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Does the Education Level of a Parent Affect a Child's Achievement in School?

by Carly Seifert

According to the National Institutes of Health, the education level of a parent is a significant predictor of a child's educational achievements and behavioral outcomes. Parents who are educated raise children to have healthy self-perceptions when it comes to their academic abilities, engage them in intellectual activities that help them develop a healthy attitude about learning and generally have children with fewer behavioral problems that may hinder their learning experiences.

What Studies Show

In an article for the National Institutes of Health, Eric Dubow, professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University, reports that data analyzed over time suggests that maternal education plays a significant role in a child's developing intellect -- perhaps even more than his family's socioeconomic status. A 2005 study by the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan found that a parent's education directly effects standardized achievement testing scores.

Behavioral Role

According to statistics reported in 2007 by the National Center for Children in Poverty report, parents with lower education levels earn low incomes. Behavioral problems -- such as aggression -- are more commonly found in families with lower incomes and lower education levels. Dubow believes that behavioral problems may effect a child's ability to learn. A student who is frequently punished for behaving badly in school may develop a negative attitude about school and academia, which in turn affects the child's desire to learn and his motivation to achieve academic success.

Role-modeling

A 2013 study published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility revealed that parental involvement is actually more important than the school itself when it comes to students' academic achievement. In a 2005 article published for The London Review of Education, J.S. Eccles pointed out that children learn by example -- often through observations at home. If a child's parents are reading books, attending ongoing education classes and taking him along to the museum and library -- all activities educated parents are more apt to do -- they are engaging him in a number of direct-learning experiences that will help him value achievement and success.

Parental Expectations

According to Eccles, parents with higher education levels have stronger confidence in their child's academic abilities, and they also have higher expectations of their child. They expect that their child will earn good grades, behave well in school and attend college. These high expectations motivate their child to do well. The confidence they have in their child builds his own confidence in his academic abilities and makes him more likely to succeed.

About the Author

Carly Seifert has been a piano instructor since 2001. She has also covered adoption and introducing children to the arts for "Montana Parent Magazine." Seifert graduated from University of California, Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in drama.

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