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Ohio State study links children's academic success to time spent with their parents

Special to the Legal News

Published: February 12, 2019

A study co-authored by an Ohio State University economics professor found that the time parents spend with their children has a powerful effect on their educational achievement, especially after the loss of a parent through death, divorce or other circumstances.

Researchers Bruce Weinberg and Eric Gould and Avi Simhon of Hebrew University in Israel analyzed data on children in Israel who lost a parent through death or divorce.

"In the ongoing debate over what helps children succeed academically, we show that genetics is not the only major factor," Weinberg said. "It is also about the time that parents spend with their children."

The study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Labor Economics and published online at the National Bureau of Economic Research, involved more than 22,000 Israeli children who lost a parent before age 18, more than 77,000 whose parents divorced and more than 600,000 who did not experience parental death or divorce.

Researchers looked at whether these children passed a high-stakes test required to attend college, a press release detailed. About 57 percent of high-school students in the country pass the test.

"We found that if a mother dies, her education becomes less important for whether her child passes the test, while at the same time the father's education becomes more important," Weinberg said. "If a father dies, the reverse happens.

"These relationships are stronger when the parent dies when the child is younger."

The research found that parenting matters and rejected the argument that the parents' income is really what helps an educated couple's children succeed academically.

The effects of losing a parent were stronger on girls than on boys, the study showed.

Weinberg noted, in cases of divorce, the educational level of the mother - typically the custodial parent - had a larger effect on academic success than did the education of the other parent.

"We found similar results in those children who experienced parental death and parental divorce," he said. "That provides strong evidence that our results are more general than just for children who suffered a parental death.

"Other studies show that highly educated parents tend to spend more time with their children. Our results may suggest one reason why they do: It has a strong impact on academic success."

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