Childhood in Context

2013 Family World Map

Photo: 2013 World Family Map

A common topic within the field of education is the effect of family on a student’s academic achievement.  Child Trends recently released its “2013 World Family Map”.  The report examines family structures, socioeconomics, process, and culture in several countries around the world–including China, Turkey, Kenya, Canada, France, and the United States–to represent high-, middle-, and low-income countries.  Although the report does not examine education directly, it does look at children’s lives in the context of their families.  One particular essay examines the influence the number of parents and siblings has on a child:

Prior research–mostly on the US and Europe–suggests that children who grow up without one or both parents in the household are at risk for a host of negative educational outcomes.  This essay… [asks] the following questions: How does living with one parent or neither parent compare with living with two parents on a range of educational outcomes…?

Interestingly, the report found that the positive effects of living with two parents were less consistent in the low-income countries studied.  Unlike prior research conducted in the US and Europe, in some countries having fewer parents did not always correlate with lower educational achievement.  Although this research was conducted at the national level (a unit of analysis often critiqued by Comparative Education scholars), these findings trouble the notion that living with one parent, or no parents, is always a disadvantage.  Extended family involvement, parental involvement and relationship quality, and other family-related factors also play a role in shaping a child’s educational achievements.

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