Family structure affects Peruvian children’s educational performance, according to international report The World Family Map 2013

Lima, May 3 2013.- The educational achievements of Peruvian children is not only dependent on the deficiencies of the school system, but also on the family, according to the international report “World Family Map 2013: Mapping family change and child well-being outcomes”, presented today by Universidad de Piura’s Instituto de Ciencias para la Familia, University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project, and Child Trends.

According to this research, which includes indicators from over 40 countries, the number of parents who live in the household (two, one, or none) is a key determinant for certain educational achievements, such as reading literacy and a normal progression through school, as measured by the 2009 PISA survey.

The influence of family structure on children’s educational attainments or achievements is more robust in middle- and high-income countries, whose governments guarantee high-quality educational services; however, the presence of parents isn’t as significant in low-income countries, particularly in South America and Africa, where children face tougher learning challenges linked to poverty and the educational system.

 The importance of having at least one parent in the household

The 2009 PISA reading literacy scores place our country in penultimate place among Latin American countries. According to the researchers, poor performance by Peruvian students is linked to family indicators such as wealth, parental education, and their native language.

Additional variables that significantly affect reading literacy scores are the type of school (public vs. private), the school’s natural region (coast, mountain, or forest), and the school’s location (Lima vs. other provinces). This reflects the level of disparity in our country’s educational quality.

Thus, a Peruvian child who lives in a household which isn’t poor, with educated parents, speaks Spanish as his native language, goes to a private school, in the coast and in Lima, would get better scores in reading literacy than those who don’t meet these criteria.

Although 24% of Peruvian children under age 18 grow up in a household with only one parent, they are not at a disadvantage when compared to children from two-parent households with regards to reading literacy since the difference in scores between the two groups is not significant.

Nonetheless, in 24 out of the 37 countries examined, children living in a two-parent family receive better reading literacy scores and have a lower probability of repeating a grade than those living in a single-parent family. The situation is even more detrimental for children living without any parent, which is 10 % of the children in our country.

“The results from the 2009 PISA survey regarding family structure in Peru suggest that a more rigorous study is required. It’s not that family structure isn’t important. Children who grow up in a single-parent family could receive support from extended family, as is the case in other developing countries, but this needs to be verified”, said Marcos Agurto, professor at the UDEP.

“It also may be that-at least when it comes to education-that fathers do not typically play a central role in their children’s schooling”, said Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia.

The threat of instability

The “World Family Map 2013” report also explores family well-being indicators worldwide. When compared to other countries, the instability that Peruvian families experience as a result of the rise in cohabitation and nonmarital childbearing is evident.

Peru has the second highest rate of cohabitation, given that only 30% of our population is married and 29% cohabit. Furthermore, 73% of Peruvian children are born outside of marriage, a rate that is second only to Colombia’s.

According to Bradford Wilcox, coauthor of the report, the rise in this phenomenon significantly reduces several benefits that children and adults receive when they grow up within the context of a stable, conflict-less marriage. “Marriage is not the cure to all social problems, but numerous research reports confirm its irreplaceable contribution to the common well-being. A stable family structure, such as marriage, is an important predictor of children’s social and psychological well-being “, said the researcher.

Despite the fragility of the unions, our country exhibits other positive indicators such as a higher total fertility rate (2.5 children per woman) than other countries. Also, a high level of family trust is found among Peruvian adults, as well as a high level of social and political discussions between adolescents and their parents.

The report concludes that by suggesting that family stability, the support of extended family and greater paternal involvement appears to be important it we wish to reduce the marginalization suffered by the most vulnerable members of our society.

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