PORTRAITS OF LOW-INCOME AFRICAN-AMERICAN MOTHERS’ INVOLVEMENT IN SUBURBAN SCHOOLS

PORTRAITS OF LOW-INCOME AFRICAN-AMERICAN MOTHERS’ INVOLVEMENT IN SUBURBAN SCHOOLS

This study advances the premise that African-American parents are deliberately involved
in their children’s education; however, many educators may not recognize their involvement
because it may not always align with dominant cultural expectations. Therefore, the purpose of
this study is to explore beneficial social capital and cultural capital that low-income African American parents use to involve themselves in their children’s suburban school education. Data was collected for this study, in a suburb outside of a large metropolitan city, through the use of a World Café (a type of community discussion group) and semi-structured interviews. Using portraiture research design, the findings of the study are highlighted through six participant portraits, which narrate their involvement in their children’s education.

In summary, all of the participants utilized both social and cultural capital to become
involved in their children’s education. Generally, each interview participant’s family cultural
capital motivated her to participate in her child’s education, in a manner unique to her own
educational experiences. In addition to understanding and utilizing valuable dominant forms of
cultural capital (attending parent-teacher conferences, volunteering, and communicating with the
teachers, working with children at home, and having educational expectations), participants in
this study also referenced the use of culture-specific forms of capital, such as: family cultural
capital, family networks and church, teaching cultural knowledge, community collective beliefs,
and African-American networks. Additionally, participants used the following forms of social
capital to benefit their children’s education: relocating, hiding poverty, utilizing community
service resources, and using intergenerational closure.


Suggestions are made for educators to recognize and honor these non-dominant social
and cultural forms of parental involvement, so that low-income African-American parental
involvement can benefit their children’s education. Participants called for more supportive social
and cultural African-American parent networks to be created within schools, to help parents feel
more welcome and supported in the schools, and become more knowledgeable about the
schooling process. Click the button above to download the PDF and read the full text.

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