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Citation:Shim, M. K., Felner, R. D., & Shim, E. (2000). The effects of family structures on academic achievement. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans: LA.

How does family structure affect student achievement in the form of grades? This study investigates that question. The researchersÕ data suggested that the factor that explained the greatest difference in grades was the studentsÕ perception of the academic expectation of the parents, regardless of family structure. A larger portion of students from step- and single-parent families perceived their parents had low expectations; these students also experienced more stresses at school. The researchers looked at a Rhode Island survey of secondary students called The High Performance Learning Communities (HiPlaces) Assessment (1998-1999), which provided data on 25,500 students from 2-parent families, 4,800 students from step-families, and about 9,000 students from single-parent families. They analyzed which family structure was associated with student self-reported grades. They also looked at factors including demographic characteristics and parental academic expectation. Though their findings show that family structure itself did not explain achievement differences, studentsÕ perceptions of their parentsÕ expectations were associated with high achievement. Professionals who design parent workshops will find that information useful to share with parents. Limitations include that student self-reports of grades were used, and grades are not completely unbiased measures of achievement.

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