A new study takes a close look at the impact parents have on the educational development of their children—and the results speak to the time spent by parents with their children, especially moms.
A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research sought to capture the effect of the loss of a parent, through divorce or death, on the academic achievement of children. Overall, the impacts for children whose parents were absent through divorce were somewhat similar to children whose parents were absent because they had died.
The research, a collaborative effort between Ohio State University and Hebrew University in Israel, involved data on more than 77,000 children whose parents were divorced as well as 22,000 children who had experienced the death of a parent before they were 18. The data was then compared with approximately 600,000 children whose families remained intact.
The tool for comparison was the Israeli matriculation exam, a rigorous test that serves as a gateway to higher education in that country. Only about 57 percent of children pass the examination.
The results of the study offer baseline information on the impact of parents on the educational progress of their children. Here are some of the findings:
- For children of divorce, or who have lost a parent, the education level of the remaining parent becomes an important factor—since that parent is now the primary influence for the academic development of the child.
- Interestingly, the loss of a mother had a greater impact on the intellectual development of a child. Researchers note this is because moms typically spend more time with their children. The same held true for larger families. Mothers who do not work outside the home tend to spend more time with their children, oftentimes providing more constant academic support.
- Intellectual achievement of parents has less of an impact on their children than the time spent by parents with their children. While smart children could be intellectually gifted, this study also found a boost came from the time parents devote to the interests and development of their child. The study found that parents who were better educated tend to spend more time with their children, which offers a boost with both “nature and nurture.”
- Because moms tend to spend more time with children, their loss—through custody arrangements or death—can be a greater loss for the intellectual growth of their child. That said, the loss can be mitigated by a father willing to spend the same kind of engaged time with their child.
These findings offer reflection for parents creating custody arrangements for their children. In the complex switching and swapping of parenting time and drop-offs and pick-ups, children may lose the meaningful engagement with a parent that could support their academic well being. Food for thought when considering how best to serve the future interests of your child.
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