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Parent Influences on the Development of Academic Self-Regulation
3/26/07



The organization of schools is predicated on students’ development of academic and personal self-regulation.
Self-regulated learning is the hallmark of academic success. Self-regulated learning refers to the process by which students attempt to monitor and control their own learning. The key to self-regulation is the ability of the student to understand the requirements of the academic task given them and then generate their thoughts, attitudes, and actions to attain specific educational goals such as, summarizing a reading assignment, studying for a test, or calculating a math assignment without reminders, deadlines, or cues from either parents or teachers. The strategies students’ use to reach their goals are always in flux, as students will evaluate their progress and make modifications in their preparation strategies.  A good analogy of this process is the thermostat operation for the heating and cooling system of a house. Once the desired temperature is set (the goal) the thermostat monitors the temperature of the house (monitoring) and will raise or lower the heating or air-conditioning units (control and regulation) in order to maintain progress toward the goal.
Given the cognitive complexity of self-regulated learning, the capacity to utilize these new skills usually is not
evident until the 3rd to 6th grade. Paul Pintrich noted in “The role of motivation in promoting and sustaining self-regulated learning”, Journal of Educational Research, 1999, that the role of motivation is the underlying
foundation of self-regulated learning. According to Pintrich, students must feel efficacious or confident that
they can accomplish the task. Secondly, students must be interested in and value the academic task or goal.
Students who see little value in developing academic skills and/or are bored in school, are less likely to be self-regulating than those students who believe doing well in school is important.
How do successful and unsuccessful students differ in their orientations toward school; in their motivation to enhance their own knowledge, and in their knowledge of appropriate learning strategies? Research by Paris and Newman in “Developmental aspects of self regulated learning” Educational Psychologist 1990, describes how students construct different “theories of schooling” that influence their actions in school and set the course  affecting a lifetime of learning habits and skills. These theories are fueled by students’ perceptions of the social interactions in the classroom. Children construct implicit concepts and beliefs about their abilities, their expectations for future success, the usefulness and availability of various learning strategies, and the social dispositions of other people in the classroom. At the core of these beliefs are the ways they view their own abilities and motivation. These beliefs mediate children’s self-regulated learning.

Parental Influences

In recent years, researchers have increasingly focused on the role of self-regulated processes in students’ acad-
emic functioning. A key question that has emerged from this research is; What are the origins of these self-regulated processes?
Although schools provide greater social and academic classroom support in the early grades, that support is
gradually reduced as students advance into middle school and high school. Students are given more demanding
homework assignments and expected to display greater personal responsibility when they enter middle school.
How successful are the schools in teaching students’ to self-regulate their academic functioning? According to
Paris and Newman, few teachers directly teach study skills, such as goal-setting, self-monitoring, or time management. By establishing this self-regulatory cycle, teachers help students learn to recognize and appreciate links between their study behaviors and learning outcomes. Manuel Martinez-Pons describes in, “Parental influences on children’s academic self-regulatory development”, Theory Into Practice Spring 2002,
a social-cognitive perspective on academic self-regulation which assumes parents function as implicit and explicit social models for their children.
At a young age, children learn that they can master new skills easily, by modeling a skilled adult or sibling  perform a given task. However, complex skills such as using the Internet to locate a particular web site or using a thesaurus to find the correct descriptive wording to express a point of view, involves underlying cognitive strategies that are often difficult to integrate into performance on one’s own, because these skills are abstract
and subtle; and not readily available unless they are taught. For children to develop advanced levels of strategic skills, they often require personal corrective feedback and supportive encouragement, which when provided by parents, allow children an advantage in their efforts to master academic tasks. As these children feel more efficacious about their capacity to learn, they become more willing to take on more difficult tasks.
It appears that children in homes that provide this “hidden curriculum”, where homework and other learning experiences expose them to parental modeling and social support for self-regulated learning activities, benefit from this early preparation such as being read to by parents at an early age and enhancing their vocabulary, and providing them tips about effective learning strategies ie. how to outline a book chapter. There is substantial evidence according to Zimmerman in “Achieving self-regulation: the trial and triumph of adolescence” The Academic Motivation of Adolescents, 2002, that most students fail to acquire these skills on their own. For
those students who did not have these opportunities available to them, the schools can focus their efforts on training parents to model, reinforce, and facilitate self-regulated behaviors.
 
Parenting Styles

Diana Baumrind investigated the effects of “parenting style”, ie. how parents socialize and control their  children’s academic competence, in “Rearing competent children” in Child Development Today &
Tomorrow” 1989. Parenting style, according to Baumrind captures two important elements of parenting; parental supportiveness and parental demandedness. Parental supportiveness refers to the extent to which parents intentionally foster individuality, self-regulation, and self-assertion by being attuned and acquiescent to their children’s needs and wants. Parental demandedness refers to the expectations parents place on their children to conform to the family norms by their maturity demands, supervision, and disciplinary protocol. Baumrind describes in her research, “The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence” Journal of Early Adolescence 1991, the three distinct parenting styles; authoritarian, permissive, and authoritative and the
influence these parenting styles have on the development of competence.
Authoritarian parents are directive and intrusive. They value obedience and expect their rules to be obeyed without explanation. They are characterized as strict, unyielding, and emotionally aloof. These parents provide structure and a well-ordered environment thru clearly stated rules and expect compliance.
Permissive parents are less demanding and often indulgent. They do not require or expect mature behavior and often model rather immature behavior. They avoid confrontation and allow their children more freedom that they are often not responsible or mature enough to handle.
Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. Their disciplinary methods are democratic rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive and independent, as well as socially responsible and they promote respectful behavior. These parents are cognizant of their child’s needs and seem to know when to intervene and provide direction and when to allow their child’s autonomy to dictate decisions in their life. The children of authoritative parents know they can count on their parents for help and support when needed.
The key difference between authoritarian and authoritative parenting is in the dimension of psychological control. Although both parent types place high expectations on their children to behave appropriately; authoritarian parents expect their children to accept their views and decisions without questioning, while authoritative parents allow their children opportunity to provide input into the decisions that are made regarding their life.

Wendy Grolnick and Richard Ryan conducted a study correlating parenting styles and autonomy support, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology 1989, “Parent styles associated with children’s self-regulation and competence in school”, with 254 6th grade students and their parents. Grolnick & Ryan dis-
covered that the parenting style that allowed for “autonomy support” and “structure”, described as authoritative parenting, provided the best environment predicting academic success. Autonomy support is defined as the degree which parents use techniques that encourage independent problem-solving and participation in decisions, while structure is defined as parental provision of clear and consistent guidelines and expectations
for behavior. The dimension of autonomy support was most consistently related to the use of effective self-
regulation strategies, as those children who experienced more autonomy supportive parenting evidenced greater intrinsic motivation, improved academic competence, and less behavior problems than those children who reported experiencing more controlling home environments.
The provision of structure predicted the child’s control perceptions, ie. who or what controls outcomes in school. Home environments low in the provision of structure made it more difficult for children to different-
iate who or what controls outcomes. Children from these homes exhibited an external locus of control, not
recognizing what role they had in their academic difficulties.   

Barry Zimmerman & Dale Schunk in, “Social origins of self-regulatory competence” Educational Psychologist,
1989; have identified four parental activities that help produce self-regulatory behavior: modeling, encouragement, facilitation, and reinforcement thru rewarding.
Albert Bandura refers to modeling as “learning by observation” especially evident in one’s attempts to emulate their parents. Academic self-regulated modeling involves everyday parental behavior that displays motivation to
learn, goal-setting, self-monitoring, adaptive strategy implementation, and strategy adjustment. For example, if the parent turns off the TV before helping their child with homework, they’ve demonstrated that the parent views television as a distraction that should be eliminated. Encouragement: once the child has displayed interest in developing a particular behavior thru modeling, it becomes important for the parent to encourage the child’s attempts to master the behavior by encouraging persistence. Facilitation: also could be characterized as “parent involvement”, conceptualized as the extent to which the parent is interested in, knowledgeable of, and takes an active part in the child’s life. It is necessary to facilitate a child’s efforts to develop self-regulatory behavior by doing such things as providing key resources which the child may know exist or how to obtain. Positive rein-
forcement/rewards: provides inducement in the “conditioning” of a person to develop a particular behavior.

Control and Autonomy

Those parents and teachers that provide an autonomy-oriented environment allow their children the opportunity
to internalize self-regulatory behaviors. A regulation that is originally externally imposed will come to be one’s own, only under conditions of minimal control, “ A theory of internalization and self-regulation in school”, Achievement and Motivation: A Social-Developmental Perspective, 1992. The authors of this book chapter
describe how surplus pressure or control create conflict with the psychological need for self-determination, making it less likely that a child will be motivated to actively assimilate the regulation.
However while stressing the importance of providing autonomy, it is not to imply that children will automatic-
ally internalize regulations if “left on their own”. Rather the environment must support the child’s autonomy by
providing a context that includes structure. Structure, as described earlier, includes providing information regarding the social expectations, why they are important, and delineating the consequences of meeting or not meeting those expectations.  The significant amount of research on this topic of self-regulation concludes that by “fostering autonomy in their children and providing structure”, parents better prepare their children for an educational environment that now requires independent mastery and self-regulation of behavior.

Bill Moran  MA MSW


Ann Arbor Public Schools
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