Educate yourself to boost achievement in kids

August 6, 2009,

With school days just around the corner, a University of Michigan researcher has some advice for parents who want to increase their children's academic success.

"If you want your kids to do well in school, then the amount of education you get yourself is important," said Pamela Davis-Kean, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). "This may mean that parents need to go back to school.

"A growing number of large-scale, long-term studies now show that increasing parental education beyond high school is strongly linked to increasing language ability in . Even after controlling for parental income, marital status and a host of other factors, we find that the impact of parental education remains significant."

Davis-Kean, who is also affiliated with the U-M Psychology Department, directs the ISR Center for the Analysis of Pathways from Childhood to , funded by the National Science Foundation. She is co-editor of the July 2009 issue of the Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, a peer-reviewed journal presenting research sponsored by the center that employs multiple perspectives to analyze the impact parents have on their children's educational attainment.

One of the studies in the special issue examines the long-term effects of parental education on children's success in school and work, beginning when children are eight years old and extending until they are age 48.

Another study examines how language skills and school readiness of three-year-olds are positively affected when mothers return to school.

"In every case, we've found that an increase in parental education has a positive impact on children's success in school," said Davis-Kean. "And this impact is particularly strong when parents start with a high school education or less.

"These findings may be reassuring to parents at a time when many are unemployed or worried about future job prospects. They clearly show that in terms of the effect on children's achievement, it's more important for parents to get a good education than to get a high-paying job. Of course, the more education you have, the more likely it is that you'll find a good job, so an increase in education often leads to an increase in income."

The reasons behind the power of parental education are not yet fully understood, but researchers think it's more than just providing a model that children want to imitate.

More education might mean that parents are more likely to read to their children, suggests Davis-Kean. Or it could be that parents who are in school need to be more organized in order to get everything done, so they tend to create a more structured home environment, with dinner and bedtime occurring at regular times, for example. This kind of predictable, structured environment has a positive impact on child development, many studies have shown.

Creating a more structured environment for children---as opposed to giving them lots of free time---has been getting something of a bad reputation lately, Davis-Kean notes. But she believes that for the vast majority of U.S. children, the value of free time has been exaggerated.

"There's this idealistic, nostalgic idea that free time gives children a chance to go out and play, and just experience nature," she said. "But in reality, in today's world where both parents are likely to be employed outside the home, what free time means for most kids is sitting in front of the TV, playing video games and generally being bored with no stimulation.

"What's really valuable for children is being engaged in activities that are supervised by adults. When kids are unsupervised, you see an increase in injuries. And summer down time also has negative influences on school achievement in the fall."

So parents who are going to school themselves should not worry about the effects of arranging more supervised activities for their children, according to Davis-Kean.

Source: University of Michigan (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Color of judo uniform has no effect on winning

February 22, 2018
New research on competitive judo data finds a winning bias for the athlete who is first called, regardless of the colour of their uniform. This unique study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, puts to rest the debate on ...

Infants are able to learn abstract rules visually

February 22, 2018
Three-month-old babies cannot sit up or roll over, yet they are already capable of learning patterns from simply looking at the world around them, according to a recent Northwestern University study published in PLOS One.

Antidepressants are more effective than placebo at treating acute depression in adults, concludes study

February 22, 2018
Meta-analysis of 522 trials includes the largest amount of unpublished data to date, and finds that antidepressants are more effective than placebo for short-term treatment of acute depression in adults.

How people cope with difficult life events fuels development of wisdom, study finds

February 21, 2018
How a person responds to a difficult life event such as a death or divorce helps shape the development of their wisdom over time, a new study from Oregon State University suggests.

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Researchers uncover novel mechanism behind schizophrenia

February 21, 2018
An international team of researchers led by a Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine scientist has uncovered a novel mechanism in which a protein—neuregulin 3—controls how key neurotransmitters are released ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.