Family Update, Online! 

Volume 04  Issue 34 26 August 2003 
 

 

 Topic: Success in school 

 Family Fact: Parental Involvement

 Family Quote: Nerds?

 Family Research Abstract: Groomed for Success

 

 

 Family Fact of the Week: Parental Involvement 

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In 1999, 84.9 percent of parents of child in Kindergarten through fifth grade attended a school meeting: 88.6 percent of children from two-parent families had at least one parent, and 58.7 percent had both parents, while 77.1 percent of children from single-parent families had a parent attend. 

(Source: U. S. National Center for Education Statistics, National Household Education Survey, 1999; in U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2002 [122nd edition], Washington, DC, 2001, p. 143.)

 

 

 Family Quote of the Week: Nerds? 

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"I know a lot of people who were nerds in school, and they all tell the same story: there is a strong correlation between being smart and being a nerd, and an even stronger inverse correlation between being a nerd and being popular. Being smart seems to make you unpopular. 

...Alberti, arguably the archetype of the Renaissance Man, writes that 'no art, however minor, demands less than total dedication if you want to excel in it.' I wonder if anyone in the world works harder at anything than American school kids work at popularity. Navy SEALs and neurosurgery residents seem slackers by comparison. They occasionally take vacations; some even have hobbies. An American teenager may work at being popular every waking hour, 365 days a year. 

...Even if nerds cared as much as other kids about popularity, being popular would be more work for them. The popular kids learned to be popular, and to want to be popular, the same way the nerds learned to be smart, and to want to be smart: from their parents. While the nerds were being trained to get the right answers, the popular kids were being trained to please." 

(Source: Paul Graham, "Why Nerds are Unpopular," February 2003; http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html.)

 

 

 For More Information        

The Howard Center and The World Congress of Families stock a number of pro-family books, including The New Agrarian Mind: The Movement Toward Decentralist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, by Howard Center president Dr. Allan Carlson. Please visit:

    The Howard Center Bookstore   

 Call: 1-815-964-5819    USA: 1-800-461-3113    Fax: 1-815-965-1826    Contact: Bookstore 

934 North Main Street Rockford, Illinois 61103

 

 

 Family Research Abstract of the Week: Groomed for Success 

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Faced with the difficulties of moving from elementary school to middle school to high school, young adolescents often stumble, lose self-esteem, withdraw from recreational and service groups, falter in academic work, and even succumb to the temptations of delinquency and drugs. Negotiating the difficult transitions of early adolescence successfully usually requires a supportive social context in which "schools, neighborhoods, nuclear families, and friendship groups jointly contribute to positive change." So concludes a team of researchers from Northwestern, Western Reserve, and the University of California, Los Angeles, who recently tracked the behavior and achievements of 12,702 young adolescents in Prince George's County near Washington, D.C. 

Looking at data for academic, social, and psychological well-being, the researchers establish the importance of "social contexts as risk and protective factors." The influences of schools, neighborhoods, nuclear families, and friendship groups all shape the social context in ways that "affect how young people develop. When a context was positive, it protected early adolescents; and when it was negative, it added to their risk." 

When they scrutinize the ways in which the family helps young adolescents to succeed, the researchers examine both family process and family structure. Predictably enough, young adolescents are especially likely to succeed if they come from families in which parents communicate well with their children, monitor their behavior, trust and accept them, and frequently take them to museums and concerts. But as important as these family process variables are, they cannot obscure the fundamental importance of family structure: "Students living with both biological parents changed more positively [during the course of the study period] than did other students." In sophisticated multivariate statistical models, intact-family structure consistently predicted positive changes in the researchers' composite Success Index (p < .05). 

Not only did family structure predict success, but it also predicted the overall health of the school-neighborhood-friendship-family context in which young people live. What the researchers call "joint context quality" ran "higher when students came from intact homes" whether those students were Black, White, or Asian. Such findings give researchers new reasons to care about the role of the family in creating a "social world [that] is ordered in ways that generally favor young persons." 

(Source: Thomas D. Cook et al., "Some Ways in Which Neighborhoods, Nuclear Families, Friendship Groups, and Schools Jointly Affect Changes in Early Adolescent Development," Child Development 73[2002]: 1283-1309.)

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