Family Social Capital and Children's Academic Achievement: Mediating Pathways
Methods: This study utilized the data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, a large-scale surveys containing data on students' academic achievement as well as other contextual information on students, families and schools for the participating countries. The dependent variable was standardized test scores of reading literacy. Structural deficiency of family social capital was measured by a series of variables such as living in a single-parent household, a sibling size, and maternal full-time/part-time work. To measure the quality of family social capital, the parent-child interaction scale was used. Missing data were imputed using the Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) multiple imputation. Mediating pathways were tested using the Baron and Kenny’s approach reformulated for random effect multilevel modeling (Bauer, Preacher, & Gil, 2006; Krull & MacKinnon, 2001). A Sobel test was utilized to determine the significance of mediating effects.
Findings: As consistent with literature, the mediating role of family social capital was supported for the overall sample. Both family financial and human capital were positively associated with parent-child interactions, and parent-child interactions in turn raised children’s academic achievement. The quality of family social capital also mediated the relationship between structural deficiency of family social capital and academic achievement. That is, living in a single-parent household, a large sibling size, and maternal work were negatively associated with parent-child interactions, and low-levels of parent-child interactions partly accounted for low academic achievement among children in these families. However, these mediating effects were partial, and magnitudes of effects were small-to-moderate. We also found the evidence that mediating pathways differ across countries. In countries with generous dual-earner support policies, for example, maternal full-time or part-time work was not significantly associated with parent-child interactions.
Conclusions: Findings from this study shed light on the mechanism through which family resources exert their impacts on children’s academic achievement. A significant, but small-to-moderate mediating effect of family social capital as well as differential mediating pathways across countries provide further policy implications. For example, direct intervention to raise parent-child interactions may be helpful to raise child achievement. US may also consider expanding policy supports for working mothers to minimize potential negative impacts of employment on children’s academic achievement through parent-child interactions.