Making their mark: The impact of families, schools, neighborhoods and friends on early adolescent achievement
I examine the effects of families, schools, neighborhoods, and friends on early adolescent school performance. I also consider the possibility of racial differences in how these social contexts relate to youth achievement. To analyze these issues, I use a variety of statistical methods on data from Prince George's County Maryland, a predominantly middle class community tangential to Washington D.C.; and I focus on three outcomes: ninth grade math test score, grade point average, and school suspension.
I begin the project by examining the individual impact of family, neighborhood, school and peer socio-demographic and interpersonal characteristics on youth school performance. Using the results and existing theory about each context, I create an overall quality measure for each context that I then show is positively related to youth school performance. I use these composites in subsequent analyses, which consider the joint effects of families, schools, neighborhoods and friends on educational performance.
I examine three models of joint context influence. The theory of overlapping spheres of influence maintains that the different social contexts have an interactive effect, with congruency in message across contexts being critical for youth achievement. The neighborhood-centered model argues that neighborhoods have both a direct and indirect effect on youth educational performance, with the indirect effect being mediated through family, school, and peer characteristics. The family-centered model assumes that families are the driving force behind adolescent achievement, having both a direct effect on school performance and indirect effects mediated through school, peer and neighborhood factors.
The results of cross-classification analyses in hierarchical linear modeling and structural equation modeling suggest that the family-centered model best fits the data. With regards to racial differences, the results suggest that, although there are some minor race differences in how the different contexts relate to each other and to changes in school performance, the family-centered model does not differ much in how well it works for black and white youth.
0628: Personal relationships
0340: Educational sociology