There are many literatures which deal with the effects of family background in students’ academic achievement. The U.S Department of Education (2004) defines “student achievement” as a students success in an academic discipline, an exhibited level of competency on some type of standardized test or group point average. In the view of Ajila and Olutola (2007), the state of the home affects the individual since the parents are the first socializing agents in an individual’s life. This is because the family background and context of a child affect his reaction to life situations and his level of performance. Although, the school is responsible for the experiences that make up the individual’s life during school periods, yet parents and the individual’s experiences at home play tremendous roles in building the personality of the child and making the child what he is. Researchers have shown that students and family characteristics affect levels of parental involvement. Different factors of family background are capable of influencing the academic performance of the students. The factors are such as parental occupation status, parents’ educational attainment, family structure and home language.
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Coleman Report (1966) concluded “schools don’t matter”, and stated that students’ achievement is more strongly associated to their families’ social class than a function of the schools they attend. Lee, Bryk and Smith (1993) have succeeded in showing that schools definitely play a role in reducing inequality and improving educational excellence. The school effects’ research derived from it has become a powerful tool for schools and public administrators, since by detecting influential institutional factors on achievement, more effective educational policies could be devised.
Parental occupation status which is measured by the international socio-economic index of occupation status and that captures the attributes of occupation that convert a person’s education into income (Ganzelboom et al.,1992). Kellaghan et al (1993) conclude the family social status or cultural backgrounds do not determine a child’s achievement at school. They propose that for academic success, it is what parents do in the home, and not children’s family background, that is significant. Similarly, Sam Redding (1999) indicates that in relation to academic outcomes, the potential limitations associated with poor economic circumstances can be overcome by parents who provide stimulating, supportive, and language-rich experiences for their children.
Parental education and social economic status have an impact on student achievement, although the exact nature is not clear. Phillips (1998) found that parental education and family socioeconomic status alone are not good predictors of student academic achievement. Ferguson (1991) posited that parental education accounted for about twenty-four percent of the variance in students test scores, while socioeconomic status accounts for about twenty-six percent. Other researchers contend that dysfunctional home environments, low parental expectations, ineffective parenting, language differences and high levels of mobility might account for lower levels of academic achievement among students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (Frymier and Gansneder, 1989; Laosa, 1978).
Parental expectations also affect the performance of students. Castejon and Perez (1998) find indirect relationships with performance from the student’ perception of how much importance his or her parents assign to study at home. In the model of human development, Stephen J. Ceci et al (1997) propose that the efficacy of a family influence for academic success is determined to a large degree by a child’s family background. They observed that parent-child interactions are the forces that lead to academic performance. In addition, they claim that academic success is achieved only if family background resources can be accessed to maximize the association between family influence and outcomes. The relationships between family influences and academic achievement need to take into account the potentially constraining or expanding opportunities provided by children’s family backgrounds.
Studies have revealed that high home environment groups achieved greater success than middle and low home environment groups (Jagannathan, 1986). Pandey (1985) concluded that if proper system of reward and punishment is followed, children shall certainly perform well in school. In a study by Gottfried, Fleming, and Gotfried (1998), home environment was found to have a statistically positive and significant effect on academic intrinsic motivation. Children whose homes had greater emphasis on learning opportunities and activities were more academically intrinsically motivated. Eagle identified providing a place to study and parents make sure that homework assigned to their children was completed were significantly related to student achievement.
Sattes from a review of 30 studies on the connection between family background and school achievement, concluded that parent involvement factors such as reading to children, having books available, taking trips, guiding TV watching, and providing stimulating experiences contribute to school achievement. “The fact that family SES is related to school achievement doesn’t mean that rich kids are born smarter. It means that, in more affluent families, children are more likely to be exposed to experiences that stimulate intellectual development.”
Analyses of the relations between families and academic achievement also need to consider children’s family structures. The absence of one parent in the students’ life, because of divorce, separation, abandonment can affect student’s achievement levels (Dronkers, 2003). Among other results, the effect of living in a lone parent family is particularly interesting and is in line with the previous findings all over the world: children in single parent families have worse grades than students living with their two biological parents, and the probability of continuing into university is lower for them than for their counterparts (Róbert, 2001).
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Nzewunwah (1995) said that there is a significant difference between students from single parent families and those from two-parent families in terms of attitude to examination malpractices, attitude to studies and academic performance. This finding could be explained by the fact that life in a single-parent family can be traumatic and children brought up in such family structure often suffer some emotional problems such as lack of warmth, love and disciplinary problems, which may hinder their academic performance. On the other hand, children raised in two-parent family structure are often stable emotionally and they suffer less emotional problems thereby making them less anxious in the pursuit of their academic work.
Similarly, W. Jeynes (2002) concluded that the widowed remarried and the cohabitation family structure impacts the academic achievement of children to the greatest degree. A child coming from a widowed remarried family structure has greater chance left behind a grade than a child from widowed single family structure. However, it should be noted that this situation might not be true all the time since there are some children in single parent family structures who still perform academically better than children from two parent family structure (Apia and Olutola 2007). This situation may however be attributed to other factors inherent in the personality of the child.
Some researchers argued that academic achievement is affected by the number of siblings in a family (Downey, 1995). Zajonc (1976) found that children with fewer siblings have, on average, a higher level of intelligence. Taubman and Behrman (1986) found that differences in children with many siblings and those with fewer siblings may be a result of the amount of monetary and temporal resources available to each child decreasing with each successive child.
Students’ success in school depends upon their being proficient in academic language, the language of classroom instruction. The literature review suggested that students who use the school language at home achieve better at school than those who use another language (Moegiadi et al, 1979; Cooksey, 1981). The ways in which children communicate in their home cultures are critical to the development of written language models of reading and writing. The home language of students provides the foundation for the emergence of reading and writing behaviors. If there is a mismatch between the structures, values, and expectations of the home language and school language, children may be at a disadvantage for success in early reading tasks, and thus spend their entire school careers attempting to catch up (Gay, 1988; Snow, 1992). Research shows that language-minority students face many challenges in school. For example, they are 1.5 times more likely to drop out of school than native speakers (Cardenas, Robledo, & Waggoner, 1988) and received lower grade (Moss & Puma, 1995).
The education system lays an important foundation for the future civil, social, and economic opportunities of citizens. In the economic sphere, abundant research has shown the importance of educational performance for the future income and productivity of individuals and societies (cf., e.g., Bishop 1992; Card 1999). In conclusion, it is necessary so that parents can understand the implications and consequences of family background affect the students’ academic achievement. As Ichado (1998) concluded that the environment in which the student comes from can greatly influence his or her performance at school. So, it is very important to enlighten the parents of the importance of the home structure on the life of children. The family lays the psychosocial, moral and spiritual foundations in the overall development of the child. While the mother’s significant role in this cannot be over-emphasized. Studies on father-child relationship suggest that the presence of a father in the home influences significantly the development of a child (Agulanna 1999). Thus, parenthood is a responsibility requiring the full cooperation of both parents who must ensure the total development of their children.
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