Quality time rather than study time improves teens’ educational aspirations

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Teenagers who spend quality time with their parents are more likely to want to further their studies, according to research that uses two waves of Understanding Society data.

Understanding Society allows for longitudinal analyses on parents’ behaviours and children’s development and learning.

The research examined how aspects of the home environment (e.g. cultural capital, parental involvement in education, emotional closeness) affects young people’s behaviour, wellbeing and self-efficacy to their educational aspirations through analyses of Understanding Society – a national, longitudinal sample.

In this study, data from 10,931 young people were analysed and the researchers investigated responses to questions about a variety of topics such as visiting art galleries, discussing books at home, the number of evenings spent doing homework, relationship with siblings and quarrelling with parents.

The research found that there is no shortage in young people’s educational aspirations, but younger boys were less aspirational than slightly older adolescents and girls in general.

Cultural capital predicted young people’s aspirations for further and higher education as well as their views on the importance of GCSEs.

Extra-curricular activities and homework support were not significant predictors of young people’s educational aspirations.

Emotional closeness to parents also emerged as a good predictor of young people’s views about GCSEs and post-16 options.

The inclination to solve problems (self-efficacy) was a strong predictor of educational aspiration.

Participating in cultural activities also appeared to affect the desire to study further. Those who weren’t exposed to cultural activities were less likely to consider university or GCSEs as important.

Dr Dimitra Hartas, of the University of Warwick, said: “These findings have significant implications for family and educational policy, especially with regard to ‘raising aspirations’ and reducing early school leaving. They also raise the issue of reconsidering the role of the home environment as a web of emotionally and intellectually charged relationships between parents and children, rather than an extension of the school day.”

Dr Hartas comments: “The annual data collection of the Understanding Society offers an excellent opportunity for testing multiple aspects of people’s lives and conducting longitudinal analyses on parents’ behaviours and children’s development and learning.”

Read the full paper

‘Young people’s educational aspirations: psychosocial factors and the home environment’ by Dimitra Hartas was published in Journal of Youth Studies.

NB Please note that this news article has been reposted from the Understanding Society website.