, Hoffer TB (1987). Public and private schools: The impact of communities. New York, Basic Books. Comisión Nacional de los Salarios Mínimos (CNSM) (2002). Salario mínimo general promedio de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos: [Average general minimum wage of the United Status of Mexico: ]. Retrieved on 2 June 2002, from Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF), Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL), UNICEF (1997). El perfil del menor trabajador y su familia en el área metropolitana de Monterrey [Profile of the child street worker and his/her family in the greater metropolitan area of Monterrey]. Nuevo León, México, DIF. Earls F (1997). Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods: Community Survey, [Computer file]. ICPSR version. Boston, MA, Harvard Medical School [producer], Ann Arbor, MI, Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], Furstenberg FF, Hughes ME (1995). Social capital and successful development among at-risk youth. Journal of Marriage and the Family 57: Hao L, Bonstead-Bruns M (1998). Parent-child differences in educational expectations and the academic achievement of immigrant and native students. Sociology of Education 71: Haveman R, Wolfe B (1994). Succeeding generations: On the effects of investments in children. New York, Russell Sage Foundation. Hofferth SL, Boisjoly J, Duncan GJ (1998). Parents extrafamilial resources and children s school attainment. Sociology of Education 71: Instituto Nacional Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI) (2001). Tabulados básicos nacionales y por entidad federativa [National, basic tabulations by federal entity]. Base de Datos y Tabulados de la Muestra Censal. XII Censo General de Población y Vivienda, México. Retrieved on 26 May 2002, from Johnson SD (1999). The social context of youth violence: A study of African American youth. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health 11(3 4): Lea S (1997). Topic 4: Logistic regression and discriminant analysis. Retrieved on 25 February 2002, from Exeter, UK, University of Exeter Department of Psychology. McNeal RB (1999). Parental involvement as social capital: Differential effectiveness on science achievement, truancy, and dropping out. Social Forces 78(1): Mertler CA, Vannatta RA (2002). Advanced and multivariate statistical methods. Practical application and interpretation (2nd edition). Los Angeles, CA, Pyrczak Publishing. National Commission on Children (1990). Survey of parents and children, United States [Computer file]. ICPSR version. Washington, DC, Child Trends Inc./Princeton, NJ, Princeton Survey Research/Ann Arbor, MI, DataStat [producers], Ann Arbor, MI, Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], Onyx J, Bullen P (2000). Measuring social capital in five communities. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 36(1): Pong SL (1997). Family structure, school context, and eighthgrade math and reading achievement. 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11 Social capital predictors of children s school status Putnam RD (1995). Tuning in, tuning out: The strange disappearance of social capital in America. The 1995 Ithiel de Sola Pool Lecture. Political Science and Politics Winter: Putnam RD (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, Simon & Schuster. Rumberger RW (1995). Dropping out of middle school: A multilevel analysis of students and schools. American Educational Research Journal 32: Runyan DK, Hunter WM, Socolar RS, Amaya-Jackson L, English D, Landsverk J, Dubowitz H, Browne DH, Bangdiwala SI, Mathew RM (1998). Children who prosper in unfavourable environments: The relationship to social capital. Pediatrics 101(1): Sampson RJ (2001). Crime and public safety: Insights from community-level perspectives on social capital. In: Saegert S, Thompson JP, Warren MR, eds. Social capital and poor communities. New York, Russell Sage Foundation. Sandoval Ávila A (1999). Pobreza y niños de la calle [Poverty and street children]. Guadalajara, México, Universidad de Guadalajara, Centro Universitario de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades. Secretaría de Educación Pública (SEP) (2001). Indicadores educativos [Educational indicators]. Nuevo León, México, Secretaría de Educación Pública. Stanton-Salazar RD (2001). Manufacturing hope and despair: The school and kin support networks of U.S.-Mexican youth. New York, Teachers College Press. Stevenson HC (1998). Raising safe villages: Cultural-ecological factors that influence the emotional adjustment of adolescents. Journal of Black Psychology 24(1): Tabachnick BG, Fidell LS (1996). Using multivariate statistics (third edition). Northridge, CA, HarperCollins College Publishers. Teachman JD, Paasch K, Carver K (1996). Social capital and dropping out of school early. Journal of Marriage and the Family 58: Teachman JD, Paasch K, Carver K (1997). Social capital and the generation of human capital. Social Forces 75(4): UNICEF (1998). UNICEF end decade databases child work. Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS). Retrieved on 27 March 2002, from Voydanoff P, Donnelly BW (1999). Risk and protective factors for psychological adjustment and grades among adolescents. Journal of Family Issues 20(3): Wittig MC (1994). Culture of poverty or ghetto underclass? Women and children on the streets of Honduras. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA. Zhou M (1997). Growing up American: The challenge confronting immigrant children and children of immigrants. Annual Review of Sociology 23: Journal compilation 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and the International Journal of Social Welfare 331

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