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Cultivating Academic Achievement: An Updated Social Psychological Explanation

Maika Malualelagi Tuala, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study looks at how income differences affect children's social psychological development, which in turn shapes their academic achievement. Building on theories of social class, cultural capital, and self-concept formation, this dissertation offers a new social psychological model that connects parental SES, concerted cultivation, children's academic mindset and achievement. This new concept called “academic mindset” includes several key social-psychological factors that influence academic performance namely- self-esteem, locus of control, math and reading self-concepts, and educational expectations and values. The study uses data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study -1998 Kindergarten cohort and tests the model using multivariate regression analyses. Findings show that parental SES and concerted cultivation affect both children's academic mindset and achievement directly and indirectly. Taking prior achievement into account, the academic mindset strongly predicts achievement. Moreover, the academic mindset completely mediates the effects of concerted cultivation on achievement. Taken together, these findings suggest a much-needed revision to existing social psychological explanations of SES-based achievement gaps with important implications for parents, children, and education policies and practices that aim to reduce SES achievement gaps.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Educational evaluation|Educational psychology|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Tuala, Maika Malualelagi, "Cultivating Academic Achievement: An Updated Social Psychological Explanation" (2024). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI31243978.