Background Parental educational expectations have been associated with children's educational attainment in a number of long-term longitudinal studies, but whether this relationship is causal has long been debated. The aims of this prospective study were twofold: 1) test whether low maternal educational expectations contributed to failure to graduate from high school; and 2) compare the results obtained using different strategies for accounting for confounding variables (i.e. multivariate regression and propensity score matching). Methodology/Principal Findings The study sample included 1,279 participants from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Kindergarten Children. Maternal educational expectations were assessed when the participants were aged 12 years. High school graduation - measuring educational attainment -was determined through the Quebec Ministry of Education when the participants were aged 22-23 years. Findings show that when using the most common statistical approach (i.e. multivariate regressions to adjust for a restricted set of potential confounders) the contribution of low maternal educational expectations to failure to graduate from high school was statistically significant. However, when using propensity score matching, the contribution of maternal expectations was reduced and remained statistically significant only for males. Conclusions/Significance The results of this study are consistent with the possibility that the contribution of parental expectations to educational attainment is overestimated in the available literature. This may be explained by the use of a restricted range of potential confounding variables as well as the dearth of studies using appropriate statistical techniques and study designs in order to minimize confounding. Each of these techniques and designs, including propensity score matching, has its strengths and limitations: A more comprehensive understanding of the causal role of parental expectations will stem from a convergence of findings from studies using different techniques and designs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas