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The Relationship Between Parents' Beliefs About Development and Family Constellation, Socioeconomic Status, and Parents' Teaching Strategies SES

McGillicuddy-DeLisi, Ann V.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Child Development, Family Structure, Parent Influence, Socioeconomic Influences, Teaching Methods, Socioeconomic Status (SES)


This study reports an investigation of parent teaching strategies in families that varied with respect to family constellation and education and income level of parents. At first, it was proposed that the findings that linked socioeconomic status (SES), family constellation, and children's intellectual abilities were due to differences in parents' use of distancing teaching strategies. An interview with parents was held to find their preferred teaching strategies and to predict what they would actually do in a variety of situations. Parents were asked to provide rationales for preferred and predicted strategies. Parents' rationales did not emphasize constraints on their behavior due to demands of other children as much as their view of how development occurs or the nature of children in general. Hypotheses were reformulated about why parents behave as they do with their children, and why parental teaching strategies vary with factors like the number of children and SES. Parents' beliefs about children and their development are critical factors through which family constellation and SES affect parental teaching practices. Study participants were 120 two-parent families. The families varied with respect to education, income level of the parents, and number and spacing of children. Half the families were working class; the other half middle class. Forty families had an only child, who was three and a half to four and a half years old; 80 families had three children. The middle child in the three-child families was also three and a half to four and a half. Half of the three-child families had fewer than three years spacing between the oldest and middle child; half had more than three years. An equal number of male and female children were in each group. The oldest and middle siblings were of the same sex for 83% of the group. Both fathers and mothers were interviewed and videotaped. Results are given and discussed. (SGK) (63pp.)

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