School success more favorable to students in traditional homes

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As society has increasingly embraced alternative families like single-parent homes and blended families, a new research paper from the Institute for Family Studies suggests that college students who live with their married biological parents do better in college. school.

The brief, written by Nicholas Zill, research psychologist and senior fellow at IFS, and Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and member of The Future of Freedom at IFS, was based on data from 1996 and National Household Education Surveys from 2019.

These surveys were completed by parents whose children were enrolled in elementary and secondary schools nationwide. The 1996 survey covered 17,535 students from kindergarten to grade 12, while the 2019 survey covered 15,990 students in the same age range.

In their analysis, Zill and Wilcox examined the frequency of teacher and school interventions for students from non-traditional and traditional families. They looked at whether or not the child was repeating a grade or grades, whether the child had been suspended or expelled, how often schools contacted parents about their child’s school work, and how often parents were contacted about the child’s behavior.

The researchers found that the overall frequency of school interventions decreased from 1996 to 2019.

In 1996, the parents of 21.9% of students were contacted about their child’s school work. In 2019, this share fell to 17.4%. Over the same period, the percentage of parents contacted about their child’s behavior rose from 27% in 1996 to 21.6% in 2019. The percentage of children who repeated a grade rose from 12.9% in 1996 to 6 % in 2019. The share of children suspended or expelled also decreased from 18.8% to 9.4%.

Despite the overall decrease in the frequency of school interventions from 1996 to 2019, the odds of school interventions increased for students from non-traditional families on all measures. However, the increased risk was considered statistically significant only for suspensions and parental contact about student behavior.

“Only for suspension and parental contact about behavior problems were the increases statistically significant,” the researchers wrote. “But it is striking that the odds ratio has increased for all four outcomes over the past quarter century. Our results are consistent with the theory that marriage matters more than ever to today’s children.

When the data was adjusted for differences between family types in racial makeup and parental education levels, as well as for the age and gender of students in each group, the researchers found that higher risks of school intervention faced by students from non-traditional families have declined.

Yet, according to Zill and Wilcox, “students from non-intact families continue to have nearly three times the risk of suspension and double the risk of repetition as students from biologically intact families.” Specifically, students growing up in non-traditional families are 2.92 times more likely than their peers from intact families to be suspended from school, while those living in non-traditional families are 2.01 times more likely. likely to end up repeating a grade than children from intact families.

Parents of students growing up in non-traditional homes are 2.18 times more likely than parents of students raised in nuclear families to be contacted by schools about their children’s behavior. At the same time, parents of students living in non-traditional households were just 1.63 times more likely than parents of children in two-parent homes to be contacted by schools about their children’s schoolwork.

“Despite the decline in the frequency of school interventions for students from single-parent, step-parent, and other non-intact family types, in both surveys these students were significantly more likely than those from married biological families. to receive each of these interventions,” the researchers explain. “And the declines over time in the frequency of school interventions were greater for students from married biological families. relative risk faced by students from non-traditional families has actually increased or stayed the same.

The researchers clarified in their brief that their findings should not be interpreted as saying that students from non-traditional families cannot succeed in school, only that the chances of academic success are “more favourable” for students. from traditional families.

“These results reaffirm the finding that children from stable, married families are more likely to receive the guidance and support they need to succeed academically and adjust confidently to the classroom environment than children from stable, married families. children from troubled or blended families,” they noted. “That doesn’t mean children from non-traditional families can’t do well in school. Many do this, despite any conflict, turmoil, or parental restrictions they may encounter at home.

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