MPIDR Working Paper
Compensation or accentuation? How parents from different social backgrounds decide to support their children
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2023-004, 33 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (February 2023)
Previous research has shown that parents respond to differences in their children’s potential by providing them with different levels of support, and that such support allocation decisions are shaped by socioeconomic status (SES). We extend this observation to the assumption, raised in research on parental compensation and social mobility, that not only the allocation, but also the form of support provided is socially stratified. Specifically, we investigate whether socioeconomically advantaged parents use mechanisms that do not rely directly on cognitive enhancement. Drawing on data from three consecutive waves of the German TwinLife study (N=962), we use twin fixed-effects models to examine how parents respond to their children having different grades. We investigate parental support strategies, including help with schoolwork and school-related communication, encouragement and explicitly formulated expectations, and extracurricular cognitive stimulation. Our findings suggest that high-SES parents tend to compensate for their children’s poor performance by helping them with schoolwork, fostering communication, and formulating academic expectations and encouragement. In contrast, we found no evidence that parents in either high- or low-SES families respond to differences in their children’s school performance by providing them with extracurricular cognitive stimulation.
Keywords: secondary education, social stratification, twins