Socioracial group differences in family and peer influences on adolescents' academic achievement



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This study investigates the relationships between peer and family influences and the academic achievement of adolescents from diverse socioracial backgrounds. Participants were 2,202 White, Hispanic, and African American students attending four public middle schools in Austin, Texas. Participants completed self-report questionnaires that included information about student achievement, family background, family influences (i.e., parental monitoring, parent involvement, family stress), and positive and negative peer influences. The investigation examined whether a comparative model or a moderation model better explains the relationships among peer influences, family influences, and adolescents’ academic achievement. A comparative model was supported for the overall sample. Results indicated that both peer and family influences play a role in achievement; however, compared to family influences, peer influences accounted for twice the amount of variance in achievement. A moderation model of peer and family influences on achievement was partially supported for African American students, as a significant interaction was found between self-enhancing peer behavior and parental monitoring for African American students compared to White students. For African American students, positive peer influences served as a buffer against potential negative effects of low parental monitoring, and high parental monitoring buffered against potential negative effects of having few positive peer influences. No significant interactions were found for White or Hispanic students. When socioracial group differences in the impact of peers and families on achievement were examined, a significant difference was found between White and African American students in the relation of parent involvement and self-destructive peer behavior to academic achievement. Compared to White students, the achievement of African American students was not as strongly related to parent involvement or to negative peer influences. Hispanic students did not differ significantly from White students in peer and family influences on achievement. Findings of this study contribute to the understanding of how developmental contexts outside the classroom work together to influence academic performance of adolescents. Implications of the patterns of peer and family influences on achievement during early adolescence and directions for future research are discussed.