Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



This working paper was published in a journal:

Young, Natalie A. E. 2020. "Getting the Teacher’s Attention: Parent-Teacher Contact and Teachers’ Behavior in the Classroom." Social Forces, soz177.


Studies suggest that support from teachers in the classroom can matter for student success. Although cross-national research has revealed numerous ways in which parents shape the schooling process, little is known about how parental involvement at school may or may not influence the amount of support students receive from teachers in the classroom. In this study, I draw on data from the China Education Panel Survey – a nationally representative survey of Chinese middle school students with unusually detailed information on parental involvement and teachers’ behavior in the classroom – to test a conceptual model that proposes a link between parent-teacher contact in China and the attention students receive from teachers. In support of the conceptual model, I find that students whose parents cultivate relationships with teachers through frequent contact are more likely to be called on or praised by teachers, even after controlling for family background, student academic performance, and student behavior. Moreover, I find evidence of social class differences in parent-teacher contact in China, as well as evidence that parent-teacher contact shapes later academic performance through its impact on teachers’ attention. Overall, findings from the study point to a new way in which social class influences schooling through the mechanism of parental involvement. I conclude with a discussion of recent changes in public education in the United States that may lead this pathway to be increasingly important in the U.S. as well.


student success, China Education Panel Survey, social class, academic performance, parent-teacher interactions, schooling inequality



Date Posted: 11 September 2020