The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children Annual statistical report 2014

6. The educational expectations of Australian children and their mothers

Maggie Yu and Galina Daraganova, Australian Institute of Family Studies

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6.1 Introduction

It is widely recognised in educational research that the educational expectations of parents and children are important factors in predicting children's educational achievements and occupational outcomes (Beutel & Anderson, 2008; Davis-Kean, 2005; Englund, Luckner, Whaley, & Egeland, 2004; Hannum, Kong, & Zhang, 2009; Jacobs, Chhin, & Bleeker, 2006; Marjoribanks, 2002; Neuenschwander, Vida, Garrett, & Eccles, 2007; Sandefur, Meier, & Campbell, 2006; Trusty, Plata, & Salazar, 2003; Zhang, Kao, & Hannum, 2007). Much research examining the disparities in educational attainment among children has shown that although families vary in terms of resources they provide to children (number of books, extracurricular activities, reading to the child, etc.), the conventional measures of family socio-economic background alone (parental education, family income) cannot explain the variations in home learning environments that lead to these disparities (Casanova, García-Linares, de la Torre, & Carpio, 2005; Martini & Sénéchal, 2012; Teachman & Paasch, 1998). Children's educational attainment also appears to be related to parents' expectations for what their child will achieve educationally, irrespective of family background and socio-economic status (Buchmann & Dalton, 2002; Eccles & Wigfield, 2002).

Parents with high expectations for their children can compensate for a lack of financial and human resources "by demonstrating more optimistic expectations for their children, which can serve to increase children's own expectations, and eventual school attainment" (Zhang, 2012, pp. 4-5). This effect also appears to have long-term influences on children's lives in adulthood (Flouri & Hawkes, 2008; Jacobs et al., 2006). For instance, Flouri and Hawkes found that mothers' expectations for their daughters' educational attainment at the age of 10 were positively related to their daughters' sense of control and income at the age of 30.

Children also develop their own expectations for their educational achievement. These expectations are strongly related to parents' expectations and are important for children's learning motivation and achievement (Nicholson, Putwain, Connors, & Hornby-Atkinson, 2013). A number of studies have found that students with higher educational expectations tend to have higher levels of educational attainment and better labour market outcomes. Students' educational expectations at age 14 predicted actual attainment by age 26 (Mello, 2008). Similarly, a more recent study found that students' expectations in 10th grade (equivalent to Year 10 in Australia) uniquely predicted their post-secondary status four years later, over and above parents' and teachers' expectations (Gregory & Huang, 2013).

Considering that the educational expectations of both parents and their children are strongly related to children's academic achievements, it is important to investigate the factors that shape these expectations. Both sets of expectations have been found to vary socially and ethnically (Davis-Kean, 2005; Gill & Reynolds, 2000; Glick & White, 2004). First, parental education has been shown to be an important predictor of parental expectations (Gill & Reynolds, 2000). Specifically, parents with higher levels of education have higher expectations for their children's educational attainment and are more involved in their children's education than parents with lower levels of education. In addition, Kim, Sherraden, and Clancy (2013) found that, in the US, non-Hispanic white mothers of newborn children hold higher educational expectations for their children than African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics. These differences disappear, however, when socio-economic characteristics are considered. In addition, Davis-Kean (2005) found that family income significantly affects children's achievement through parental expectations.

The educational expectations of children are also expected to vary based on family and social factors. For instance, girls have been reported to hold higher educational expectations than boys (Mau & Bikos, 2000). Perceived racial barriers were found to be associated with lower educational expectations among female African-American students (Wood, Kurtz-Costes, & Copping, 2011). And students from lower income families tend to express more limited educational expectations than their higher income peers (Sandefur et al., 2006).

Another study using the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) in the United States reported that immigrant and second-generation youth are more likely than their third or higher generation peers to have higher educational expectations and go on to post-secondary education, despite their families' socio-economic characteristics (Glick & White, 2004).

In Australia, there has been a focus on admitting higher skilled migrants, and children of immigrants tend to perform better on cognitive assessments than in the UK and US (Washbrook, Waldfogel, Bradbury, Corak, & Ghanghro, 2012). Immigration background has been found to be an important predictor for students' aspirations to complete Year 12. Using data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY), Gemici, Bednarz, Karmel, and Lim (2014) reported that both first-generation and foreign-born students were more likely to have the intention to complete Year 12 than Australian-born students.

Most studies of students' educational expectations have focused on adolescents in upper high school (Gemici et al., 2014; Gregory & Huang, 2013; Turcios-Cotto & Milan, 2012). Only a limited number of studies have addressed the educational expectations of children during the early years of secondary school. In addition, less is known about other factors, such as grandparents' education and child's school characteristics, that may be tied to parents' and children's educational expectations. Levels of earnings, education, occupational status and health behaviours have been found to persist across generations (d'Addio, 2007). Using LSAC data, Hancock, Edwards, and Zubrick (2013) reported that children with family histories of joblessness and separation achieved lower scores on academic assessments than their peers, but they did not examine the influence of grandparents' educational backgrounds. Further investigation of the factors that contribute to children's expectations for their academic achievements is needed.

In addition, children's actual school performance can influence the expectations of both children and their parents. A study of 14,376 students, using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), reported that both adolescents and their parents adjust their educational aspirations according to the student's academic achievement (Zhang, Haddad, Torres, & Chen, 2011). As children progress through school, their academic abilities, as measured by standardised tests and reflected in teachers' feedback, become increasingly available and comprehensible to both children and their parents. A number of studies have shown strong links between children's academic performance and their expectations for their future education (Chemers, Hu, & Garcia, 2001; Nicholson et al., 2013). Compared to students who had no post-school plans, those who intended to go to university were more likely to do so (Homel et al., 2014). Children's academic performance also influences their parents' expectations. Goldenberg, Gallimore, Reese, and Garnier (2001) found that although children's academic abilities and parents' expectations were unrelated in kindergarten, over the course of schooling, parents' expectations become increasingly linked to how well children are doing at school.

Moreover, parental expectations may change as children get older. For instance, Goldenberg et al. (2001) reported fluctuations in parental expectations from kindergarten to sixth grade. While parents' expectations may be largely influenced by their own experiences and values when their children are little, these expectations may change according to children's interests and motivations as they grow. Knowing how parents' expectations change over time is important, because these expectations are strongly related to parental involvement, resources provided to children and children's own expectations for their educational achievement.

The first goal of this chapter is to provide a rich contextual picture of both parents' and children's educational expectations. Using the information on parents' expectations collected when children were 8-13 years old, this chapter assesses whether, as their children get older, parents revise their expectations of their child's future educational attainment. We compare the distribution of both sets of expectations for various family characteristics and socio-demographic factors. In particular, this chapter provides insight into the influence of children's academic achievements on the expectations of children and their parents.

This chapter addresses the following research questions:

  • What are the educational expectations of both parents and children and how are they related?
  • How do the educational expectations of both parents and children differ by child, family and school factors (parent education, parent occupational prestige, grandparent education, cultural background, school type and socio-educational advantage)?
  • How do the educational expectations of children and those of their parents relate to children's academic performance?
  • Do the relationships identified in previous research questions remain the same across children with similar levels of academic performance?
  • Are children with higher expectations more motivated to learn than those children who have lower expectations?

6.2 Methodology

This section provides a brief description of the sample, data and measures used in the chapter.

Sample

This chapter uses LSAC K cohort data collected at Waves 3 and 5, when children were 8-9 and 12-13 years old respectively. Given that this chapter assesses the changes in mothers' expectations for their child's educational attainment as children grow, only those children who participated at both waves were included in the sample. The sample was also limited to those children whose parents agreed to link their Year 5 National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) test results.

In addition, because the vast majority of Parent 1s were mothers (94.0%), results included in this chapter are presented for mothers only. Fathers (5.5%) and other adults who were identified as the primary carers (0.5%) were excluded from the analysis. The final sample included 3,422 children.

The majority of children were in high school (74%) at Wave 5. However, 5% were still in Year 5 or 6, and 21% were in Year 7 but were living in the three states where Year 7 is part of the primary years (Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia).

Measures of educational expectation

Mothers' expectations

At Wave 3 and Wave 5, mothers (Parent 1) were asked to report how far they believed their child would go with their education. The response categories were: (1) leave school before finishing secondary school; (2) complete secondary school; (3) complete a trade or vocational training course; (4) go to university and complete a degree; or (5) obtain a postgraduate qualification. The responses were categorised into a three-level categorical variable:

  • Year 12 or below (categories 1 and 2);
  • trade or vocational training (category 3);
  • university degree or postgraduate qualification (categories 4 and 5).
Children's expectations

At Wave 5, children were asked to indicate their expectations of their own education: (1) leave before secondary school; (2) complete secondary school; (3) complete a trade or vocational training; or (4) obtain a university degree. As with maternal responses, children's responses were combined into three categories:

  • Year 12 or below (categories 1 and 2);
  • trade or vocational training (category 3);
  • university degree (category 4).

Measures of child, family and school factors

As noted in the introduction, there are a range of factors that are expected to be associated with the educational expectations of children and their parents. These include child and family characteristics such as the child's gender, either parent's highest level of education (Year 12 or below, vocational training or university degree) and occupational prestige (Group 1: managers or professionals; Group 2: clerical or skilled workers; Group 3: unskilled workers; Group 4: neither parent is in paid work),1 household income (low: bottom 25% of income distribution; mid-level: middle 50%; high: top 25%), mother's country of birth (Australia/New Zealand vs others), and the highest level of grandparents' education (Year 12 or below, vocational training or university degree). School factors were also examined, including the type of school (government, Catholic or independent/private) and the school's Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA). ICSEA is an index of the socio-economic background of the students at the school, with more advantaged schools having a higher ICSEA and schools with students from more disadvantaged backgrounds having a lower ICSEA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2013). The ICSEA scores were categories into high-level (top 25%), mid-level (middle 50%) and low-level (bottom 25%).

Measures of children's intrinsic motivation and achievement motivation

Intrinsic motivation

Children's intrinsic motivation was measured using the Motivation subscale from the Quality of School Life Questionnaire (Williams & Batten, 1981). This subscale was developed to measure "a sense of self-motivation in learning and that learning is enjoyable for its own sake" (Ainley & Bourke, 1992). The subscale comprises six items with response options ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree) to the following statements:

  • "The work we do is interesting."
  • "I like to ask questions in class."
  • "I like to do extra work."
  • "I enjoy what I do in class."
  • "I always try to do my best."
  • "I get excited about the work we do."

The score on the intrinsic motivation scale is the mean of the underlying items, with a higher score indicating a greater level of motivation.

In this analysis, children were divided into three groups according to their score on the intrinsic motivation scale: (a) low motivation: bottom 25% of the distribution of mean scores; (b) mid-level motivation: middle 50% of the distribution; and (c) high motivation: top 25% of the distribution.

Achievement motivation

Children's achievement motivation was measured using the Achievement Goal Questionnaire (AGQ) (Elliot & McGregor, 2001). This questionnaire comprises four subscales:

  • performance-approach goal;
  • performance-avoidance goal;
  • mastery-approach goal; and
  • mastery-avoidance goal.

Each subscale consists of three items, with response options ranging from 1 (not at all true of me) to 7 (very true of me). For example: "My goal this year is to get better grades than most of the other students" (performance-approach goal); "I just want to avoid doing poorly compared to other students this year" (performance-avoidance goal); "Completely mastering the material in my courses is important to me this year" (mastery-approach goal); "I worry that I may not learn all that I possibly could this year" (mastery-avoidance goal). The score on each subscale is the mean of the underlying items, with a higher score indicating a greater level of corresponding achievement motivation.

In this analysis, children were also divided into three categories according to their score on achievement goal subscales: (a) low achievement motivation: bottom 25% of the distribution of the mean score; (b) mid-level achievement motivation: middle 50% of the distribution; and (c) high achievement motivation: top 25% of the distribution. Studies have shown a general pattern that both performance-approach and mastery-approach goals reflect positive attitudes towards learning (Moller & Elliot, 2006), whereas performance-avoidance and mastery-avoidance goals were negative predictors of academic performance (Cury, Elliot, Da Fonseca, & Moller, 2006).

Measures of academic achievement

Children's academic achievement was measured using NAPLAN scores. NAPLAN is an annual test administered to all Australian students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in the domains of reading, writing, language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and numeracy. The NAPLAN score is calculated separately for each domain and ranges from 0 to 1,000. In addition, the scale for each domain is divided into ten bands to cover the full extent of student achievement from Year 3 through to Year 9. One band at each year level represents the national minimum standards (NMS) for a wide range of skills that are to be achieved by students sitting the test. Students may obtain results that place them in a band that is lower or higher than the NMS band. For more details on the NAPLAN data contained in LSAC, please refer to Daraganova, Edwards, and Sipthorp (2013).

In this chapter, we use Year 5 NAPLAN results on numeracy and reading tests, as not all children had had an opportunity to sit Year 7 NAPLAN tests by the time of the Wave 5 data collection. The Year 5 report relates to Bands 3 to 8, where Band 3 is considered to be below the NMS, a score in Band 4 is at the NMS, and scores in Bands 5-8 are above the NMS.

To compare children's relative performance, numeracy and reading scores were divided into three categories:

  • low performance - scores in the bottom 25% of the NAPLAN numeracy/reading score distribution;
  • mid-level performance - scores in the middle 50% of the distribution; and
  • high performance - scores in the top 25% of the distribution.

Table 6.1 reports the means and standard deviations of the reading and numeracy scores associated with the categorised percentiles within the current sample.

Table 6.1: NAPLAN reading and numeracy scores associated with categorised percentiles
Reading Numeracy
Mean score (SD) n Band (%) Mean score (SD) n Band (%)
Note: Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: LSAC Year 5 NAPLAN data, K cohort
Low performance (bottom 25%) 409.1 (41.63) 830 Band 3 or below (19%)
Band 4 (38%)
Band 5 (43%)
416.9 (34.50) 756 Band 3 or below (10%)
Band 4 (40%)
Band 5 (50%)
Mid-level performance (middle 50%) 510.3 (29.09) 1,560 Band 5 (21%)
Band 6 (49%)
Band 7 (30%)
499.5 (27.21) 1,676 Band 5 (31%)
Band 6 (51%)
Band 7 (18%)
High performance (top 25%) 609.3 (40.55) 854 Band 7 (22%)
Band 8 or above (78%)
598.6 (43.88) 812 Band 7 (47%)
Band 8 or above (53%)
Totals 511.0 (80.39) 3,244 505.1 (71.86) 3,244

6.3 Mothers' and children's educational expectations

This section examines the educational expectations of mothers and their children and how these expectations relate to each other.

Mothers' educational expectations

Table 6.2 describes mothers' educational expectations for their children's future educational achievement when their child was aged 8-9 against expectations for their child at 12-13 years. As the "Total" column indicates, when children were 8-9 years old, 16% of mothers expected their children to do no more than finishing Year 12, 18% of mothers thought that their children would complete vocational training and a vast majority expected their children to go to university (66%). A similar pattern was observed when children were 12-13 years old. Specifically, 19% of mothers expected their children to go no further than Year 12, 17% of mothers expected their children to complete vocational training and 64% of mothers expected their children to go to university.

Table 6.2: The educational expectations of mothers for their child's educational achievements, at Waves 3 and 5
Mothers' expectations for children aged 8-9 years Mothers' expectations for children aged 12-13 years
Year 12 or below (%) Vocational training (%) University degree (%) Total (%)
Notes: n = 2,996. a The percentages in these cells indicate the proportion of parents who did not change educational expectations for their child from Wave 3 to Wave 5. Regression analysis revealed a statistically significant (p < .05) association between mothers' expectations for their child's education at Waves 3 and 5. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: Parent 1 responses, K cohort, Waves 3 & 5
Year 12 or below 8.0 a 3.6 3.9 15.5
Vocational training 4.6 8.5 a 5.1 18.1
University degree 6.6 4.7 55.0 a 66.4
Totals 19.2 16.9 63.9 100.0

Results suggest that mothers' expectations in Year 7 (when children were 12-13 years) were significantly associated with their expectations for Year 3 children (aged 8-9 years). As children got older, 72% (sum of the highlighted percentages along the diagonal in Table 6.2) of mothers did not change their expectations, whereas 13% had higher expectations for their children than before and 16% had lowered their expectations. The greatest variation in expectations was observed among mothers who expected their children to go no further than Year 12 or complete vocational training. In particular, out of the 16% of mothers who expected their children to go no further than Year 12 when children were 8-9 years old, only half of these mothers (8%) continued to have low expectations, whereas the remaining half (8%) had an increased expectation that their child would complete vocational training (4%) or obtain a university degree (4%).

Among those mothers who expected their child to complete vocational training when their child was 8-9 years old (18%), half of them maintained that expectation (9% of the total sample), whereas the other half either increased (5% of the total sample) or decreased (5% of the total sample) their expectations, as their child got older.

By the age of 12-13, out of the 66% of mothers who had previously expected their children to complete a university degree, 83% (55% of the total sample) continued to have high expectations, while 10% of them (7% of the total sample) expected their child to go no further than Year 12, and 8% (5% of the total sample) expected their child to complete a trade or vocational training.

As Table 6.3 shows, children's educational expectations were significantly associated with their mothers' expectations. Most children reported the same expectation as their mothers (67% - the sum of the percentages along the diagonal). However, 18% of the children whose mothers expected them to complete vocational training (3% of the total sample) anticipated going to university.

Table 6.3: Educational expectations of mothers and their children at Wave 5 (12-13 years)
Children's expectations Mothers' expectations for children
Year 12 or below (%) Vocational training (%) University degree (%) Total (%)
Notes: n = 2,977. a The percentages in these cells indicate the proportion of children and parents who had the same educational expectations about the children's future educational attainment. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: Parent 1 and study child responses, K cohort, Wave 5
Year 12 or below 12.1 a 6.5 8.6 27.3
Vocational training 3.5 7.1 a 7.3 17.8
University degree 3.8 3.0 48.0 a 54.9
Totals 19.4 16.6 64.0 100.0

On the other hand, the proportion of children reporting lower expectations than their mother was larger (22%) than the proportion of children reporting higher expectations than their mother (10%). Among the children whose mother expected them to complete vocational training (17%), 39% (7% of the total sample) anticipated going no further than Year 12. Additionally, 11% of the children who expected to complete vocational training (7% of the total sample) and 13% of the children who expected to go no further than Year 12 (9% of the total sample), had mothers who expected them to obtain a university degree (64%).

Overall, children's expectations were closely associated with the expectations of their mother, although a large proportion of children appeared to have lower expectations for their future education than their mothers.

6.4 Educational expectations by family and school factors

This section focuses on the second research question: "Do the educational expectations of children and their mothers vary according to family and school characteristics?" First, we examined differences in both mothers' and their children's expectations associated with each of the socio-economic and demographic factors, including child gender, maternal country of birth, parental education, occupational prestige, household income, grandparents' education, school type and school Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage. We report these differences in the tables below.

We then performed multivariate analysis to test the associations between mothers' and their children's expectations with each factor, while adjusting for all other socio-economic and demographic factors.2

Additionally, as mothers' expectations were shown in the previous section to be significantly associated with children's expectations, we were interested to test whether children's expectations were related to family and school factors, independent of mothers' expectations. Therefore, mothers' expectations were also taken into account when assessing the associations between children's expectations and each of the socio-economic and demographic factors.

Child gender

As Table 6.4 illustrates, although most mothers were likely to expect their child to obtain a university or postgraduate qualification, the proportion of mothers who expected their child to have a university or higher degree was higher for girls (72%) than boys (56%). The proportion of mothers who only expected their child to obtain a Year 12 or lower qualification was similar between boys (20%) and girls (19%). However, mothers were less likely to expect daughters to complete a trade or vocational training course than sons (9% vs 24%). These differences were significant after controlling for a range of family and school factors.

In terms of children's expectations, girls seemed to hold higher expectations of their educational attainment than boys. Girls were more inclined to expect to go to university (59%) than to obtain vocational training (15%) compared to boys (49% vs 21%). However, these differences were not significant, when mothers' expectations and other characteristics were taken into account.

Table 6.4: Educational expectations of children and their mothers, by study child gender
Boys (%) Girls (%)
Notes: Parents' expectations: χ2 (2, n = 3,055) = 51.58, p < .001. Children's expectations: χ2 (2, n = 3078) = 12.60, p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: Parent 1 and study child responses, K cohort, Wave 5
Mothers' expectations
Year 12 or below 20.0 19.1
Vocational training 23.6 9.3
University degree 56.4 71.6
Total (%) 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 1,576 1,561
Children's expectations
Year 12 or below 29.7 25.5
Vocational training 20.8 15.3
University degree 49.4 59.3
Total (%) 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 1,590 1,566

Maternal country of birth

Compared with Australian- or New Zealand-born mothers, mothers who were born overseas tended to have higher expectations for their child's educational achievements (Table 6.5). The majority of mothers born overseas (82%) expected their child to obtain a tertiary degree. The percentage of Australian- or New Zealand-born mothers with such expectations was much smaller (59%). Also, mothers born in Australia or New Zealand were more likely to expect their child to do no more than finishing Year 12 (23%) or vocational training (19%), compared to mothers who were born overseas (8% and 9% respectively).

Table 6.5: Educational expectations of children and their mothers, by maternal country of birth
Mother born in Australia/NZ (%) Mother born overseas (%)
Notes: Parents' expectations: χ2 (4, n = 3,055) = 43.71, p < .001. Children's expectations: χ2 (2, n = 3,078) = 30.50, p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: Parent 1 and study child responses, K cohort, Wave 5
Mothers' expectations
Year 12 or below 22.5 8.3
Vocational training 18.7 9.4
University degree 58.8 82.3
Total (%) 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 2,549 588
Children's expectations
Year 12 or below 30.4 17.3
Vocational training 19.3 13.6
University degree 50.3 69.1
Total (%) 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 2,555 601

Consistent with their mothers' educational expectations, children of mothers born overseas also indicated higher expectations for their educational attainment. Among children whose mothers were born in Australia or New Zealand, about half (50%) expected to achieve a university degree, compared with 69% among children whose mothers were born overseas. Even after adjusting for other characteristics, both mothers and their children were significantly more likely to hold high expectations if the mother was born overseas.

Parental education

Table 6.6 shows a positive relationship between mothers' expectations of their child's educational attainment and parental education (the highest level of education between parents). Four-fifths of mothers (80%) from families in which at least one parent held a tertiary degree expected their child to also obtain a tertiary degree. Mothers in the lowest educational category were more likely to expect their child to do no more than finish Year 12 (28%) than mothers in the highest educational categories (9%). The relationship between mothers' expectations and their educational level was significant in the adjusted model.

Table 6.6: Educational expectations of children and their mothers, by highest level of parental education (both parents)
Highest level of parental education
Year 12 or below (%) Vocational training (%) University degree (%)
Notes: Parents' expectations: χ2 (4, n = 3,055) = 51.49, p < .001. Children's expectations: χ2 (4, n = 3,078) = 60.72, p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: Parent 1 and study child responses, K cohort, Wave 5
Mothers' expectations
Year 12 or below 28.4 26.0 9.3
Vocational training 20.6 21.0 10.8
University degree 51.0 53.0 80.0
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 415 1,282 1,439
Children's expectations
Year 12 or below 36.6 36.7 14.4
Vocational training 21.9 21.0 13.5
University degree 41.5 42.3 72.1
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 420 1,294 1,441

The educational expectations of children were also related to their parents' educational attainments, even after adjusting for mothers' expectations, family characteristics and school factors. Children whose mother had obtained a university degree were more likely to expect to obtain a university degree (72%) and less likely to expect to go no further than Year 12 (14%), as compared to children whose mother was in the lowest educational category (42% and 37% respectively).

Occupational prestige

Table 6.7 presents a positive association between parental occupation (highest occupational prestige between the two parents) and expectations for a child's educational attainment. The level of mothers' expectations was highest among families where at least one of the parents was employed in a high-prestige occupation (Group 1). Children with parents in the lowest occupational category (Group 3) were more likely to have mothers who expected their child to go no further than Year 12 (31%), compared to mothers in higher occupational categories (Group 1, 13%; Group 2, 22%).

A similar pattern was shown for children's expectations. Children in families where parents were employed in low-prestige occupations (Group 3), and children without a parent in paid work (Group 4) indicated low educational expectations, compared with those with at least one parent employed in a high-prestige occupation. However, once other characteristics were taken into account, the differences between mothers' and their children's expectations were no longer statistically significant.

Table 6.7: Educational expectations of children and their mothers, by parental occupational prestige
Group 1 (high prestige occupation) (%) a Group 2 (mid-level prestige occupation) (%) a Group 3 (low prestige occupation) (%) a Group 4 (not in paid work) (%) a
Notes: a Group 1: managers/professionals (e.g., specialist manager); Group 2: clerical or skilled workers (e.g., salespersons); Group 3: unskilled workers (e.g., cleaners and laundry workers); Group 4: neither parent is in paid work. Parents' expectations: χ2 (6, n = 3,055) = 21.64, p < .001. Children's expectations: χ2 (6, n = 3,077) = 20.67, p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: Parent 1 and study child responses, K cohort, Wave 5
Mothers' expectations
Year 12 or below 13.2 21.7 31.3 37.6
Vocational training 13.4 21.0 19.2 15.7
University degree 73.4 57.3 49.5 46.7
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 1,681 1,002 292 162
Children's expectations
Year 12 or below 19.3 32.3 40.4 44.7
Vocational training 16.0 21.6 17.3 16.9
University degree 64.8 46.0 42.3 38.5
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 1,680 1,011 292 172

Household income

Although most mothers expected their child to obtain a tertiary degree, this proportion was higher among families with higher levels of household income. As Table 6.8 shows, three-quarters (75%) of parents in the highest income group expected their child to earn a university degree or higher, compared to half (53%) of parents in the low-income group.

Children from high-income families also indicated higher levels of educational expectations (70%) than did children from low-income families (45%). The percentage of children expecting to complete no more than Year 12 was highest among low-income families (37%), followed by mid-level-income families (27%), and high-income families (19%). However, when all other characteristics were adjusted for, these differences were not statistically significant.

Table 6.8: Educational expectations of children and their mothers, by household income
Lowest 25% household income (%) Middle 50% household income (%) Highest 25% household income (%)
Notes: Parents' expectations: χ2 (4, n = 2,615) = 15.60, p < .001. Children's expectations: χ2 (4, n = 2,643) = 19.42, p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: Parent 1 and study child responses, K cohort, Wave 5
Mothers' expectations
Year 12 or below 27.9 18.3 12.6
Vocational training 19.6 18.5 12.1
University degree 52.5 63.2 75.4
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 611 1,366 706
Children's expectations
Year 12 or below 36.5 26.9 17.9
Vocational training 18.8 19.9 12.0
University degree 44.7 53.2 70.2
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 620 1,382 707

Grandparents' education

Table 6.9 shows that there is a clear link between grandparents' educational attainment and mothers' expectations for their child's future education. Among mothers whose parents obtained a university degree, a vast majority (85%) also expected their child to obtain a university qualification. This proportion was 59% among mothers whose parents completed no more than Year 12 education. Mothers whose parents completed no more than Year 12 education were also more likely to expect their child would not progress beyond Year 12 (24%) compared to mothers whose parents completed a university degree (8%). Mothers' expectations by the educational level of parental grandparents showed a similar pattern. These differences were significant after adjusting for other family and school characteristics.

Similar to mothers' expectations, children's expectations were also associated with their grandparents' educational attainments. However, once mothers' expectations and other characteristics were taken into account, the association between grandparents' education and children's expectations was no longer significant.

Table 6.9: Educational expectations of children and their mothers, by grandparents' education.
Maternal grandparents' education a Parental grandparents' education b
Year 12 or below (%) Vocational training (%) University degree (%) Year 12 or below (%) Vocational training (%) University degree (%)
Notes: Parents' expectations: a χ2 (4, n = 2974) = 28.65, p < .001. b χ2 (4, n = 1767) = 6.52 p < .001. Children's expectations: a χ2 (4, n = 2993) = 15.69, p < .001. b χ2 (4, n =1793) = 6.22, p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: Parent 1 and study child responses, K cohort, Wave 5
Mothers' expectations
Year 12 or below 23.6 16.5 7.6 18.7 15.4 7.4
Vocational training 17.6 19.6 7.3 15.8 15.9 9.6
University degree 58.8 63.9 85.1 65.5 68.7 83.0
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 1,566 964 519 904 579 314
Children's expectations
Year 12 or below 31.2 26.2 15.1 25.3 20.7 12.4
Vocational training 19.0 18.5 13.6 17.7 19.3 13.5
University degree 49.8 55.3 71.4 57.0 60.0 74.0
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 1,567 974 523 923 586 314

School type

As indicated by Table 6.10, statistically significant disparities in mothers' educational expectations were noted among children who were enrolled in different types of schools. One-quarter (25%) of mothers whose children were attending government schools expected their child to do no more than finish Year 12. This proportion was lower among mothers whose children were attending Catholic (16%) or independent/private schools (11%). Regardless of school type, the majority of mothers expected their children to obtain a university degree. However, the percentage of mothers who expected their child to earn a bachelor's degree or higher was substantially higher among children in independent/private schools (78%) and Catholic schools (68%), compared to children in government schools (56%). The association between school type and mothers' expectations was significant even after other characteristics were taken into account.

About one-third (33%) of children in government schools reported expecting no more than finishing Year 12, compared to only 18% in independent/private schools. The differences between children from government and independent/private schools were not significant after adjusting for other factors. This suggests that there is no direct association between children's expectations and school type.

Table 6.10: Educational expectations of children and their mothers, by the type of school
Government school (%) Catholic school (%) Independent/​private school (%)
Notes: Parents' expectations: χ2 (4, n = 3055) = 24.71, p < .001. Children's expectations: χ2 (4, n = 3064) = 24.06, p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: Parent 1 and study child responses, K cohort, Wave 5
Mothers' expectations
Year 12 or below 25.0 15.6 10.9
Vocational training 19.4 16.0 11.3
University degree 55.6 68.4 77.8
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 1,607 776 754
Children's expectations
Year 12 or below 32.6 25.9 17.6
Vocational training 21.4 14.8 14.1
University degree 46.1 59.3 68.3
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 1,601 789 752

School Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage

Among mothers of children who attended a socio-educationally disadvantaged school, about one-third (31%) expected their child to go no further than high school, compared to 19% of mothers of children in schools with middle 50% ICSEA scores and 6% of mothers of children in schools with top 25% ICSEA scores (Table 6.11).

Table 6.11: Educational expectations of children and their mothers, by the school Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage
Lowest 25% ICSEA (%) Middle 50% ICSEA (%) Highest 25% ICSEA (%)
Notes: Parents' expectations: χ2 (4, n = 2928) = 53.52, p < .001. Children's expectations: χ2 (4, n = 2951) = 40.13, p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: Parent 1 and study child responses, K cohort, Wave 5
Mothers' expectations
Year 12 or below 30.9 18.8 6.1
Vocational training 22.1 19.0 6.6
University degree 47.0 62.1 87.3
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 783 1,452 772
Children's expectations
Year 12 or below 39.7 27.8 12.3
Vocational training 19.9 19.8 12.6
University degree 40.4 52.4 75.1
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 771 1,482 774

In addition, children from schools with students from higher socio-economic backgrounds were more inclined to expect a university degree than children from schools with students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. About 12% of children attending schools with high socio-economic status expected to go no further than Year 12. This proportion was about twice as large among children attending schools with middle 50% of ICSEA scores (28%) and three times larger among children attending schools with bottom 25% ICSEA scores (40%). For both children and their mothers, educational expectations were related to the levels of socio-educational advantage of the school that the child was attending, even after adjusting for other factors. This suggests that the socio-economic characteristics of schools are associated with mothers' and children's expectations, over and above other family characteristics and school sector.

Family and school factors associated with educational expectations

Overall, the child's gender, mother's country of birth, parental education, grandparents' education, school type and the index of school socio-educational advantage were significant factors associated with mothers' and children's educational expectations.

The majority of the differences observed in mothers' expectations for their child's education were between obtaining a university qualification and completing vocational training/Year 12 or below. Mothers were more likely to expect their child to obtain a university degree if:

  • their child was a girl;
  • the mother was born overseas;
  • at least one of the parents had a tertiary degree;
  • at least one of the child's grandparents had a tertiary degree;
  • the child was enrolled in an independent/private school; and/or
  • the child was enrolled in a socio-educationally advantaged school.

Children were more likely to expect to obtain a university qualification than to go no further than Year 12 if:

  • their mother was born overseas;
  • at least one of their parents had a tertiary degree;
  • they were enrolled in a socio-educationally advantaged school.

In addition, children were more likely to expect to complete vocational training than to proceed no further than Year 12 if they were enrolled in a socio-educationally advantaged school.

6.5 Educational expectations and academic achievement

Having explored the variations in the educational expectations of both mothers and their children across gender, socio-economic status of the family and school, this section assesses the relationship between both sets of expectations when children were aged 12-13 and children's actual academic performance in Year 5, when children were aged 10-11, as measured by children's NAPLAN reading and numeracy scores.

The top panel of Table 6.12 illustrates the comparison of mothers' expectations across different levels of their children's academic performance. The average NAPLAN scores (in the adjusted mean score columns) were substantially higher among children whose mothers had high expectations. In addition, the vast majority of mothers whose children scored in the top 25% of the NAPLAN numeracy test expected their child to obtain a university qualification (88%). This proportion was substantially smaller among mothers whose children scored in the middle 50% (67%) or bottom 25% (34%) of the NAPLAN numeracy test. Among mothers whose children's numeracy scores were in the bottom 25%, more than one third (37%) expected their child to not proceed further than Year 12. Notably, this proportion was substantially smaller among mothers whose children achieved the top numeracy scores (6%). The comparison of mothers' expectations across different levels of reading performance of children indicated similar results.

The lower panel of the table presents the results for children's expectations. The average NAPLAN scores (in the adjusted mean score columns) were higher among children with high expectations for their future educational achievement. In addition, 10% of the children whose numeracy performance was in the top 25% expected to attain no higher than Year 12. This proportion was more than twice as large (26%) among those in the middle 50% and almost four times as large (48%) among children in the bottom 25%. Similarly, children who demonstrated high levels of reading performance were significantly more likely to expect to attain a university degree than children who did not.

When controlling for a range of family and social factors (e.g., parental education) that have been found to influence both sets of expectations in the previous section, similar patterns were observed. Both children and their mothers tended to have higher expectations if the child performed very well in their NAPLAN tests.

Table 6.12: Educational expectations of children and their mothers at Wave 5 (child aged 12-13 years), by academic performance in Year 5 (child aged 10-11 years)
NAPLAN numeracy performance (10-11 years) NAPLAN reading performance (10-11 years)
Adjusted mean score a Bottom 25% (%) Middle 50% (%) Top 25% (%) Adjusted mean score a Bottom 25% (%) Middle 50% (%) Top 25% (%)
Notes: a Means were adjusted for parental education, occupation, family income, gender, country of birth, type of school and education of grandparents. b Mothers' expectations across NAPLAN numeracy: χ2 (4, n = 3055) = 104.24, p < .001; Mothers' expectations across NAPLAN reading: χ2 (4, n = 3055) = 123.39, p < .001. c Children's expectations across NAPLAN numeracy: χ2 (4, n = 3078) = 87.91, p < .001; Children's expectations across NAPLAN reading: χ2 (4, n = 3078) = 93.96, p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.
Source: Parent 1 and study child responses, K cohort, Wave 5
Mothers' expectations (12-13 years) b
Year 12 473.50 37.2 17.2 6.3 463.13 36.0 17.4 5.7
Vocational training 478.07 28.6 16.2 5.7 466.35 30.9 14.8 5.0
University degree 534.31 34.2 66.6 88.0 525.90 33.1 67.7 89.3
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 3,137 720 1,619 798 3,137 795 1,503 839
Children's expectations (12-13 years) c
Year 12 478.18 47.6 26.1 10.2 472.19 47.5 25.8 9.5
Vocational training 496.77 22.9 18.8 11.6 482.81 24.7 17.4 12.2
University degree 529.22 29.5 55.1 78.3 521.62 27.8 57.8 78.3
Total (%) 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Total (n) 3,156 732 1,638 796 3,156 797 1,516 843

6.6 Educational expectations among children of similar levels of academic performance

As noted in section 6.4, the educational expectations of children and their mothers vary according to a number of family and school factors. Analysis from section 6.5 also indicates that both sets of expectations are significantly related to children's academic performance. This raises the question of whether the relationships between demographic characteristics and the expectations observed in section 6.4 merely reflect parents' and children's assessment of their academic performance and not any underlying demographic differences in educational expectations. Put another way, we want to hold academic performance constant and then test for any demographic differences in expectations. This section thus answers the next research question: "Do the expectations of children and their mothers differ according to these family and school factors among children with similar levels of academic performance?"

To answer this question, we examined the associations between family and school factors and both sets of expectations across three academic levels:

  • low level - bottom 25% of the NAPLAN performance;
  • mid-level - middle 50% of the NAPLAN performance; and
  • high level - top 25% of the NAPLAN performance.

We also examined the family and school factors that were shown in section 6.4 to be significantly related to mothers' and their children's expectations after controlling for other factors (child gender, maternal country of birth, parental education, grandparents' education, type of school and school Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage). We included all five factors in a statistical model that adjusted for all factors simultaneously in one multivariate regression model. Significant results of the multivariate analysis are highlighted using * in the figures below (* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001).

The figures present children's performance in the NAPLAN numeracy test. The analyses of children's reading performance had essentially the same findings, and therefore, are not presented.

Child gender

As discussed in section 6.5, mothers' educational expectations are closely related to children's academic achievement. As Figure 6.1 shows, in the middle 50% and bottom 25% of achievement groups, there was a gender difference that favoured girls, even after taking other family and social factors into account. Among children in the middle 50% and bottom 25% performance groups, mothers more often expected their daughters to go to university rather than to complete vocational training or go no further than Year 12, relative to their sons.

In addition, significant differences were apparent when comparing mothers' expectations for boys and girls among children with mid-level performance. Again, mothers more often considered vocational training as a choice for their sons' future education than for their daughters'. Statistically significant differences were not apparent when comparing mothers' expectations across child gender among those children who achieved high performance. Similar patterns were observed in children's educational expectations.

Figure 6.1: Educational expectations of mothers and their children, by child gender and academic performance

Educational expectations of mothers and their children, by child gender and academic performance, as described in accompanying text.

Notes: Adjusted analyses control for maternal country of birth, parental education, paternal grandparents' education, type of school and school socio-educational advantage. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.

Source: Parent 1 and study child response, K cohort, Wave 5

Maternal country of birth

As it can be seen in Figure 6.2, mothers who were born overseas reported higher levels of educational expectations for their child than mothers who were born in Australia or New Zealand in all achievement groups, after adjusting for other family and social factors. Among children who had low academic performance, mothers who were born overseas were twice as likely to expect their children to go to university (60%) compared to mothers who were born in Australia/NZ (30%). Similarly, among children with mid-level academic performance, mothers who were born overseas were significantly more likely (80%) to have high expectations for their child's education than were mothers who were born in Australia/NZ (63%). This was true for children's expectations as well. For both Australian/NZ-born and overseas-born mothers, the majority of them expected their child to obtain a university degree if their child demonstrated high academic performance (85% and 96% respectively). However, overseas-born mothers were less likely to expect their child to complete vocational training (2%) compared to Australian/NZ-born mothers (7%). Similar patterns were observed in the educational expectations of children.

Figure 6.2: Educational expectations of mothers and their children, by maternal country of birth and children's academic performance

Educational expectations of mothers and their children, by maternal country of birth and children’s academic performance, as described in accompanying text.

Notes: Adjusted analyses control for child gender, parental education, paternal grandparents' education, type of school and school socio-educational advantage. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.

Source: Parent 1 and study child response, K cohort, Wave 5

Parental education

As Figure 6.3 shows, among children with mid-level or high academic performance, mothers (and/or their partners) who held a university degree more often expected their child to also obtain a university degree compared to mothers (and/or their partners) who did not go further than Year 12. However, the differences in mothers' expectations were not significant among children with low academic performance.

Figure 6.3: Educational expectations of mothers and their children, by parental education and children's academic performance

Educational expectations of mothers and their children, by parental education and children’s academic performance, as described in accompanying text.

Notes: Adjusted analyses control for child gender, maternal country of birth, paternal grandparents' education, type of school and school socio-educational advantage. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.

Source: Parent 1 and study child response, K cohort, Wave 5

Similarly, children of parents with low levels of education (Year 12 or below) reported lower expectations than children from a family in which at least one parent had a university degree. After adjusting for other family and social factors, the differences in children's expectations were no longer significant in the low performance group.

School type

As evident in Figure 6.4, school type was related to both mothers' and children's expectations among children in the top 25% and middle 50% of NAPLAN performance. Among these children, mothers whose children attended government schools indicated significantly lower levels of expectations than those whose children attended Catholic and independent/private schools. However, the association between mothers' expectations and school type was not significant when we only focus on children with low performance. These same findings were observed in the analysis of the expectations of children.

Figure 6.4: Educational expectations of mothers and their children, by school type and children's academic performance

Educational expectations of mothers and their children, by school type and children’s academic performance, as described in accompanying text.

Notes: Adjusted analyses control for child gender, maternal country of birth, parental education, paternal grandparents' education and school socio-educational advantage. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.

Source: Parent 1 and study child response, K cohort, Wave 5

School Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage

As discussed in section 6.4, mothers were more likely to hold high expectations for their children's educational achievement if their child was attending a school with students from high socio-economic backgrounds. As Figure 6.5 shows, this was true across all three academic performance groups. Children's expectations were also higher among those from higher socio-economic status schools, but the differences were only statistically significant among high and mid-level performing students.

Figure 6.5: Educational expectations of mothers and their children, by school socio-educational advantage and children's academic performance

Educational expectations of mothers and their children, by school socio-educational advantage and children’s academic performance, as described in accompanying text.

Notes: Adjusted analyses control for child gender, maternal country of birth, parental education, paternal grandparents' education and type of school. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.

Source: Parent 1 and study child response, K cohort, Wave 5

6.7 Children's educational expectations and their learning motivation

This section focuses on the last research question of this chapter: "Do children with higher expectations have higher levels of motivation than children who have lower expectations?" We performed multivariate analyses by including children's expectations, attitudes towards learning and a number of family and social factors in one regression model.

Intrinsic motivation

Figure 6.6 shows the extent to which children are motivated in learning (e.g., "I like to ask questions in class") and enjoy school (e.g., "I get excited about the work we do"), according to their educational expectations. Children who were expecting to obtain a university degree reported significantly higher levels of motivation to learn than children who were expecting to proceed no further than Year 12. For example, the proportion of children reporting low levels of intrinsic motivation was highest among children who expected to proceed no further than Year 12 (37%), followed by those who were expecting to complete vocational training (32%) and those who were expecting to go to university (20%). Differences in intrinsic motivation were not statistically significant between those children who expected to obtain a vocational training qualification and those who had either higher (university) or lower (Year 12 or below) expectations for their future education.

Figure 6.6: Children's educational expectations and intrinsic motivation

Children’s educational expectations and intrinsic motivation, as described in accompanying text.

Notes: Multinomial logit model revealed significant associations between children's expectations and intrinsic motivation (p < .05). Adjusted analyses control for mothers' expectations, child gender, maternal country of birth, parental education, grandparents' education and type of school. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.

Source: Study child response, K cohort, Wave 5

Achievement motivation

Performance-approach goals

Figure 6.7 shows that there is a significant relationship between children's educational expectations and their performance-approach goals (e.g., to get better grades than most of the other students). There was a strong relationship between children's expectations of going to university (cf. completing Year 12) and their desire to outperform other students. For example, among children who expected to do no more than Year 12, 36% of them were at the bottom quartile of performance-approach goals. This proportion was 25% among children who expected to earn a university degree. The differences between children's performance-approach goals were not significantly different between children who expected to obtain a vocational training qualification and those who expected to obtain lower (Year 12 or below) or higher (university) levels of education.

Performance-avoidance goals

The association of children's expectations with performance-avoidance goals (e.g., to avoid doing poorly compared to other students) is presented in Figure 6.7. Results did not reveal substantial differences between children who expected to go to university and those who expected to do no more than Year 12. However, compared to children who expected to go no further than Year 12, those who expected to obtain vocational training were significantly more likely to report a mid-level orientation to performance-avoidance goals (64% vs 54%), and less likely to report a low-level orientation to performance-avoidance goals (21% vs 28%).

Figure 6.7: Children's educational expectations and achievement motivation (performance-approach and performance-avoidance goals)

Children’s educational expectations and achievement motivation (performance-approach and performance-avoidance goals), as described in accompanying text.

Notes: Multinomial logit model revealed significant associations between children's expectations and performance-approach goals (p < .05) and between children's expectations and performance-avoidance goals (p < .05). Adjusted analyses control for mothers' expectations, child gender, maternal country of birth, parental education, grandparents' education and type of school. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.

Source: Study child response, K cohort, Wave 5

Mastery-approach goals

There was a significant positive association between children's expectations and their mastery-approach goals (e.g., completely mastering the materials in the course). As can be seen in Figure 6.8, children who expected to obtain a university degree were more motivated to understand the content and develop competence (21%) than children who expected to obtain trade or vocational training (13%) or proceed no further than Year 12 (13%). However, the proportions of children indicating mid-level mastery-approach goals were similar across different levels of educational expectations.

Figure 6.8: Children's educational expectations and achievement motivation (mastery-approach and mastery-avoidance goals)

Children’s educational expectations and achievement motivation (mastery-approach and mastery-avoidance goals), as described in accompanying text.

Notes: Multinomial logit model revealed significant associations between children's expectations and mastery-approach goals (p < .05), and non-significant associations between children's expectations and mastery-avoidance goals (p > .05). Adjusted analyses control for mothers' expectations, child gender, maternal country of birth, parental education, grandparents' education and type of school. Percentages may not total exactly 100.0% due to rounding.

Source: Study child response, K cohort, Wave 5

Mastery-avoidance goals

As Figure 6.8 indicates, children with high expectations (university) reported a low-level orientation to mastery-avoidance goals (29%) than children with lower expectations (vocational training, 21%; Year 12 or below, 18%). Among children who expected to proceed no further than Year 12, one-third of them (29%) had a high level orientation to mastery-avoidance goals. This proportion was lower among children who expected to complete vocational training (22%) or obtain a university degree (18%). However, multivariate analysis did not reveal a statistically significant association between children's expectations and their mastery-avoidance goals.

6.8 Summary and discussion

Educational expectations are important to study given that research has consistently found a strong link between such expectations and later educational and occupational attainment (Davis-Kean, 2005; Goldenberg et al., 2001; Gregory & Huang, 2013). The main purpose of this chapter was to provide an overview of the educational expectations of Australian children and their mothers, and to explore any associated family and school factors.

In general, mothers held high educational expectations for their children. More than half of the mothers expected their child to obtain a university degree. As expected, children's expectations for their own educational achievement were highly related to their mothers' expectations; those children whose mothers held high expectations for their education tended to also indicate high expectations for themselves. Having said that, the proportion of mothers who expected their children to obtain a university degree or higher degree was greater than the corresponding proportion of children's expectations. This is similar to a previous study by Gil-Flores, Padilla-Carmona, and Suárez-Ortega (2011), who found that parents tended to hold higher expectations than their children.

The chapter also examined changes in mothers' expectations for their child's educational achievement from Year 3 to Year 7. Previous studies documented that parents' educational expectations are influenced by how well children perform in school (Goldenberg et al., 2001; Zhang et al., 2011). In this chapter, the expectations that mothers held for their child in Year 3 tended to persist to Year 7, although some mothers tended to adjust their expectations as their child got older.

Both sets of educational expectations were found to be associated with characteristics of family and school. Mothers and their children were more likely to hold high educational expectations if the mother was born overseas. This finding confirmed those of other studies in Australia (Gemici et al., 2014).

Compared to mothers from socio-economically advantaged families, mothers held significantly lower expectations for their child's educational attainment if they came from families with lower income, where neither of the parents were in a paid job, or where neither themselves nor their parents (children's grandparents) had more than a high school education. This is consistent with previous studies that showed that individual and school-level socio-economic status accounted for the educational expectations of students and their parents (McCarron & Inkelas, 2006; Turley, Santos, & Ceja, 2007).

Gender was also an influential factor in both mothers' and children's educational expectations. 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. This was true even after taking children's academic performance and socio-demographic factors into account. However, the gender difference in children's expectations was no longer significant after adjusting for mothers' expectations, family and school factors. Higher expectations for girls may be a result of the increased rate of college enrolment and completion among women (Buchmann, DiPrete, & McDaniel, 2008). Recent research has found that mothers often perceive daughters to be more academically competent than sons (Wood, Kurtz-Costes, Rowley, & Okeke-Adeyanju, 2010). This may also be a result of reduced social inequality for women, as mothers see more opportunities for their daughters in the changing structure of the labour market and declining discrimination against women. They also see more opportunities for their daughters to have a high-paid occupation that requires a higher education qualification. The gender gap in mothers' and children's expectations may also be explained by the different learning styles of boys and girls, such as boys tending to prefer a hands-on learning approach (Dotterer, McHale, & Crouter, 2009). This may influence their academic interest and willingness to pursue further education. The fact that there are better-paid occupations that do not require a university qualification (e.g., plumbing, building construction, etc.) in male-dominated industries, compared to female-dominated industries (e.g., child care, hairdressing), may also be an explanation for the gender difference in mothers' expectations.

This chapter also presented evidence of school-level factors on educational expectations. The levels of mothers' expectations were significantly higher among those with children in independent/private schools than in government schools. School type appeared to be associated with mothers' expectations for their child's future educational attainment, over and above family characteristics. This finding is consistent with Corten and Dronkers' (2006) study using US data. Results also revealed substantial differences in mothers' expectations across schools with high and low levels of socio-educational advantage. If children were around students from socio-economically advantaged backgrounds, mothers were more likely to hold high expectations for their child's academic achievement. Previous research has shown that neighbourhood socio-economic position is related to academic achievement among third-grade students (Emory, Caughy, Harris, & Franzini, 2008). Parents with high expectations also tend to choose more advantaged schools for their child. Other factors, such as family income, may also explain the positive relationship between school socio-economic status and the expectations of children and their mothers, as parents with high income tend to choose and be able to afford higher quality schools for their child. Future studies are required to understand the mechanism of this relationship.

Compared to mothers' expectations, the expectations of children have not been widely studied. This chapter further increased our understanding of children's expectations in early adolescence. Similar to mothers' expectations, educational expectations of children were also socially patterned. Children from socio-economically advantaged families and socio-educationally advantaged schools were more likely to exhibit high expectations for their education in the future compared to others. Similar data in the US show that school-level socio-economic status was significantly associated with children's expectations (Lowman & Elliott, 2010). In addition, this chapter extended previous research on including the educational attainment of the grandparents. Grandparents' educational attainment was found to be associated with mothers' expectations, over and above family and school factors. In addition, children whose grandparents had a tertiary degree held high expectations for their future education. However, this association was no longer significant once mothers' expectations and family factors were considered. This suggests that grandparents' educational attainment influences children's expectations via mothers' expectations and families socio-economic status. This result is consistent with previous research showing that grandparents' education level influences parents' socio-economic status and the home learning environment, which in turn relates to children's interest in learning and academic performance (Reese, Garnier, Gallimore, & Goldenberg, 2000).

Next, we asked whether the educational expectations of children and those of their mothers were related to children's current academic achievement. Overall, the results of this chapter revealed a positive relationship between both sets of expectations and children's academic achievement. Children's academic performance in Year 5 was significantly related to both children's and mothers' educational expectations, even after accounting for family and school factors.

A more interesting picture emerged from comparing the associations between both sets of expectations with family and school factors among children with similar levels of academic abilities. Socio-demographic and school factors appeared to have more consistent associations with mothers' and their children's expectations among children with mid-level academic performance. For children with a high level of academic performance, neither the children's nor their mothers' expectations were affected by their child's gender. Among these children, both Australian/NZ-born and overseas-born mothers held high expectations for their children's education. Additionally, among this group, the majority of children whose mothers were born overseas expected to obtain a university degree. This was also the case for children whose mothers were born in Australia and NZ. For children with a low level of academic performance, their expectations were not significantly related to school factors. Results suggest that children's academic performance should be considered when evaluating the contribution of socio-demographic and school characteristics to educational expectations of parents and their child.

Another key finding is that children's educational expectations were significantly associated with their academic achievement motivation. Children who held high expectations for their educational attainment also tended to be intrinsically motivated in their learning. This finding is in line with previous studies. For example, a lack of academic interest has been found to be a major reason for leaving school (Bridgeland, DiIulio Jr, & Morison, 2006). Results also reveal that children's expectations for their educational achievement were positively related to their motivation for performing better than other children (when adopting performance-approach goals), developing their academic competence (when adopting mastery-approach goals) and avoiding appearing less competent than their peers (when adopting performance-avoidance goals). In addition, children's expectations for their education were negatively related to their motivation of avoiding obtaining grades that were worse than what they had previously achieved (when adopting mastery-avoidance goals). Results of this chapter further highlight the importance of children's educational expectations as a psychological aspect of their academic performance.

Several potential topics could be explored in the future. Firstly, the current chapter only focused on mothers who were the primary caregivers. The expectations of fathers, as well as mothers who are the secondary caregivers of their child, should be further explored. In particular, it would be of great interest to investigate whether fathers have similar expectations for boys and girls. It is also worth noting that children's expectations and school performance can also be influenced by teachers' views of how far children can go with their future education (Benner & Mistry, 2007; Gregory & Huang, 2013). It would be interesting to extend the outcomes studied to include longitudinal analyses of children's own expectations at different ages, in order to assess the changes in children's expectations throughout their schooling. More importantly, future studies could investigate the mechanisms by which family and school factors influence the educational expectations of both children and their parents, to help students overcome the barriers to achieving high levels of education.

Overall, this chapter has provided a general overview of associations between both mothers and their children's educational expectations and a range of family, social and school characteristics. Results reveal that the educational expectations of both children and their mothers are related to real academic experiences and socio-economic status. These findings showed that the educational expectations of parents and children are both highly relevant for children's achievement motivation and outcomes from Year 3 to Year 7. This is valuable information that could assist educational services to develop targeted interventions to improve educational and occupational outcomes of children from a wide range of cultural, socio-economic and school backgrounds, as well as students with varied academic achievements.

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Footnotes

1 Since 2006, the Australian and New Zealand governments have collaborated to develop a combined Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). The ANZSCO has classified occupations into eight major groups: (1) managers; (2) professionals; (3) technicians and trades workers; (4) community and personal service workers; (5) clerical and administrative workers; (6) sales; (7) machinery operators and drivers; and (8) labourers. In this analysis, parents' occupational prestige was collapsed to: managers/professionals; clerical and skilled workers; and unskilled labourers. The same measure has been used in other published papers using LSAC data (Giallo et al., 2013). In addition, neither parent being in paid work (unemployed or not in labour force - 6% in the current sample) was included as a fourth group.

2 Multinomial logistic regression was used to predict the probabilities of possible outcomes of mothers' and children's educational expectations, while taking into account the effects of family and school characteristics on the expectations of mothers and their children.

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