Class-Based Differences in Parenting Affect Student Behavior

A father helps his son with homeworkSocioeconomic class is a major factor affecting educational outcomes. Children from wealthier economic backgrounds typically start school with an advantage, while children from poorer backgrounds may already be behind. One study, for example, found that only a third of low-income parents read to their children every day, compared to two-thirds of high-income parents. According to a new study, class-based differences in parenting style affect children’s classroom behavior. Over time, these differences in behavior add up to different educational outcomes.

Class, Parenting Style, and Educational Outcomes

Cultural beliefs about proper behavior strongly affect how parents teach their children to behave at school. The study’s authors argue that middle-class parents encourage children to ask questions and seek out assistance from the teacher if they don’t understand something. They proposed that working-class parents more frequently view these questions as disrespectful, so they encourage children to work independently rather than seeking help.

Researchers wanted to explore how these class differences affected classroom behavior. To control for the effects race might have on parenting style, they evaluated only Caucasian students and their families. They conducted interviews and collected observations from four different third through fifth grade public school classrooms. They found that middle-class parents were more directly involved in school life, so they also knew what teachers expected from students. Working-class parents didn’t think it was their role to be so involved.

This difference in behavior affected how children behaved in school. Children from middle-class families were more likely to actively seek attention from their teachers. Unsurprisingly, this means that these students got more instructor attention. Previous research has correlated more instructor attention with better educational outcomes. Moreover, because middle-class students are more likely to seek help, they’re more likely to get assistance with challenging concepts.

The study’s authors argue that schools can help mitigate this educational gap by being more mindful of class-based differences. Teachers, they argue, should seek out students who are struggling, since students who need help the most might not ask for it.


  1. Education & Socioeconomic Status Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Social class makes a difference in how children tackle classroom problems. (2014, August 27). Retrieved from

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  • Gidge


    September 16th, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    While I totally think that this is right on target with how kids from certain families behave, it also shows me that there is no reason why it actually has to be this way. Having less income does not lessen the amount of responsibility that you have to your children once you become a parent. I know that there are going to be those cases where the work hours are terrible and they may not find that they have as much down time to spend with kids, but this is something that is way too important to be neglected or denied. Look at the differences in the grades, the attention that is given to the children who are willing to speak up for themselves in class. Isn’t this something that we should all want for our children?

  • Gabe R

    Gabe R

    September 16th, 2014 at 4:21 PM

    I hate when this happens because you know that in order for these kids to grow up and do the right things with their own children then things have to change form the ground up and that has to start at home when they are young.

    I understand though that there can be a lot of obstacles to this that many of us do not understand and although it is easy to sit back and say that they need to do this or do that, we don’t know what life is like for them on a daily basis and how the things that we so readily take for granted can be so difficult to achieve for others.

    What I want to say is that we all need to be more compassionate to others and a little more understanding of the things that they go through and the ways that their lives could differ from ours. There are those who try to do the best that they can with what they have and maybe we will sometimes have to learn to step in and fill in a few of the gaps.

  • Will


    September 17th, 2014 at 3:49 AM

    We are not too surprised about this are we? It is obvious that that the parents of a higher socio economic class stand to have more time that they can spend one on one with their children whereas those who live form paycheck to paycheck will be working so much that there will be times that they simply so not have the time that they wish that they did to stay with their children. It can feel like such a losing situation for the families because I am sure that there are just as many of these moms and dads who want to spend extra quality time with their kids but fitting that into their schedule will almost seem impossible.

  • noelle


    September 17th, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    Where I work it seems that it is always the kids that y ou know come from poorer homes who are seeking attention and help, even if it is a little to the extreme. They want so badly to do well and to please others and it is as if they recognize that they do not have the resources for that at home so they reach out in the classroom at school and almost over compensate for that. I wish that I had the time to work every day with these children one on one and give them what they are missing at home but all of the kids need your help and your time so there is only so much that can go around and be shared. It really is a tough situation because you want to make more time for those who need it the most and that you know won’t get it any other way but at the same time the others have needs too that cannot be ignored.

  • Toby G.

    Toby G.

    September 25th, 2014 at 3:14 PM

    Whatever happened to the ideal that society should also have some equality when it comes to our children’s education? If theya re lacking in something at hokme, which apparently many of our children today are, then shouldn’t the rest of us step up and and help to bridge some of those differences?
    If this means smaller classrooms and more teachers, then I am good with that. I am also good with giving of my own time to try to help out. But where are the others, those who bemoan the fact that there is this disparity but never seem to be able to do their part to make up for it?

  • Avery Walsh

    Avery Walsh

    September 25th, 2014 at 6:50 PM

    Another possible cause of the disparity between socio-economic classes can often be underlying cognitive disabilities that have gone unrecognized, masked as they often are by ‘quiet’ and ‘shy’ behaviors, that are a false front for a child’s failure to comprehend. It is also a sad fact of our society that those children from middle and upper middle class families often get diagnosed more accurately with learning differences than students from low-income families. The point made above, that these low-income students do not feel comfortable asking for help, and the fact that these same children often will not speak up when they do not understand directions or comprehend text, only confounds the issue. Students from low socioeconomic families routinely go undiagnosed and misunderstood until late in their education, as the vital resources they need for remediation – speech, occupational, and educational therapists- are not always available in lower income schools. There is a serious need for intervention at all economic levels and it is not fair that some of our neediest students are not being properly served.

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