Pathways of Influence: Parental Academic Expectation, Depression, Educational Aspiration, and Cognitive Development of Chinese Rural Adolescents


Parental expectation is characterized as the realistic belief held by parents about their children’s educational attainment. Empirical studies suggest that parental expectation defines adolescents’ cognitive development to a varying degree. However, little scholarly effort has been paid to investigating the mechanism of this relationship. Based on the national representative China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) survey data (2018 wave), this paper applies structural equation modelling to examine the nexus of parental expectation, educational aspiration, depression, and cognitive performance of Chinese rural adolescents (N=1308). It is found that when age, gender, and school type (public/private) are controlled, parental expectation positively affects Chinese rural adolescents’ cognitive ability by enhancing their educational aspirations and decreasing depression (R2 = .407). On the one hand, as suggested by social cognitive theory and status attainment theory, high expectations from parents internalized by adolescents build up their positive value of education. Rural adolescents who aspire to achieve high are likely to have strong learning motivation and put effort into their learning. On the other hand, parents with high academic expectations tend to actively participate in their cognitive skills acquisition and interpersonal development, which are essential to adolescents’ effective social relationship building and emotional regulation. Rural adolescents with a more positive mental status generally perform better in their knowledge consolidation and cognitive functioning. These findings suggest that educational officials and stakeholders should take into consideration of parental expectations in designing intervention programs enhancing Chinese rural adolescents’ cognitive capacity through promoting their educational aspirations and alleviating their depression.

Author Information
Jia Zhuang, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2022
Stream: Mind

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon