The Role of Parents in Children's School Achievement
As you will learn in the upcoming discussion, school-age children's achievement has been related to their parents' childrearing patterns, expectations of academic success, ages when they were born, cultural values, and whether or not they are recent immigrants.
The Impact of Childrearing Patterns and Parental Attributions
Both childrearing patterns as well as parental attributions regarding their children's abilities have been linked to the achievement levels of school-age children. The authoritative parenting pattern has been consistently associated with higher levels of achievement for children, whereas the authoritarian, permissive, and uninvolved parenting patterns have been linked to low levels of achievement. Authoritative parenting enhances children's achievement behavior in a number of ways. For example, positive parental beliefs and attributions emphasizing children's abilities support children's positive self-perceptions. Moreover, a tendency of authoritative parents to provide optimal challenges for their children encourages their children's independent and active problem solving. Other ways that authoritative parents promote their children's achievement is by recognizing their individual interests and unique personalities (e.g., Garg, Levin, & Kauppi, 2005; Jones et al., 2000). Across all parenting styles, parents who think their children are capable of achievement are more likely to have children who are academically successful. In particular, children have higher levels of achievement when their parents attribute academic success to ability and lack of academic success to lack of effort. In contrast, children have lower levels of achievement when their parents hold the view that their children have low academic ability (Bempechat, Graham, & Jimenez, 1999).
The Impact of Poverty on Children's Academic Achievement
School-age children's level of achievement is also affected by whether or not they and their parents live in poverty. The research shows that when parents are unable to provide sufficient income to raise the family out of poverty, their children have lower achievement scores. On the other hand, there is evidence that when the family's income level improves, children's achievement levels advance as well. For example, Hofferth, Smith, and McLoyd (2000) compared the achievement scores of children whose mothers were on welfare to those whose mothers had previously been on welfare. Their results showed that children whose mothers were able to leave and remain off welfare scored consistently higher on achievement in comparison to children whose mothers were still on welfare. Similar results have been found for low-income working families. Huston, Duncan, and McLoyd (2005) assessed the effectiveness of an employment-based anti-poverty program, which had strong work supports for adults living in poverty. This program, called New Hope, was designed to raise total income above the poverty threshold by providing two important work supports: extensive child-care assistance and health care subsidies. To be eligible for participation in the program, parents were required to be employed full-time (30 or more hours a week). The project provided access to community service jobs for parents who were unable to find market-based employment. New Hope was not tied to the welfare system but available instead to all adults with low incomes. Thus, the goal was not simply to move parents from welfare to work but to reduce family poverty. Two years after families entered the program, parental employment and income increased and there was increased participation by children in structured out-of-school activities. The impact on school-age children was substantially better academic performance, higher levels of positive social behavior, and lower levels of problem behavior in school.
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