For years, research has suggested that high parental aspirations lead to positive academic outcomes for children. This evidence has been so convincing that it has even resulted in the development and implementation of educational interventions that target both parent’s academic aspirations for their children and the children’s own aspirations. A recent study carried out by Kou Murayama and his team has however shone doubt on the earlier presumptions regarding parent’s academic aspirations for children.
Murayama and his team realized the need to distinguish between parental aspiration and parental overaspiration, the latter of which they argued may lead to adverse effects for a child’s academic functioning. Parental overaspiration, they described as “excessively high parental aspiration that exceeds realistic expectations of a child’s performance”. Their study examined levels of parental aspiration as well as child academic achievement continuously over the course of 5 years. This was a large scale study that was carried out using large samples from both the United States and Germany.
What Murayama and his team found was that approximately 30 per cent of parents met criteria for parental overaspiration. What is more is that in line with previous research, the researchers found that parental aspiration was associated with better academic outcome only when it occurred at an optimum level. When parental overaspiration occurred, academic achievement was impacted negatively. They found that this was true regardless of the sex, level of general intelligence, academic background, or socioeconomic status of the child.
So what do these findings tell us? Well they signify that having an “aim high and your children will achieve” kind of attitude is not going to be sufficient when parenting your child through schooling. Not only is this kind of attitude not going to cut it, but it may even be detrimental for your child’s overall academic performance. The main learning that comes from Murayama and his colleague’s study is that in order for parents to maintain an optimum level of aspiration for their children, they must remain aware of their children’s academic abilities and set realistic expectations accordingly. This kind of attuned parenting will likely help to foster greater academic performance in the long term.
The full article can be accessed here
Ms. Niamh Allen, M.A. B.Sc.