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Study: Better parental supervision of early adolescents tied with higher eventual income of the child

By Lee Cleveland - August 27, 2023

A longitudinal study of children in North Carolina found that better parental supervision of children in early adolescence was associated with higher household income of the child at age 35. The study was published in PLOS One.

When the kids were growing up, the researchers collected data about their families, like if they had one parent or two, how much money the family made, and how much education the parents had. They also looked at how well parents supervised their kids. If parents didn’t know what their kids were doing, didn’t set rules, or didn’t step in when kids were doing bad things, that was considered inadequate supervision.

The researchers also examined how many signs of behavioral problems the kids showed (such as symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder and of Conduct Disorder).

This study is quite illuminating as it explores the long-term effects of parental supervision during adolescence on children’s economic prospects in adulthood.

The key findings of the study are as follows:

Parental Supervision and Economic Outcome: The study revealed a significant association between better parental supervision during early adolescence and higher household income of the child at age 35. Children of parents who engaged in inadequate supervision earned approximately $14,000 less per year compared to those who experienced adequate supervision.

Socioeconomic Status and Education: The study confirmed the well-known relationship between a family’s socioeconomic status and a child’s future prospects. Children from families with higher household incomes and more educated parents tended to have higher incomes themselves as adults. Each additional 2 years of parental post-high education was associated with an increase of around $4,464 in the child’s annual income.

Socioeconomic status refers to where a person or family stands in society based on factors like how much money they make, their education, what job they have, and how respected they are. People with higher socioeconomic status usually earn more money, have better education and job opportunities, and do jobs that are considered more important. On the other hand, people with lower socioeconomic status often struggle with money, don’t have as much education or good opportunities for their kids, and do jobs that don’t come with many benefits.

Behavioral Symptoms: The study also highlighted the importance of a child’s behavior during adolescence. Children who exhibited fewer behavioral symptoms during adolescence tended to earn more as adults. For each behavioral symptom displayed during adolescence, there was a decrease of approximately $4,114 in household income in adulthood.

Long-Term Impact of Parental Supervision: Adequate parental supervision during adolescence was shown to have a lasting impact on a child’s economic prospects. The study estimated that this positive impact on income could result in a lifetime income difference of around $219,870 between ages 35 and 65.

Educational Attainment as a Mediator: The study suggested that educational attainment might serve as a mediator between parental supervision during adolescence and income in adulthood. This implies that parental supervision could influence a child’s educational path, which in turn affects their economic outcomes.

Limitations: The study acknowledged limitations such as reliance on self-reported data and the use of a single question for assessing parental supervision. These limitations could introduce biases that potentially affect the study’s results.

In conclusion, this study highlights the significance of parental supervision during adolescence in shaping a child’s economic prospects in adulthood.

It adds to the existing understanding of the factors influencing social mobility and economic outcomes beyond just socioeconomic status.

However, it’s important to consider the study’s limitations when interpreting its findings. Overall, the research provides valuable insights into the complex relationship between family experiences during childhood and long-term economic attainment.

This study analyzed data from the Great Smoky Mountain study, a longitudinal study of children in 11 predominantly rural counties of North Carolina. Participants were three groups of children who were aged 9, 11, and 13 at the start of the study. A total of 1,420 children participated.

They completed assessments each year until they reached the age of 16. This was between 1993 and 2000. Children were assessed again when they reached their 30s, between 2018 and 2021.


Tags: studies