The Role of Parents in Children's School Achievement (page 3)
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.
The Influence of Parental Age on Children's Academic Success
Another factor that influences children's school achievement is parental age. School-age children who were born when their parents were adolescents have lower levels of academic achievement in comparison to those born when their parents were older. For example, Levine, Pollack, and Comfort (2001) found that early motherhood is related to school-age children's low test scores and grade repetition. These researchers concluded that the low achievement of these children is almost entirely explained by the prebirth individual and family background factors of the teen mothers themselves. They speculated that young mothers' lack of maturity, fewer life experiences, and lower levels of social support contribute to less effective parenting skills. They suggested that when young mothers lack effective parenting skills, they are less able to appropriately shape the activities and behaviors of their children that lead to academic achievement.
Cultural Influences on Children's School Achievement
Parental goals are imbedded in cultural norms, and when parental goals are reflected in their children's school environment, it is easier for these children to achieve. On the other hand, mainstream cultural norms frequently create challenges for minority children and their parents. The problem for these children is that academic success is often contingent on the acceptance of mainstream cultural values that are at times different from the values they learn at home and in their communities. This reality creates a dynamic in which many ethnic minority children are consistently penalized for not expressing the values and behaviors promoted by the mainstream majority culture (Boykin & Allen, 2000). Over time, this situation contributes to children questioning their place in school. The resulting disconnect contributes to the development of negative views of academic success.
There is mounting evidence, however, that when the basics of children's culture are included in learning tasks and contexts, children improve in performance, engagement, and motivation (Bailey & Boykin, 2001; Boykin & Cunningham, 2001). Thus, the achievement expectations of ethnic minority parents need to be matched by culturally relevant school environments that support the cultural values of all children. For instance, Sankofa, Hurley, Allen, and Boykin (2005) demonstrated that when African American children are placed in learning environments that allow for the expression of communalism, their achievement levels improve. Communalism is a common value in traditional families and communities that emphasizes group (family and community) cooperation and the success of the group rather than the success of the individual.
Parents and Children Who Have Recently Immigrated
The ways in which parental expectations, culture, and children's school achievement are interrelated is also exemplified in studies of parents and children who are recent immigrants. Although these parents typically have high hopes for their children's school achievement, they face challenges in assisting their children to achieve academic success. An example of this problem is seen with Korean American families, whose high levels of parent-child communication and home supervision are cultural norms that have a substantial impact on children's educational achievement. The difficulty for parents who are recent immigrants is that they often are not sufficiently proficient in English to promote their children's school achievement. For instance, Kim (2002) found that Korean American parents who have a higher level of English proficiency tend to have higher levels of parental involvement, resulting in their children's educational success. In a similar study, Bhattacharya (2000) studied South Asian school children who had immigrated to the United States with their parents and had below-average grades. In this study, parents' low level of proficiency in English was found to be a critical factor in low school achievement.
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