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What Qualities Do Parents Value Based on Their Education?

by , 10th Oct 2014

Pursuing a four-year college degree following high school may not be the right move for every child, but the overwhelming majority of parents who have college degrees encourage their children to get degrees as well 

There are all kinds of parenting styles and while the jury is out on the best way to raise a child, two recent studies have some interesting findings when it comes to qualities parents value in relation to how much education they have had.

A Pew Research study compared child-rearing values by parents who came from three different education backgrounds: those who graduated college, those who had some college, and those who completed a high school degree or less. Additionally, a group of researchers from Brown University School of Medicine, Brandeis University, the National Children’s Medical Center, and the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology conducted a study, where they looked at numerous variables, including empowerment parenting versus traditional parenting, and have published a book with their findings, The Learning Habit.

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

According to Pew, while 39% of college graduates and 44% of non-college graduates value hard work and 51% of graduates and 59% of non-college graduates value being responsible, there are some values that demonstrate a marked difference between the groups.

For example, only eight percent of non-college graduates value persistence whereas that number rises to 13% for graduates. Similar statistics occur with the characteristic of curiosity, which is valued by five percent of non-college graduates and 13% of graduates.

These findings are complemented by the information in The Learning Habit, which found that empowerment parenting, which encourages parents to have an open mindset and targets building persistence, or “grit,” in children, is more effective than traditional parenting, which has a focus on discipline.


Thus, it appears that persistence is a highly desirable characteristic, and looking at the history books, we shouldn’t be too surprised by that. What would Helen Keller’s life have been like, had Annie Sullivan not been persistent when trying to teach her? Or what if Nelson Mandela had given up fighting apartheid? There are many great people who have changed the world, and persistence is one trait shared by them all.

When parental education makes a difference

Pursuing a four-year college degree following high school may not be the right move for every child, but the overwhelming majority of those who have college degrees encourage their children to get degrees as well. In College Board/National Journal poll results released in April 2014 , 80% of those polled who were raised by two college graduates said their parents encouraged them to attend a four-year school after high school. This is in contrast to those raised by two non-college graduate parents, of which only 29% said they were encouraged to do so.

The encouragement appears to have the desired effect: in the same poll, 76% of those raised by two college graduates said they entered college (either a two-or four-year school) following high school; only 37% of those from families with two non-college graduate parents did.


Think about goals for your child

Maybe you have a parenting style – then again, maybe you don’t. Raising successful children is as much about the needs of each child as it is about any particular parenting style. So think about your child and her needs as well as your goals for her. If obtaining a college degree is one of these goals, for instance, think about the values you have worked to instill in her. Are they the ones that have been found to lead to empowerment and success when it comes to graduation? You may be right on track or you may want to adjust your values to help meet the specified goals.

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