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Public Health Rep. 1996 Jan-Feb; 111(1): 34–43.
PMCID: PMC1381739

Parental schooling & children's health.


Nearly one in every four children in the United States is born to a mother who has not finished high school, and more than one in eight is reared by such a mother during the critical preschool period. Large-scale studies show that the health and welfare of children are linked to the education level of their parents, with parent education often being a stronger predictor of child well-being than family income, single parenthood, or family size. Higher parent education levels make it more likely that children will receive adequate medical care and that their daily environments will be protected and responsive to their needs. Average parent education levels have risen over the last 30 years, but progress has slowed because of high rates of immigration from countries with lower education standards and the tendency of more advantaged women to have children later than less advantaged women. The education system and community organizations must provide young people who are not doing well in school with positive alternatives to low- education, high-risk parenthood. Health care providers should be proactive, teaching parents with few resources how best to promote their children's growth and development. The changing global economy makes it more important than ever that current and future generations of children are reared by parents who have adequate skills and training to be competent members of society and effective and responsible parents.

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