Family Characteristics. The family structure can play a significant role in a student’s behavior and attitude towards both school and life. The level of stress experienced by a family can have a significant impact on students in their academic and social lives. Stress impacts a family’s interactions and processes in a way that has a negative effect on its members. Both stressful life events and the impact of parenting stress can create this result. Further, students lacking a stimulating home environment lack parental sensitivity. Students of low SES face the most intense challenges in this context, as they are most likely to face more than one, or all, of these factors (Oxford & Lee, 2011).
Family processes such as structure, coping, and relations differ from family to family and vary based on the structure of each member’s daily life, shared experiences, and the manner in which they deal with problems (Kiser & Black, 2005). Positive family engagement can have a significant positive effect on student achievement (Smink & Reimer, 2005). The relationship between economic status and health is one that should also be noted. Generally, people outside of the low SES category tend to be healthier overall (Tipper, 2010).
Some students who are in foster care face a significantly higher likelihood of participating in high risk behaviors. Particularly, students in this category who have low levels of caretaker support in their foster care setting are much less likely to experience positive outcomes. Researchers in this study controlled for several factors, including; self-competence, placement changes, poor self-regulation, and caregiver support. Interestingly, girls who had high levels of caretaker support had consistently positive outcomes both academically and behaviorally. This illustrates that the students who were removed from negative circumstances and placed in positive ones benefitted from the change. Without facing so many of the risk factors they had experienced in their previous setting, the female foster students were able to thrive (Pears, et al., 2011).
The manner in which children interact with their parents, specifically the manner in which parents respond to a youth’s emotional behavior, has a significant impact on their development of depression. Parents who react positively to a student’s sadness and attempt to support them are more likely to reduce the risk the child will become depressed. In contrast, parents who react negatively towards a student’s sadness or anger increase the likelihood for depression. Parents who react positively towards a child’s positivity reduce likelihood for depression. Parents who react with anger and dysphoria increase the likelihood for depression. Parents who wish to reduce the likelihood of depression as an outcome for their child face challenges in systematically changing their behaviors over time, so they may increase the chances of a positive outcome for their children (Schwartz, et al. 2012). The significance of family characteristics and interaction was further highlighted by Kim-Spoon, et al. (2011) who found that positive parenting is a significant indicator of a child’s ability to self-regulate.
In a study that examined the behavior of parents with their toddlers, Whittaker (2010) found that maternal sensitivity is an indicator of socio-emotional functioning among toddlers. Participants were mother-child groups with the children aged 3 to 23 months. Of the 130 mothers aged 15 to 51 selected to participate, 114 participated in the first visit of the study, and 95 participated in the follow-up visit scheduled six months later. Participants were mostly minority women who had never been married. Measures of risk for a negative outcome in this study included parenting stress, parental depression, maternal sensitivity, and inadequacy of family resources. These factors were contributors to a mother’s level of sensitivity to her child. Students benefit from high expectation in their families. High expectations from family members are related to a student’s high hopes for themselves. Students who have high hopes for themselves are five times as likely to have mothers that have high expectations of them. Female students who benefit from high expectations along with stricter rules regarding school from their mothers perceive that their teachers are satisfied with their performance. Female students setting high expectations for themselves are more likely to graduate than their counterparts (Ensminger & Slusarcick, 1992).