Family is Most Important Factor

What is the single most critical factor in the academic achievement of children: socioeconomic status, family structure, or the resources of home and school?  Judging from a study involving more than 6,000 schools in 32 countries by Gary N. Marks at the University of Melbourne, being reared in an intact family helps children the most to achieve their best.


Marks looked at data on more than 172,000 fifteen-year-olds tracked in the 2000 version of the Program for International Student Assessment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  He found that students who were living with both parents had consistently higher reading and math scores than their peers from other living arrangements.  No statistically significant effects were found in any country showing such students having lower test scores relative to their peers from broken families. Yet students living with single parents had significantly lower reading scores in 18 countries and significantly lower math scores in 21 countries.  Their peers in stepfamilies had significantly lower reading scores in 26 countries and lower math scores in 21 countries.


Given the global nature of these findings, a natural question is why don’t the U.S. educational establishment or the politicians, both of whom claim to be concerned about “the children,” warn parents of the educational risks to their children when they decide to live outside the bonds of marriage?


(Source: Gary N. Marks, “Family Size, Family Type, and Student Achievement: Cross National Differences and the Role of Socioeconomic and School Factors,” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 37 [Winter 2006]: 1-24.  Reported in the May 29, 2007 edition of Family Update, Online!, a publication of The Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society.)