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Mothers' Strategies for Children's School Achievement: Managing the Transition to High School

David P. Baker and David L. Stevenson
Sociology of Education
Vol. 59, No. 3 (Jul., 1986), pp. 156-166
DOI: 10.2307/2112340
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2112340
Page Count: 11
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Mothers' Strategies for Children's School Achievement: Managing the Transition to High School
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Abstract

The American educational system requires parents to manage their child's school career to maximize their child's school achievement. But parents differ in the specific strategies they select to help their children through school. These strategies are one way in which family background influences children's school achievement. We expand the extant model of how parents influence their children's school careers to encompass various pragmatic strategies devised for the crucial transition to high school. We analyze the responses of a small heterogeneous sample of mothers of eighth graders, who are beginning the transition from middle school to high school. The findings of this exploratory study indicate that parents actively manage their child's school career in ways that can have direct consequences for their child's educational achievement. The number and types of schooling strategies suggested by mothers do not vary among mothers, which indicates that there may be standard parental strategies. The implementation of strategies, however, does vary by the socioeconomic status of the mother, even when the child's academic performance is controlled. Mothers who have at least a college education know more about their child's school performance, have more contact with the teachers, and are more likely to take action to manage their child's academic achievement. We also find that mothers with a college education are more likely to choose college-preparatory courses for their child, regardless of their child's academic performance. We discuss how these findings contribute to our understanding of the process by which parents' socioeconomic status influences the child's academic achievement and educational attainment.

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