Single with Children: Exploring the Links in Family Structure, Concerted Cultivation, and Children's Academic Achievement

Open Access
Le, Khai
Graduate Program:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 27, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Molly Ann Martin, Thesis Advisor
  • family structure
  • single fathers
  • single mothers
  • academic achievement
  • concerted cultivation
  • parenting
  • parental involvement
Academic achievement differentials by family structure are well documented in research. This paper studies achievement differentials between children in single mother and children in single father families using three waves of data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Kindergarten cohort. Due to gendered parenting norms, I examine whether single mothers and single fathers engage in different types of parenting behaviors, specifically in terms of “concerted cultivation.” I test whether concerted cultivation – measured early in childhood – significantly predicts later academic achievement, and whether differences in concerted cultivation by family structure mediate family structure differences in children’s later academic achievement. Results indicate that single fathers are significantly less likely to engage in concerted cultivation parenting practices when the focal child is in 1st grade. Further, concerted cultivation is significantly related to academic achievement. Children in single mother families perform significantly better in reading but not math achievement. Concerted cultivation partially explains why children in single mother families perform better in reading in the 3rd and 5th grades, but significant differences remain. This study concludes that other processes related to family structure are at work to explain achievement differentials.