Socioeconomic 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.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.
- Education & Socioeconomic Status Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/factsheet-education.aspx
- Social class makes a difference in how children tackle classroom problems. (2014, August 27). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140827163445.htm
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