Monday, July 30, 2007

The Role of Parents

A new study suggests parents play a pivotal role in what kids know. While that's kinda obvious, it is important nonetheless to establish this through systematic research and not gut feeling.

What boosts political knowledge for kids? Here are a few:
  • Participation in youth activities
  • Discussing politics with parents
  • Grades in school (higher grades = more knowledge)
  • Education level of parents
  • Civics courses (this makes such good sense)
  • Being a boy versus a girl (see an earlier blog on sex differences)
  • Internal political efficacy (basically, the feeling you are capable of keeping up with politics)
I drew these from the multiple regression table in the study in which various factors statistically control for one another. Most make perfectly good sense. Smart parents who talk about politics, that's likely to rub off on kids, especially if they're also smart. Civics classes ... a word, please. My kids have had disappointing civics classes, an N of 2, but I think they are vital and yet the No Child Left Untested has hurt such classes in an attempt to boost math and other scores. That's too bad, but you can hardly blame schools for attacking a class this way.

The ultimate finding here? Parents matter. Talk about politics in front of your kids. Answer their questions. Explain the basics so they understand the context of your discussion. Engage them.

It also helps if parents know what the hell they're talking about. Read the news!

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