A Mother’s Education May Predict Her Child’s Academic Success

Teen mom studies while holding her babyCollege enrollment is steadily increasing, with 71% of women and 61% of men enrolling in college after graduating high school. But for teenage mothers college enrollment might feel out of reach. According to a study by Sandra Tang, a University of Michigan psychology research fellow, though, the children of teen mothers are more likely to thrive when their mothers continue their education. Indeed, mothers’ educational achievements are, according to the study, a major predictor of children’s academic success.

Why Mom’s Education Matters

The study pulled data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort. This nationally representative sample of children who entered kindergarten in 1998 offers data on 14,279 children, who were interviewed through 2007. Researchers compared educational records for children born to moms under 19 to records for children whose mothers were 19 or older.

Children of teen moms did worse in math and reading than children whose mothers entered parenthood once they were older, and children’s academic success was correlated with their mothers’ academic achievement. Unsurprisingly, teen mothers were less likely to complete high school or enroll in college. But when the mothers did continue with their education, their children were more likely to excel academically.

Tang cautions that even this group of children didn’t fully catch up to peers whose mothers delayed childrearing. She explains in the study that, while her data uncovers good news for children whose mothers continue with their education, it confirms previous data suggesting that children of teen moms remain at risk for low academic achievement.

Education for Teen Mothers

Women who achieve higher levels of education are more likely to land good jobs, enabling them to support their families and avoid poverty. A variety of programs have sprung up across the country to help mothers who may be struggling. Some offer in-school programs specifically for pregnant women, while others offer resources such as childcare or even scholarships to allow pregnant mothers to attend high school and college.

The American Pregnancy Helpline offers a number of resources for pregnant women of any age. The National Parent Helpline also offers support for struggling parents.


  1. Mothers’ education significant to children’s academic success. (2014, November 10). Retrieved from http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/22501-mothers-education-significant-to-children-s-academic-success
  2. Women’s college enrollment gains leave men behind. (2014, March 6). Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/03/06/womens-college-enrollment-gains-leave-men-behind/

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  • Trish


    November 15th, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    Great news for me as I just finished up my mater’s in education. Woohoo! Anyway I can certainly see how both the educational levels of the moms and the dads can have a real impact on your children and their success. When your children see that education is a priority in the home then it is a great deal more likely that they will make it a priority for themselves too.

  • Jed


    November 16th, 2014 at 5:37 AM

    I think that any time you see families with a higher level of education in the parents then you will also see a higher level of educational achievement in the child. It may not be this way 100% of the time but I think that when you have this as a strong under current within the family then this is the thing that will trickle down to the kids as well. There will always be exceptions to the rule, but I think that hen education is important to the family as a while, and in particular it seems to the mother, then the kids will further see just how important that it is to pursue this betterment in their own lives.

  • Gary


    November 16th, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    While this makes sense on the surface it does sort of make you curious about the kids who defy those odds and go head and shoulders in education beyond what their parents have achieved. What explains that? Are they kids who happen to have had excellent role models in teachers and other adults in their lives, or was there something in them that was innate and drove them to become an academic success despite the odds that were stacked against them?

  • daniel


    November 16th, 2014 at 8:42 PM

    I can see how a good job and money can help in education. But success in education? Doesn’t that depend on intelligence and the work a person does more than the money his parents have?

  • Warren


    November 17th, 2014 at 3:55 AM

    If you were like me you were raised in a home where there was no greater influence there than that of your mom. That’s just the way it was. She was the one who always took us to school, did the school meetings, the homework, all of that, so it was clear to me early on that what she felt about education was something that was going to be a huge part of my life. She never had the chances to go further in her education like we did, and she was determined that that was going to happen for us. I think that we all resented it just a little when we were younger but appreciate it so much now that we have gotten older.

  • jana


    November 19th, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    Further proof that the key to encouraging greater academic success among many different demographic groups is to slow and stop the numbers of teenage pregnancies. Sounds simple, but it really is one of the best answers that we have going for us when it comes to ensuring the academic success of many young children. Sometimes when you get behind there is just no way to catch up, and I think that this is probably what we are seeing in kids who have moms who go on at a later time to pursue their education. They are already so far behind that it keeps them from achieving all that they could in a home where the education of the mother when unbroken.

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