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Perceived Academic Support From Parents, Teachers, and Peers: Relation to Hong Kong Adolescents' Academic Behavior and Achievement
Jennifer Jun-Li Chen
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Harvard Family Research Project's (HFRP) Family Involvement Research Digests summarize research written and published by non-HFRP authors and/or written by HFRP authors but published by organizations other than HFRP. For more information on the research summarized in this digest, please contact the author at the address below. For help citing this article, click here.
The extent to which students' perceptions of academic support from parents, teachers, and peers simultaneously affect their achievement has not been well examined. Neither has previous research considered academic behavior as playing a mediating role in the effect of academic support from socializing agents on student achievement.
To address these gaps in the literature, this study tested a model hypothesizing that perceived support from parents, teachers, and peers indirectly influences achievement through academic behavior among Hong Kong adolescents. Given differences in developmental needs across gender and grade levels, this study also tested whether the hypothesized model held true across gender and grade levels of these adolescents.
The goal of this study was to increase understanding of the relative influence of parents, teachers, and peers on student behavior and achievement. To this end, this study addressed three research questions:
The participants were 270 students (mean age = 15.41 years, range = 14–20 years) from three grade levels (Forms 3–5, equivalent to Grades 9–11 in the U.S.) in a Hong Kong secondary school. Data were collected from a questionnaire (written in traditional Chinese and matched colloquial Cantonese used in Hong Kong) administered to participating students in 2003. The questionnaire consisted of a background profile and four scales assessing students' perceptions of the availability of parental support, teacher support, peer support, and their own academic behavior. All information was asked in reference to the past semester. The data was analyzed using statistical techniques to determine whether the proposed model is valid.
1. What is the relationship of perceived academic support from parents, teachers, and peers to academic behavior and achievement among Hong Kong adolescents?
Findings addressing this question supported the hypothesis that perceived academic support from parents, teachers, and peers indeed indirectly contributed to students' achievement through influencing their academic behavior. The strongest indirect influence on student achievement was exerted by teacher support, followed by parental support, and then peer support.
These findings may be understood through the perspectives of teacher role and expectations, parental socialization and involvement, as well as cultural differences in relationships with adults and peers. Considering that teachers are highly respected in Chinese culture and that they frequently interact with students during each school day, it seems reasonable to find teacher support exerting the strongest effect on students' achievement through influencing their academic behavior. Although the indirect effect of parental support on achievement was not as strong as that of teacher support, the fact that it was significant suggests that parents still play an important role in influencing their children's behavioral and achievement outcomes. Research (e.g., Chao, 1994) has found that Chinese parents influence their children's achievement by means such as socializing their children for good academic behavior. Furthermore, the finding that teachers and parents played a more significant role than peers in affecting students' achievement through influencing their academic behavior may reflect the authority-oriented nature of Hong Kong society.
2. Does the effect of perceived academic support from parents, teachers, and peers on academic behavior and achievement vary by gender?
Findings on this question clarified gender differences in the effect of support from different sources on student achievement. Interestingly, academic support from parents and teachers significantly and indirectly influenced achievement through academic behavior only for female students. Though teacher support exerted a significant direct effect on academic achievement for both genders, the effect was stronger for female students. Moreover, parental support exerted a significant direct effect on academic achievement only for female students. Surprisingly, peer support was not a significant predictor of academic achievement directly or indirectly through academic behavior for either gender.
These findings may be interpreted as reflecting differences in gender socialization, expectations, and bias in Chinese culture. It has been observed that males and females in Chinese culture experience different paths of socialization: Males tend to be socialized to become independent and self-regulated, whereas females are socialized to become dependent and submissive (Bond, 1991). Furthermore, in the patriarchally oriented Chinese culture, supporting ones' parents in their old age and continuing the family lineage are thrust on the shoulders of the sons. In Hong Kong, however, modernization and industrialization have raised the status of daughters—especially in families with no sons—in such a way that females are now also encouraged and expected to succeed in school (Post & Pong, 1998). This changed societal valuation and the greater dependent tendency of females due to socialization may explain the stronger effect that academic support from parents and teachers exerted on female students' academic achievement directly and indirectly through influencing their academic behavior.
3. Does the effect of perceived academic support from parents, teachers, and peers on academic behavior and achievement vary by grade level?
Findings on this question revealed that the effects of academic support (from parents, teachers, and peers) on student behavior and achievement were actually complex and differed across grade levels depending on the source of support. Interestingly, parental support significantly influenced academic behavior for Form 3 students, but it was negatively and directly linked to academic achievement for Form 4 students. It may be that Form 4 parents tended to increase their academic support in response to their children's poor performance. Teacher support was a significant direct predictor of academic achievement, but only for Form 3 students. Peer support was significantly related to academic behavior only for Form 5 students.
A number of explanations may account for the grade-level differences in the effects of academic support from parents, teachers, and peers on student behavior and achievement reported here. The greater influence of parents on academic behavior for younger adolescents (in Form 3) and of peers on academic behavior for older adolescents (in Form 5) may reflect (a) younger adolescents' need to rely on parents for academic support, (b) older adolescents' desire to seek academic support from peers who are experiencing similar developmental and academic challenges, and (c) older adolescents' motivation to seek independence from their parents (Fuligni & Eccles, 1993; Furman & Buhrmester, 1992).
Implications for School Practice
These findings have important implications for promoting parental involvement and teaching practices to benefit student behavior and achievement. Given that in the hierarchically oriented Chinese culture, parents and teachers tend to play a more prominent role than peers in students' academic behavior and achievement, it is all the more important that parents and teachers work together to support students' academic endeavors.
This study suggests that schools should encourage communication between parents and teachers, such as having regular parent–teacher conferences. Teachers can then provide parents with guidance and information to assist them in supporting their children's academic endeavors. Parents can in turn find ways to better encourage and motivate their children to achieve academic excellence by adopting academically oriented behavior. Parents and teachers should also recognize gender and developmental differences in students' need for particular kinds of academic support. For instance, this study suggests that parents and teachers should provide more academic support to female students, but provide more opportunities for male students to develop independence.
Overall, parents and teachers can provide more effective academic support to improve students' behavioral and achievement outcomes by considering students' gender, developmental, and cultural differences.
Bond, M. H. (1991). Beyond the Chinese face: Insights from psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Chao, R. K. (1994). Beyond parental control and authoritarian parenting style: Understanding Chinese parenting through the cultural notion of training. Child Development, 65(4), 1111–1119.
Fuligni, A. J., & Eccles, J. S. (1993). Perceived parent-child relationships and early adolescents' orientation toward peers. Developmental Psychology, 29(4), 622–632.
Furman, W., & Buhrmester, D. (1992). Age and sex differences in perceptions of networks of personal relationships. Child Development, 63(1) 103–115.
Post, D., & Pong, S. (1998). The waning effect of sibship composition on school attainment in Hong Kong. Comparative Education Review, 42(2), 99–117.
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