Parents' Attitude About College and Academic Success

Reading activities for preschoolers
Want your preschooler to go to college? A new study finds if you believe it, your child will have academic success from a young age.. Hero Images

Want your preschooler to go to college? It might seem like a long way off, but it's a nice thought, isn't it? A new study finds that your positive thinking about secondary education for your little one can lead to academic success as early as preschool.

A team of researchers from UCLA and the American Academy of Pediatrics found that when it came to making sure a child was ready for kindergarten, there are a number of factors that contributed:

  • preschool attendance
  • the education level of the parents
  • the income level of the parents
  • the attitude of the parents towards their child attending college

 “Parents who saw college in their child’s future seemed to manage their child toward that goal irrespective of their income and other assets," said Dr. Neal Halfon, the study’s senior author and director of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities.

The research appears in the February 2015 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"The big surprise was what a strong role parents’ long-term goals for their children played in predicting their math and reading abilities,” Halfon said.

Researchers took at look at data from 6,600 children who were enrolled in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Birth Cohort Study, a national study of children born in 2001. Parents were interviewed four times between their child’s birth and entry into kindergarten.

Researchers asked questions about family routines, whether or not the child attended preschool, and family behaviors and challenges, and assessed children using standardized psychological and educational tests. 

The results found that kids who had the highest scores also had parents with the highest expectations for their future education.

Ninety-six percent of kids who scored the highest on the standardized psychological and educational tests were expected by their parents to attend college. Only 57 percent of kids who scored the lowest were expected to go to college.

But the results weren't always so far-reaching into the future. The higher a family's socioeconomic status the more likely the child had high scores in both math and reading. Children who came from families with a lower socioeconomic status tended to have younger mothers, were read to less frequently by their parents, used computers at home less frequently and had fewer books in the home than those from the higher socioeconomic classes.

Finally, the study found: "Parents’ supportive interactions, expectations for their child to earn a college degree and child’s preschool attendance were higher among families in the higher socioeconomic groups."

"Our findings suggests there are a range of behaviors that parents can adopt and services they can provide to help their young children get better prepared for their educational journey," said Kandyce Larson, the study's lead author and a senior researcher with the AAP.

"In addition to fostering educational activities such as reading to their children on a daily basis, parents can also adopt a mindset that focuses on a pathway that will lead their child to college," said Larson, a former assistant research scientist at UCLA.

While a lot has to happen between now and when your preschooler is ready to start thinking about attending a college or a university, it's nice to know that the simple act of positive thinking can offer your little one a very real head start.

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