Australian mothers have high hopes for kids education


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Content type
Media release

August 2015

Using data from Growing up in Australia – the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, AIFS Executive Manager, Dr Ben Edwards said more than half of mothers expected their child to obtain a university degree.

Children’s expectations for their own educational achievements were closely related to their mother’s expectations, with children whose mothers held high expectations also having high expectations for themselves.

“There’s a strong link between mothers’ expectations and the educational attainment that their children achieve,” Dr Edwards said.

“Generally children tend to mirror the expectations of their mothers, although mothers tended to be a little more confident than their children that they would make it through university.

“Mothers expectations are influenced by how well their children perform in school. The expectations that mothers held for their children in Year 3 generally lasted until Year 7, although some mothers tended to adjust their expectations, as their child got older.

“Mothers and their children were more likely to hold high educational expectations if the mother was born overseas. 

“Mothers held significantly lower expectations for their child’s educational attainment where neither they or their parents had more than a high school education.”

Dr Edwards said mothers held different expectations for their daughters, compared to their sons.

“Mothers were more likely to expect their daughters to go to university and less likely to expect their daughters to obtain vocational training, compared with mothers of boys.” Dr Edwards said.

“They also see more opportunities for their daughters to have a high-paid occupation that requires a higher education qualification. This may be explained by the different learning styles of boys and girls, with boys tending to prefer a more hands on learning approach.

“The study also showed that schools had an influence on educational expectations. Mothers’ expectations were significantly higher among those with children in independent/private schools than in government schools.

“If children were around students from socio-economically advantaged backgrounds, mothers were more likely to hold high expectations for their child’s educational attainment.

“Similarly, children from more educated families and schools were more likely to have high expectations for their education in future, compared to others.”

Dr Edwards said grandparents’ education was another factor in shaping the educational expectations of mothers.

“The educational attainment of children’s grandparents was linked to mothers’ expectations of their children, over and above family and school factors,” Dr Edwards said. 

“Importantly, we found that mothers and children’s expectations did have a bearing on children’s current academic success.

“Children’s academic performance in Year 5 was significantly related to both children’s and mothers’ educational expectations.

“Children who held high expectations for their educational attainment also tended to be intrinsically motived in their learning and enjoyed striving to perform better than other students.

“The educational expectations of both children and their mothers are related to real academic experiences and their own education. The educational expectations of parents are highly relevant for children’s achievement motivation and outcomes from Year 3 to Year 7.”

Media contact     
Kate O'Connor      
Phone: 0499 860 257  
Email: kate.o'[email protected]