Adolescents' Academic Expectations and Achievement

By Sanders, Christopher E.; Field, Tiffany M. et al. | Adolescence, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Adolescents' Academic Expectations and Achievement


Sanders, Christopher E., Field, Tiffany M., Diego, Miguel A., Adolescence


Individuals who possess a college degree are still at a greater advantage than those who do not in terms of earnings (Hecker, 1998) and employment rates (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1999). Therefore, understanding the factors related to increased academic expectations (aspiring to obtain more education) and academic achievement among adolescents should be of great interest to educators. One objective of National Educational Goals 2000 was to increase parental involvement in order to promote the social, emotional, and academic growth of children (as cited in Patrikakou, 1997). Past research suggests that parents' academic expectations for their children influence their children's own academic expectations (Hanson, 1994; Hossler & Stage, 1992; Patrikakou, 1997; Trusty, 1998; Wilson & Wilson, 1992).

Parent-adolescent congruence in academic expectations was found to be stronger in mother-child comparisons than in father-child comparisons (Bornholt & Goodnow, 1999). A study by Smith (1991) further revealed that adolescent expectations were related to perceived parental expectations, especially so for the mothers' expectations. Trusty and Pirtle (1998) found no differences between mother and father influences on adolescent academic expectations when assessed in the adolescents' senior year. However, a more recent study by Trusty (2000) found that mothers' expectations for their children were related to academic expectations in adolescents when assessed during their eighth-grade year.

Academic achievement in adolescents is also related to quality of relationship with parents and parent involvement (Christenson, Rounds, & Gorney, 1992). According to Hafner et al. (as cited in Trusty, 2000) approximately 75% of eighth graders surveyed in the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) expected to achieve a college degree, yet less than 30% planned to take college preparatory classes. In contrast, increased academic expectations appeared to significantly benefit adolescents in one study on college freshman showing that academic expectations were predictive of academic achievement in a calculus course (House, 1995). In addition, a longitudinal study of Belgian children found that academic self-concept and academic achievement were highly related (Muijs, 1997).

Substance use is also noted to relate to lower academic expectations and lower grades (Paulson, Coombs, & Richardson, 1990). High school drop-outs were three times as likely to rate themselves as heavy drinkers and report frequent drunkenness as compared to those in good academic standing (Arellano, Chavez, & Deffenbacher, 1998). A recent review of marijuana effects on educational attainment showed negative effects on school performance and educational attainment (Lynskey & Hall, 2000).

The present study focused on relative influences of parental relationships and substance use on academic expectations and academic achievement. Based on previous findings, mother relationships were expected to be more influential than father relationships on adolescents' academic expectations and achievement. Additionally, substance use was expected to be related to lower expectations and achievement.

METHOD

Participants

The participants were 80 high school seniors (34 males, 46 females), who were recruited from a suburban private high school. Of these, 73% were from intact families, 21% had divorced parents, 5% had both parents deceased, and 1% had parents who never married. The participants' ethnic backgrounds were distributed as follows: 76% Caucasian, 11% Hispanic, 5% Asian, 4% African-American, and 4% other. Their socioeconomic status (SES) was skewed, with 23% ranging from low to middle SES, 50% upper-middle, and 27% upper SES based on the Hollingshead Index.

Measures

Students were administered a 181-item Likert-type questionnaire on behavioral and psychological aspects of adolescent life designed by Field and Yando (1991). …

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