Educational Persistence and Aspirations by Family Structure in England

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Gillian Hampden-Thompson - Invited speaker

The purpose of this study was to examine educational persistence and aspirations of young people by family structure in England. Students living in non-traditional families (e.g., single-parent, step, cohabiting, adoptive, and guardian families) are less academically successful than their peers who reside in households in which both parents live together. Behind this generalisation, there are notable differences across different non-traditional family structures. This study builds upon existing research by investigating the educational trajectories of students in England who reside in various family structures. More importantly, due to the longitudinal nature of the data examined, this study investigates the educational impact of changes to a student’s family structure. Interestingly, while much nationally representative research has been conducted in this area in the United States (US) this has not been the case in the United Kingdom (UK), particularly in recent years. This is despite the rising number of single-parent households, both in the UK (Office of National Statistics, 2011) and other advanced nations (OECDa, n.d) and the increased rates of poverty that these families face (Bradshaw, 2005; OECDb, n.d). In addition, given the increase in the number of cohabiting, unmarried parents between 2001 and 2011, there is a need for more UK research that considers the educational impact of all types of non-traditional families and the educational impact of family change. This study draws upon data from the from the Department for Education’s (DFE) Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) to explore the role of poverty on the association between family structure and young people’s persistence in fulltime education. LSYPE is a large-scale longitudinal study of young people in England with the first wave collected in 2004 when the participants in the study were 14 or 15 years old. Data is collected from the same cohort of young people on an annual basis and includes information on various aspects of young people’s lives. In total, there has been seven annual data collection waves. The LSYPE data is linked to the National Pupil Database (NPD). In general, the results indicate that poverty plays a moderating role in the association between family structure and educational persistence. In addition, while the overwhelming majority (over 80 percent) of young people at the age of 16 report high levels of aspirations to continue with their education, the descriptive analysis indicates a stark percentage drop out of fulltime education over the next few years for young people in all family structures.
Mar 2014

External organisation (Research grants)

NameChild Trends

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