The Relationship between Parental Involvement and Elementary Students’ Academic Achievement in China: One-Only Children vs. Children with Siblings 1

By Wei, Wei; Wu, Yifang et al. | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Autumn 2016 | Go to article overview

The Relationship between Parental Involvement and Elementary Students’ Academic Achievement in China: One-Only Children vs. Children with Siblings 1


Wei, Wei, Wu, Yifang, Lv, Bo, Zhou, Huan, Han, Xiuhua, Liu, Zhaomin, Luo, Liang, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


INTRODUCTION

One-only children have long been a concern of parents, psychologists, educators and policy makers. After 1979 in particular, when China instituted its one-child policy, studies on oneonly children increased significantly (e.g., Chow and Zhao, 1996; Falbo and Poston, 1993; Jing et al., 2003; Mancillas, 2006; Poston and Falbo, 1990). Previous studies have explored the differences between one-only children and non-only children in the areas of academic achievement, character, and social development. Some studies have found that one-only children were more self-centered and maladjusted than children with siblings (Cameron et al., 2013), while other studies did not find significant differences between one-only children and those with siblings in the domains of adjustment and sociability (Chen and Liu, 2014; Falbo, 2012; Falbo and Polit, 1986). Despite the incongruent results on character and social development, the results for academic achievement consistently indicate that one-only children possess advantages. For example, Falbo and Polit (1986) conducted a meta-analysis of 115 studies on one-only children and demonstrated that one-only children had significantly higher achievement scores than their peers with siblings. Recent studies of one-only children in both Western countries and in China confirm the academic advantage of one-only children (e.g., Booth and Kee, 2005; Downey, 2001; Travis and Kohli, 1995).

Scholars have attempted to explain why one-only children possess this academic advantage. Bronfenbrenner's ecological perspective provides a theoretical framework for explaining this phenomenon (Bronfenbrenner, 1979). This theory categorizes the environmental factors that affect children's development into four systems (micro-, meso-, exo-, and macrosystem). Of these systems, the microsystem is directly related to children and therefore plays a more important role in children's development. Additionally, parents have been found to be the most important factor in the microsystem. Academic achievement is a vital indicator of children's development; accordingly, in this theory, parents should greatly affect children's academic achievement. In practice, previous studies have also indicated that parental factors are the most important factor behind academic achievement and are more influential than other environmental factors (Melhuish, 2008). Blake (1981) found that one-only children in the United States were more likely to have parents with higher levels of education and income than their peers with siblings. Thus, he suggested that the superior academic outcomes of one-only children might be a reflection of the resources of their parents. However, the advantages of one-only children remain after statistically controlling for parents' educational levels and family income (Blake, 1989; Polit and Falbo, 1988). Parents' interactions with their children might promote the academic success of one-only children. Indeed, a few studies have found that parents of one-only children exhibit distinct behaviors when interacting with their children. For example, mothers of one-only children reported helping the child complete homework assignments and talked directly with the child about school-related topics more frequently than parents of multiple children (Chen, 2007). This finding indicates that parents may pay more attention to and be more involved in one-only children's learning. Falbo (1990) suggested that these types of parental behaviors might facilitate the one-only child's acquisition of academic skills.

Seginer (2006) indicated that parents' educational involvement as a term described different parental practices ranging from educational beliefs and academic achievement expectations to the multiple behaviors parents employ at home and in school to advance children's educational outcomes. Additionally, they also used Bronfenbrenner's ecological framework to explain parental involvement in education. The microsystem pertains to home-based involvement and extends to contain home-based involvement, family structure, family size and other family environmental factors. …

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