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Dr. John Mark Froiland, University of N. Colorado – Parental Expectations and Academic Success

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. John Mark Froiland of the University of Northern Colorado explains why parental expectations are an important part of academic success.

John Mark Froiland is an assistant professor of school psychology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado. His research interests include community supports for parental involvement, early childhood development, and helping parents to support children’s intrinsic motivation. He practiced as a school psychologist for 5 years and holds a Ph.D. from Michigan State University.

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Dr. John Mark Froiland – Parental Expectations and Academic Success

In a study that followed thousands of children in the USA from kindergarten to 8th grade, we examined the long-term effects of parents’ early expectations about how far their children would go with their education, from dropping out of high school to earning an MD or PhD. We also examined the effects of early home-based involvement which includes parents reading with children, providing an array of children’s books and telling their children stories.  This study was an improvement on many previous studies because we controlled for the effects of early achievement, socioeconomic status and ethnicity and followed both the parents and their children from the beginning of kindergarten to 8th grade.

Both parent expectations and home-based involvement in kindergarten significantly predicted science, math and reading achievement in 8th grade. However, parental expectations had twice the effect that home-based involvement had, suggesting that school psychologists and educators promoting parent involvement should be mindful of the importance of not only elevating parent involvement at home, but also promoting strong hope among parents.  We also found that parent expectations in kindergarten predicted children’s expectations in 8th grade, providing support for the expectancy-value theory and social-cognitive theory, which both posit that parental expectations influence children’s belief that they can succeed, which in turn influences their likelihood of success. 

In addition, we found that certain parental behaviors that may be perceived of as controlling, such as checking on grades and homework, in 8th grade predict lower achievement for children, whereas parental expectations in 8th grade still had a positive effect on achievement.  These findings suggest that interventions to elevate parent expectations should be developed by researchers and educators.  


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