Parental economic hardship and children's achievement orientations

Jeylan T Mortimer, Frank Lei Zhang, Jeanette Hussemann, Chen-Yu Wu


While children’s orientations to achievement are strong predictors of attainments, little is known about how parental economic hardship during recessionary times influences children’s orientations to their futures. The Youth Development Study has followed a community sample of young people in St Paul, Minnesota from mid-adolescence through their mid-thirties with near-annual surveys, and has recently begun surveying the children of this cohort. Using linked parent and child data, the present study examines the relationship between parental economic hardship and children's achievement orientations in the aftermath of the recent “Great Recession.” Initial OLS analyses draw on 345 parent-child pairs, with data collected from parents in 2011 as well as during the preceding decade, and from their children (age 11 and older) in 2011. Then, first difference models are estimated, based on a smaller sample (N=209) of parents and children who completed surveys in both 2009 and 2011. Our findings indicate that when families are more vulnerable, as a result of low parental education and prior parental unemployment experience, children’s achievement orientations are more strongly threatened by the family’s economic circumstances. For example, as parental financial problems increased, efficacy declined only among children of the least well-educated parents. Low household incomes diminished educational aspirations only when parents experienced unemployment during the ten years prior to the recent recession. Parental achievement orientations, as adolescents, were also found to moderate the impacts of shifts in the family’s economic circumstances. Finally, boys reacted more strongly to their parents’ hardship.


Economic Hardship, Great Recession, Parental Unemployment, Economic Efficacy, Educational Aspirations, Adolescent vocational development.

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2014 Longitudinal and Life Course Studies

This journal uses cookies in order to provide necessary site functionality such as authentication. For more information please see our cookies policy.