Parental worklessness and children’s early school achievement and progress


  • Sam Parsons Institute of Education
  • Ingrid Schoon Institute of Education
  • Anna Vignoles Faculty of Education Univ of Cambridge



Longitudinal Research


In this paper we investigate the relationship between repeated parental worklessness and the academicprogress made by children in England in their first full year of primary school. We draw on data from two recent longitudinal birth cohort studies with multiple rounds of data collection in the very early years up to age 5. We use the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) which started collecting data from more than 14,000 children and their families in a geographically defined catchment area in 1991/2, and the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), which is a sample of 19,000 children and their families born across the UK around the turn of this century. We constructed measures of repeated (persistent) and temporary (intermittent) worklessness and found that both were associated with lower levels of early academic achievement and progress of children. This association cannot be fully explained by a number of other socio-demographic risks factors (including parental education, income, housing conditions and health), indicating independent risk effects. We furthermore could identify beneficial effects of a stimulating early home-learning environment, which were significant even after controlling for previous levels of children’s cognitive and behavioural adjustment.

Author Biographies

Sam Parsons, Institute of Education

Research Fellow

Centre for Longitudinal Stufies

Anna Vignoles, Faculty of Education Univ of Cambridge