More Than Money, Family and Community Bonds Prep Teens for College Success

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by BYU News.

Want your teen to graduate from college one day? Focus on strengthening their social networks within and beyond the family, says a new BYU study.

Building “family social capital” during the teen years dramatically boosts an adolescent’s chances of eventually completing college, according to data from two national surveys analyzed by researchers from BYU, North Carolina State University and the National Institute on Aging. Social connectedness had a bigger effect on college enrollment and graduation rates than a family’s socioeconomic status, a high school environment or a student’s high school grades.

“It’s a really hopeful finding because this kind of capital is more accessible than financial capital,” said BYU sociology professor Mikaela Dufur, a co-author of the paper recently published in PLOS One. “It’s not that easy for a parent to say, ‘Oh, I want my 12-year-old to graduate from college, so I guess I’ll double my income.’ Our research found that investing in family social capital is powerful for all groups, for kids from all class and race backgrounds.”

Families build social capital in a couple of different ways, Dufur said. First, parents form it within the family by bonding with teens and conveying expectations and norms toward their schoolwork, such as by checking in about homework or discussing classes.

Second, families build social capital by developing connections with others in the community, including with the parents of their kids’ friends and with neighbors, coaches or teachers.

To see how long family social capital endures, researchers studied outcomes for over 20,000 students who participated in the 1988 National Educational Longitudinal Study and the 2002 Educational Longitudinal Study. The surveys provided data about family relationships, community connection and educational attainment from students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades, then followed up two and eight years after high school graduation.

“More than a family’s money or prior education, family social capital had really strong associations with both going to college and maybe more importantly, finishing college,” Dufur said. “That social capital you made with your family back when you were a teenager, that stretches forward and helps you achieve.”

Source: BYU News

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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