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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 31  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 98-103  Table of Contents     

A study of family-related factors associated with scholastic backwardness in urban lower middle class school children


Department of Psychiatry, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission29-Mar-2020
Date of Decision31-Mar-2021
Date of Acceptance16-Jul-2021
Date of Web Publication05-Jan-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Neha Sharma
Department of Psychiatry, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune- 411 040, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ipj.ipj_36_20

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   Abstract 

Introduction: Causes of scholastic backwardness in a child may be internal or external. The external factors include the factors related to the family the child is living in, and these factors are usually under-estimated in assessing contribution to scholastic backwardness. Aims: The aim of this study is to study the family factors associated with scholastic backwardness in school-going children in Pune Cantonment. Materials and Methods: Three hundred school children aged 8–14 years studying in Class III to IX from two government aided semi-Marathi Schools in Pune Cantonment were screened for scholastic backwardness, and evaluation of family-related factors was carried out for positive cases and matched controls. Results: Significant association was found between scholastic backwardness and such family factors as maternal education, chronic illness in the family members, and family problems such as domestic violence and substance abuse (P < 0.05). Conclusions: The family a child lives in plays an important role in determining the scholastic performance of a child. Adverse impact on the child's performance can be made by such variables as low maternal education, chronic illness in one or more family members, and poor family environment. Management strategies and policies aimed at correcting these preventable cause would ensure that they are identified and remedied at an early stage to ensure optimum scholastic performance by children.

Keywords: Chronic illness, domestic violence, family factors, maternal education, scholastic backwardness, substance abuse


How to cite this article:
Sharma N, Das RC, Srivastava K, Upasani R. A study of family-related factors associated with scholastic backwardness in urban lower middle class school children. Ind Psychiatry J 2022;31:98-103

How to cite this URL:
Sharma N, Das RC, Srivastava K, Upasani R. A study of family-related factors associated with scholastic backwardness in urban lower middle class school children. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Nov 27];31:98-103. Available from: https://www.industrialpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2022/31/1/98/335034



Scholastic performance plays an important role in the intellectual, cognitive, emotional, social, and moral development of a student. Scholastic backwardness usually produces feelings of anxiety and inadequacy in children. This can have a negative impact on the emotional and social functioning of the child. It not only affects the child early in their life but also can significantly scar their future. Hence, learning problem is an issue of concern not only for students but also for their parents and all the professionals involved in promotion of child welfare.

Scholastic backwardness is not easy to define. A child who, despite adequate attendance at school, fails repeatedly in one or more subjects or one or more classes and a child who is in the lowest 10th percentile in class is broadly categorized as being scholastically backward. However, the definition of scholastic backwardness should be dynamic, taking into account various factors that may influence it.

Causes of scholastic backwardness may be present in the child (internal factors) such as low intelligence, learning disability, physical problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, emotional problems or lack of motivation and inadequate time management, or causes in the environment (external factors) such as discordant environment at home/school, poor discipline at home, sibling rivalry, and overambitious attitude of parents.

Despite being a problem spanning across socioeconomic strata, in every part of the globe and for innumerable reasons, outside medical parlance, the term “scholastic backwardness” is used synonymously with “learning disability,” “intellectual disability,” etc., giving undue weightage to the internal factors and completely ignoring the external factors contributing to scholastic backwardness among children. A number of studies have been conducted in India and abroad on scholastic backwardness. However, few have taken into account external factors, especially family factors. Most studies have focused on learning disability more than the sociocultural factors associated with scholastic backwardness. An important factor that determines a child's academic performance is the level of education of the mother, which has been substantiated by a handful of studies abroad. However, no study has been done in India keeping this aspect in focus. This study is unique in its population of interest, which includes children from middle socioeconomic background, studying in cantonment schools. Moreover, external factors associated with scholastic backwardness have been studied.

Aim

The aim of this study is to study the family factors associated with scholastic backwardness in school-going children in Pune Cantonment.

Objective

The objective of this study is to ascertain the role of various family factors affecting the scholastic backwardness.


   Materials And Methods Top


Place of study

Two government aided, semi-Marathi medium schools in an urban cantonment area.

Study population

School children aged 8–14 years studying in Class III to IX.

Period of study

April 2015–March 2016.

Nature of study

Cross-sectional study.

Ethical considerations

Prior to initiation, a synopsis of the study proposal was presented before the Institutional Ethical Committee (Armed Forces Medical College). No ethical shortcomings were found and the work was assigned unanimous approval by the Institutional Ethical Committee.

Inclusion criteria

  1. Children of age 8–14 years in Class III–IX
  2. School attendance above 75%.


Exclusion criteria

Children with active psychotic illness.

Selection of subjects

Two government run semi-Marathi schools located within an urban cantonment were chosen for the study. The examination results of the last examination were perused. Scholastically backward students were shortlisted, based on their performance in the last examination (D grade or equivalent). Matched controls for comparison were chosen from the same classes, those with normal scholastic performance that is with Grade C or above [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Flowchart of selection of participants

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Sample size calculation

In order to achieve 95% confidence interval for the prevalence of scholastic backwardness (Z) with 5% error of margin (alpha), with the assumption that the prevalence is 15% in the defined population, as was found from the review of literature, sample size comes out to be 196. However, the actual sample size of the population that was screened for the purpose of the study was 300, which is more than the required sample size.

Procedure

Written informed consent was obtained from the parents of the children enrolled in both groups and due involvement from the teachers obtained for the conduct of the study. A bio-psychosocial pro forma tailor-made for this research was given to the parents of children from both groups and completed. Wechsler Intelligence Scale for children (Indian adaptation) was used for the assessment of intelligence. For those scholastically backward children with normal intelligence, learning disability screen was used to screen for the presence of specific learning disorder. A detailed analysis was done of this scholastic backwardness and possible contributory family factors were explored.

Evaluation methods

The results of these tests were intimated to the subjects, and due intervention was imparted to these children after consultation with their parents, by referring to the concerned specialist and enrolling them for detailed evaluation. Data were collected in Microsoft Excel sheet and subsequently statistically evaluated with the help of IBM Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software. Frequency distribution of variables was plotted on graphs. The Chi-square test was applied to find the results of significance. The findings were suitably interpreted in light of existing literature.


   Results And Observations Top


A total of 300 children from two schools were screened for scholastic backwardness. Out of these, 34 children, with overall D grade or below were selected for further evaluation. Thus prevalence calculated was 11.33%. Of the 34 children that were selected, 6 dropped out of school during the period of study. Thus, a total of 28 children were assessed for the factors contributing to scholastic backwardness, and the following results were found [Table 1] and [Figure 2]. Scholastically normal students with overall Grade “C” or above were chosen as matched controls. 50 students out of these were randomly selected for comparison.
Table 1: Family factors and their association with scholastic backwardness in children

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Figure 2: Family factors and their association with scholastic backwardness in children

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Mother's education

Significant association was found between the level of mother's education and scholastic backwardness in the child.

Father's education

There was no significant association between father's education and scholastic backwardness in child.

Parents' employment

No significant association was found between employment status of either parent and the child's scholastic performance.

Family size

There was no significant association between family size and scholastic performance.

Family income

There was no significant correlation between family income and scholastic performance of the child.

Physical/psychiatric illness in the family

None of the parents reported any known psychiatric illness in the family. However, chronic physical illness in at least one family member was found to have a significant association with scholastic backwardness in the child.

Family problems

There was a significant association between different types of family problems, such as domestic violence, substance use in parents, marital discord between parents, neglect or abuse of the child, etc., and scholastic backwardness in the child.


   Discussion Top


Family factors

Parents' education

Haneesh et al. found significant association of scholastic backwardness with the educational status of both parents.[1] Shenoy and Kapur found no significant association between the two.[2] Wang found that maternal education, maternal language acculturation, parental involvement, and maternal social support served as the predictors of the academic achievement and socioemotional development of Asian–American children.[3] A theoretical construct for the same has been proposed by Harding et al. in their 2015 article in the Journal of Marriage and Family.[4] In this study, among the parents, the association of mother's education with the child's scholastic performance was found to be statistically significant, whereas no statistically significant association was found between father's education and scholastic performance of the child. The association with maternal education corroborates the findings of Wang. The probable explanation of this association is that in most Indian households, mother acts as the primary caregiver and between the two parents, tends to devote more time to the children, helping them with their school work. Having an educated mother would thus put these children at an advantage. For a holistic improvement of scholastic performance of school children, it is therefore important to impart education to young girls, who will take up the role of mothers in the subsequent generations.

Parents' employment

No significant association was found between parents' employment status and the child's scholastic performance. Dunifon et al. have found a positive effect of maternal employment on children's scholastic performance across all specifications, especially when the mother was working part-time.[5] However, effect of father's employment status was not studied. Levine found little evidence to support a significant effect of parents' employment status on the scholastic performance of their children.[6] Earlier Indian studies, such as Shenoy and Kapur did not find significant association between the two.[2] However, Haneesh et al. found significant relation between parents' employment and child's scholastic performance.[1] In this study, no such association could be found as children from both the groups, i.e., the scholastically backward and the scholastically normal were from the same homogenous population comprising of individuals from low middle socioeconomic strata and were thereby matched for this variable.

Family size

No significant association was found between family size and scholastic performance in my study. Rutter et al. had found a significant relationship between family size and scholastic performance.[7] Cherian also found a significant relationship between the two, in that academic performance of the child deteriorated with increasing family size.[8] However, in the Indian context, Shenoy and Kapur did not find a significant relationship between the two.[2] An ambiguous relationship has been found in the 2013 study by Cobb-Clark, who were not able to substantiate a clear, statistically significant relationship between academic performance and family size, independent of other factors.[9] My study is thus in agreement with the existing literature on the Indian population. Family size does not significantly affect scholastic performance of a child.

Family income

Rozario had found a significant relation between family income and child's scholastic performance.[10] However, no such association was found by Shenoy and Kapur in 1996 in their study on the risk factors of scholastic backwardness, although they found that scholastically backward children mostly came from families that could not afford basic amenities.[2] Dahl and Lochner found a significant association between the two, with effects being larger for children growing up in more disadvantaged families, younger children, and boys.[11] In this study, no significant association was found between family income and scholastic performance. The probable reason for this may be that subjects in both the scholastically backward as well as scholastically normal group were from the same homogenous population comprising of individuals from low middle socioeconomic background.

Chronic illness in the family

In the existing literature on factors associated with scholastic backwardness, many studies have found significant association between psychiatric illness in the family and scholastic backwardness in children, such as Haneesh et al. (2013).[1] However, to my knowledge, no studies till date have reported any association between chronic physical illness in the family and scholastic performance in children. In this study, none of the children in either group had a history of known psychiatric illness in the family. Chronic physical illness in at least one family member such as diabetes, tuberculosis, and rheumatic heart disease was, however, found to be significantly associated with scholastic underperformance in the child. This is a novel finding that requires further exploration for its role in scholastic backwardness. The probable mechanism of this is the emotional impact on the child of chronic illness in a family member, especially if it is the mother. Another possible mechanism is reduction in the quality of care provided by the family member who is suffering from a chronic physical illness.

Family problems

Wanjiku had found significant association between different types of family problems/conflicts and the scholastic performance of children from these families.[12] In India, Shenoy and Kapur had found a significant association between scholastic performance and psychosocial problems in the family, such as alcoholism in father, poor parental interaction, and inconsistent disciplining.[2] Santosh described such family factors as unsatisfactory home environment, lack of encouragement, domestic violence, separation from parents, unrealistic parental expectations, unfavorable comparison of the child with peers, excessive restriction/freedom, poor emotional attachment with parents, and faulty parental attitudes toward child's education as the background for scholastic underperformance in the child.[13] Venkatesan (2011) found such background factors as child being first generation learner, having suffered social and emotional abuse, neglect or disadvantage at home, associated with scholastic backwardness in the child.[14] There was a significant association found between various family problems such as domestic violence, abuse or neglect, substance use among parents, and marital discord between parents. This finding echoes with earlier studies such as Wanjiku,[12] Shenoy and Kapur,[2] Santosh,[13] and Venkatesan.[14] The probable mechanism of these psychosocial factors contributing to scholastic backwardness is by adversely affecting the psychological health of the child.


   Summary And Conclusions Top


In summary, the prevalence of scholastic backward among children aged 8–14 years from two urban cantonment schools, mostly belonging to low middle socioeconomic background, was found to be 11.33%.

The family-related factors found to be significantly associated with scholastic backwardness included mother's educational level, chronic physical illness among family members and family problems such as substance abuse in parents, domestic violence, neglect or abuse of the child, etc., An important novel finding of this study is the impact of chronic physical illness of a family member on the scholastic performance of a child, a factor, which, to my knowledge, has not been studied in any study till date. This warrants attention and needs further research to establish the extent to which this factor affects scholastic performance of a child and the mechanism through which it acts.

Strengths of the study

  1. Consideration of both external and internal factors
  2. Target population of urban, lower middle class children.
  3. Matched controls from the same population to remove potential confounding factors of age, sex, socioeconomic status etc.
  4. Multiple sources of information, namely parents, teachers, school records, etc., were used for data collection
  5. Structured questionnaire was used for collecting comprehensive information from the parents about sociodemographic variables
  6. Since there was only one examiner to interview the subjects, the data collection procedure was uniform thereby reducing inter-observer bias.


Limitations of the study

  1. Major limitation of this study was its small sample size
  2. In the sociodemographic questionnaire, questions were aimed at identifying presence/absence of variables, rather than the detailed information about the same
  3. Lack of temporality for determining causal associations and no calculation of incidence and risk ratios for various outcomes


Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
   References Top

1.
Haneesh K, Krishnakumar P, Sukumaran SK, Riyaz A. Risk factors for scholastic backwardness in children. Indian Pediatr 2013;50:655-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Shenoy J, Kapur M. Prevalence of scholastic backwardness among five to eight year old children. Indian J Psychiatry 1996;38:201-7.  Back to cited text no. 2
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
3.
Wang X. Maternal education, maternal language acculturation, parental involvement, and maternal social support as predictors of the academic achievement and socioemotional development of Asian American children. University of Maryland, College Park; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Harding JF, Morris PA, Hughes D. The relationship between maternal education and children's academic outcomes: A theoretical framework. J Marriage Fam 2015;77:60-76.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Dunifon R, Hansen AT, Nicholson S, Nielsen LP. The effect of maternal employment on children's academic performance. National Bureau of Economic Research; 2013.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Levine P. How does parental unemployment affect children's educational performance? In: Whither Opportunity: Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children's Life Chances. Nueva York: Russell Sage Foundation; 2011. p. 315-58.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Rutter M, Cox A, Tupling C, Berger M, Yule W. Attainment and adjustment in two geographical areas. I – The prevalence of psychiatric disorder. Br J Psychiatry 1975;126:493-509.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Cherian VI. Family size and academic achievement of children. J Fam Welfare 1990;36:56-60.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Cobb-Clark DA, Moschion J. The impact of family size on school achievement: Test scores and subjective assessments by teachers and parents. Australia: University of Melbourne; 2013.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Rozario J. Intervention Strategies for Scholastic Backwardness. Bangalore: Unpublished Doctoral Thesis NIMHANS, Bangalore University; 1991.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Dahl GB, Lochner L. The impact of family income on child achievement: Evidence from the earned income tax credit. Am Econ Rev 2012;102:1927-56.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Wanjiku MI. Impact of Family Conflicts on the Academic Performance and Interpersonal Relationships of Pupils in Public Primary Schools in Nakuru Municipality. Kenya: Egerton University; 2010.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.
Santosh AK. Scholastic backwardness in children attending normal school. Psychol Med 2014;15:251-4.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.
Venkatesan S. The enigma of diagnosis by exclusion: A field study on children frequently mistaken for learning disability in India. Disabil Impair 2011;26:5-16.  Back to cited text no. 14
    


    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]
 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1]



 

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