The Influence of Parents on the Lifelong Goals of Children

by Morgan Rush
A child's education goals may be influenced by parental attitudes toward college and higher education.

A child's education goals may be influenced by parental attitudes toward college and higher education.

Most people agree that parental influence plays a tremendous role in a child’s early development and success in academic and social environments. But child experts increasingly agree that the influence of parents extends much further, into adolescence and adulthood. Parental influence can sway the lifelong goals of children in numerous categories, creating an incentive for reflective and responsible engagement with a child at all stages of development.


Many parents remain at least somewhat involved with their child’s education in elementary school, but involvement may begin to taper off in middle school and high school as students assume more responsibility for their assignments. However, performance at these grade levels helps set the stage for college preparation. Receiving a college education, then, may become a lifetime achievement goal for children under appropriate parental influence.


The influence of parents on the lifelong goals of children also becomes apparent with regard to careers. Parents may subtly or directly encourage children to take over a family business, or remain in the same line of work as other family members. For example, a family of lawyers may expect their daughter to follow in the footsteps of her mother, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Conversely, families who do not view a college education or white-collar careers as a realistic option for their children may discourage related goal setting toward these objectives. Parental pressure may play a role in lifelong goals, too, according to John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. For example, children who feel pressured to meet career standards established by their parents may adjust their private goals in order to please them.


Parents may influence a child’s lifelong goals with regard to relationships, whether this is to mirror a parent’s relationship decisions or reverse those patterns. Some children raised by a single mother may come to admire and respect this independent lifestyle, feeling suspicion or resentment about the idea of relying on a partner for support. Conversely, the same child might be aware of the difficulty in such a task and resolve to include marriage and shared parenting as a lifelong goal.


Attitudes about independence and self-efficacy can be absorbed by children after observing their parents’ attitudes toward these concepts, according to New York University. Parents may impart cultural beliefs about the value of autonomy and individual resilience to children, who may adjust lifelong goals accordingly. Other cultures may influence goals by emphasizing collectivism, family participation, and responsibility to society as a whole.

About the Author

Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.

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