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Growing up in Scotland : predictors of parental aspirations for their children's education

Sosu, Edward (2012) Growing up in Scotland : predictors of parental aspirations for their children's education. In: European Conference on Educational Research 2012, 2012-09-18 - 2012-09-21.

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The role of parents in the education of children is widely acknowledged. As a result, most European countries have developed strategies to encourage parental participation. A key element of involvement that has received some attention is parental aspirations. This examines the level of education that parents would like their children to attain (Spera, Wentzel & Matto, 2009). Various studies suggest that parental aspirations play a significant role in a child’s academic success, and is potentially the most crucial component of parental involvement (Jeynes, 2007). For instance, parental aspirations has been linked to children’s academic goals, persistence in school, intellectual accomplishment, and children’s own academic aspirations (see e.g., Areepattamannil, 2010; Bronstein et al., 2005; Jeynes 2007; Wigfield, 1995). One suggestion is that, aspirations drive parental decisions and creates a “self-fulfilling prophecy” (e.g., Wentzel, 1998). Examination of the literature however shows that only limited attention has been devoted to understanding what determines parental aspirations (Spera et al., 2009). The scant evidence suggests that parental aspirations may be influenced by discrete factors such as the parents own education, perception of school related factors, and a child’s academic performance (Goldenberg, Gallimore, Reese & Garnier, 2001; Spera et al., 2009), although this evidence is sometimes contradictory (e.g., Kirk et al., 2011). Additionally, current studies on aspirations have not proposed any coherent theoretical model in explaining the determinants of parental aspirations. Further, studies aimed at understanding the influences on parental aspirations have been focused on parents with older children. An interesting issue for the current study is the aspirations of parents whose children are much younger and have just started school. This is because children’s earliest experiences are thought to have a significant influence on their future education success. As a result, parental decisions - which may result from their aspirations for the child at a young age - may have significant repercussions for a child’s future education. The current study therefore aims to explore two research questions: a) what factors predict parental aspirations for their children’s education? and (b) how do these factors interact in providing a coherent explanation for parental aspirations? It can be argued that understanding determinants of parental aspirations when children are still young could lead to early interventions that give all children a head start. Findings may provide suggestion for how schools can work with parents in the bid to raise pupil’s achievement and break the cycle of poverty between parents and their children.