Great Expectations: The Biasing Effects Of Reported Child Behavior Problems On Educational Expectancies And Subsequent Academic Achievement

Parental and child expectations of educational achievement have each been linked to a range of beneficial child outcomes. Less is known about the formation of educational expectations, the potential biasing impact of child behavior problems on these expectations, and the prospective influence of expectations on child performance. To test these links, we analyzed longitudinal data (baseline, 5 year follow-up) for 884 children (53% female; Mage = 9.75 years) and their primary caregivers. Parent-reported child behavioral problems predicted parents' educational expectations for their children over and above the children's achievement scores. Parental expectations influenced children's own expectations, an effect partially mediated by parental involvement in educational activities. Parental educational expectations also influenced children's academic performance five years later, even controlling for the children's baseline academic achievement. This influence was partially mediated by children's expectations; both parent and child expectations had substantial independent effects on academic achievement. These data suggest that parents appear to view child behavior problems as indicative of persistent underlying characteristics, and adjust educational expectations downwards. Lower expectations prospectively reduced child academic performance above and beyond indicators of child competence (such as past performance). These data indicate the importance of parent appraisals of child behavior and suggest avenues for intervention.