High-achieving low-achieving low-income Black children: What makes the difference?

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


Harlan London


Educational achievement, Sociodemographic status, African-American children

Subject Categories



This study examined family-environmental factors and childhood characteristics that might differentiate high-achieving from low-achieving low-income Black children. The purposes of this study were: (1) To determine whether the families of high- and low-achieving children differ on selected sociodemographic variables, parental functional styles, and parental perceptions of support; (2) To determine whether high-achieving children have more support and higher self-esteem than low-achieving children; and (3) To explore the possible links between parental support and parental functional style, and childhood support, self-esteem, school grades and attendance.

Information was gathered from fifty-one low-income Black fifth-grade children and their parents. The children filled out the Hare Self-Esteem Scale (Hare, 1975). To assess his/her sources of support, each child was taken on a "Neighborhood Walk" (Bryant, 1985). The Self-Report Family Inventory (Beavers, Hampson, & Hulgus, 1985) was used to assess the parents' and children's perceptions of their family functioning. The parents also addressed questions about their childrearing beliefs, socialization tasks and goals for their children. Parents were asked to complete the Support Functions Scale (Dunst & Trivette, 1987), the Parent-School Questionnaire (Berger, 1987), and a demographic questionnaire.

The families of high- and low-achieving children were similar on most sociodemographic variables. The only differences found were, high-achievers' parents were more likely to be employed and to attend church than parents of low-achievers. The groups of parents did not differ on the five family support factors, but high-achievers' parents showed a greater tendency to report needs for mental health and child support related help. Parents and children did not differ on assessments of their family functional styles, but high-achievers' and their parents' views of their family functioning showed greater agreement than those of low-achievers and their parents. Whereas, the children were similar on their sources of support and ratings of home and peer self-esteem, high-achievers rated themselves higher on the school self-esteem measure. Among both groups of children, school self-esteem significantly correlated with school grades and attendance.


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