Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 349–365 | Cite as

The Relationship between Childhood Family Background and Educational Performance, with Special Reference to Single-parent Families: A Longitudinal Study

  • Kaisa RialaEmail author
  • Irene Isohanni
  • Jari Jokelainen
  • Peter B. Jones
  • Matti Isohanni


Aims: Education is an important indicator of health and well-being. We studied the relationship between childhood family background and later educational achievements. Methods: A total of 10,581 subjects from the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort were studied prospectively covering the period from pregnancy to 31 years of age. The association between family background (two-parent family and three types of single-parent families, wantedness of pregnancy, mother's education, family size, social class and its change between 1966 and 1980) and educational achievements (school performance and highest attained education by age 31) was examined using two-way tables and logistic regression analysis. Results: Low maternal education and large family size were the most powerful predictors for low education in adulthood. Single-parent family background seemed to be less important compared with other family background variables in predicting low school performance or low educational level in adulthood. Conclusions: Single-parent family background and other adverse family features may increase the risk of educational underachievement. However, in a welfare state with well-educated population the effect of single-parent family background seems to be relatively small. Health care professionals, teachers and parents should pay attention to the specific educational needs and counselling of young adults from disadvantaged families.


Family Size School Performance Maternal Education Family Background Educational Achievement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kaisa Riala
    • 1
    Email author
  • Irene Isohanni
    • 2
  • Jari Jokelainen
    • 1
    • 3
  • Peter B. Jones
    • 4
  • Matti Isohanni
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of OuluFinland
  2. 2.Oulu PolytechnicOuluFinland
  3. 3.Department of Public Health Science and General PracticeUniversity of OuluFinland
  4. 4.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of CambridgeUK

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