Parents of the internal working model (IWM)

Parents are considered anyone who takes constant care of a child. A fundamental question to explore is, to what extent do parents influence a child’s school experience, learning and achievement. It is essential to research the impact of parental influence on a child’s education, as theories and research evidence can be used to predict the future behaviour of a child. Therefore, this essay will focus on the theory of attachment, parenting styles and parental involvement to answer this question. Other aspects including biological factors, social influences and siblings are used to assess this question critically. 
One way that parents can influence their child’s education is through attachment. Bowlby (1960) described this as an emotional bond between a child and primary attachment figure that is developed by social interactions. Children can acquire one of four attachment styles: secure, insecure-avoidant, insecure-resistant and disorganised (Ainsworth & Bell, 1970, Main & Solomon, 1986). The concept of the internal working model (IWM) suggests that all attachments mirror the first with the parental figure. This can affect a child’s physical and psychosocial development. Children who have an attachment figure who is sensitive, responsive in their social interactions and displays no periods of separation have a secure attachment and a positive IWM. Attachment figures who do not attend to their child’s social, emotional and behavioural needs create an insecure attachment style and a negative IWM in their child.
The concept of the IWM and attachment styles can be used to explain the influence of parents on their child’s education. Insecure attachments create lower cognitive ability, higher levels of aggression and emotional issues compared to securely attached children (Lowell, 2014, Spratt et al., 2012). These traits can be explained by the IWM, derived by attachment figures. The lack of a secure bond between the child and parent creates issues for a child’s learning ability and academic achievement. From birth, the brain develops by stimulation of the environment. For example, the cerebral cortex is dependent on advanced cognitive abilities (, 2018). The wiring of specific neurones is inhibited, as a result of parental behaviours. Children who do not receive reciprocal communication or exposure to certain toys or activities initiated by parents prevent the development of areas in the brain. Research has shown the lack of stimulation, lowers a child’s rate of learning, which produces lower academic achievement (Bergin & Bergin, 2009). Children who are insecurely attached do not have the ability to develop empathy, creating higher levels of behavioural issues such as aggression. Certain behaviours like aggression can negatively affect school experiences with peers. Securely attached children have better relationships and are more popular with peers compared to insecurely attached children (Ekeh, 2012, DeMulder et al., 2000). The adverse experiences between the parent and the child reflect future experiences with others. For example, children with an insecure-avoidant attachment style are more likely to be bullies themselves (Kõiv, 2012). The theory of the IWM, would suggest that the negative experiences of neglect from childhood creates underlying emotions of anger and hostility that are reflected onto peers due to the fear of rejection. This demonstrates a negative school experience caused by the influence of parents. In comparison, these factors mentioned are not prominent in children who are securely attached, as a result of reciprocal and sensitive social interactions provided by the monotropy from birth leading to a positive school experience and higher academic achievement. These factors show that behaviour from parents influences a child’s attachment style, can have either a positive or negative effect on education.
  Contradictory, the biological paradigm would suggest genetics play a more significant influence than attachment styles. Twin and adoption studies show that intelligence is genetically stable and inherited from parents (Benyamin et al., 2013). Children who have higher polygenic scores have a higher IQ, better self-control and interpersonal skills (Belsky et al., 2016). This theory would suggest that genetics are a greater predictability of children’s school experiences, learning and achievement in education. The different attachment styles children develop from the behaviour of their parents are influenced by genetics. An example would be behavioural problems developed by insecurely attached children. The MAOA gene increases levels of aggression, rather than use attachment styles to explain bullying it schools individual children may be predisposed to have higher anger levels, which are reflected in negative behaviour towards other children. This proposes that parental behaviour may influence children’s school experience, learning and achievement to a degree instead genetics may have a more considerable influence. 
Another way parents can influence a child’s education is through parenting styles, these are strategies used to rear a child. Different parenting styles differ on degrees of responsiveness and demandingness that each has an impact on a child’s development (Baumrind, 1967, 1991, Maccoby & Martin, 1983, 1992). The most notable comparison to show the influence of parents on a child’s education are between authoritarian and authoritative parenting styles.  Authoritarian parenting style is characterised by low responsiveness and is highly demanding. Children of authoritarian parents receive strict punishments and rules that must be abided by and are given little affection.  These influences initiated by parents have had an adverse effect on children’s behaviour such as the lack of self-reliance and higher levels of anxiety causing children to withdraw from certain situations. The behaviours exhibited, show a higher reliance on adult figures rather than intrinsic motivation, which affects a child’s learning process and communication skills. The overemphasis of rules and regulations have shown to reduce academic performance in children due to excessive pressure from parents (Rogers et al., 2009). In comparison, authoritative parenting style demonstrates a balance of discipline towards a child and independence. This encourages a positive and responsive relationship between the parent and child, which has shown to be the best parenting style for educational success. These children have been shown to have greater academic achievement, have positive experiences of school and show independent learning. The mix between disciple and encouragement in this style of parenting has been shown to be beneficial for a child’s education, the rewarding and independent behaviours initiated by parents have a positive impact, rather than punishment creating confidence within the child (Rogers et al., 2009). Consequently, shows that parents have an influence on their child’s education based on their parenting styles. 
The claim of parenting styles being a predictor of educational success is difficult to justify. Parenting can be argued to be a social construct, the view of authoritative and authoritarian parenting is ethnocentric (Chao, 1994). Baumrind (1967) used 100 American children as participants to measure parenting styles. This can question the representativeness and generalisability of this theory as being an influence on all children’s school experience, achievement and learning. Asian-American children are less affected by authoritarian parenting than other ethnic groups (Steinberg, 2001). Children are affected differently by different parenting styles in different cultures.   Therefore, it is essential to consider the broader social factor of culture, when looking at the influence of parenting styles on children’s education. 
Parental involvement is the participation and support that parents provide to their children. Involvement from parents increases educational achievement, improves social skills and reduces behavioural problems in children (El Nokali et al., 2010, Topor et al., 2010). The benefits of parental involvement are significant for children of all ages. Between the ages of 3-7, home learning activities such as reading or singing songs have been a predictor of academic success due to the cognitive and social development within the child from a young age.  This has a direct correlation of educational achievement at the age of 20. Support provided by parents also is a crucial factor in the behaviour of children at school. The influence of fathers, in particular, have a critical effect on educational outcomes for a child. Fathers who are consistently interested and involved in their child’s learning enable positive attitudes and better behaviour at school (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008). Examples of this include attending parents evening, showing an interest in a child’s school life such as friends and helping with homework. The increased educational achievement and better school experience correlating with parental involvement show the positive influence parents can have on a child’s education.
However, there are many barriers faced by parents which can influence how involved they are in their child’s lives. The most common barrier is work commitments for 44% of parents, this is a concern for schools as the underachievement for children is raising (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008). Siblings who may not face these barriers may play a more considerable influence on a child’s education. The social learning theory would suggest that children imitate their role models behaviours and actions. Examples of this include, the language younger children develop through play with their older siblings (Howe & Recchia, 2009). Play between siblings can also improve emotional intelligence by learning to share or apologise in times of conflict. Older siblings can also act as a support network for younger children if parents are absent. These factors that children learn from siblings can be reflected in school life. The involvement of siblings rather than parents may play a greater role in the influence of school experience, learning and achievement. 
To conclude, parents can influence a child’s school experience, learning and achievement. The theories of attachment, parenting styles and parental involvement show different influences parents can have on their child’s education. Despite the criticisms of wider social and personal factors, overall parents have an undoubtable effect on a child’s education from birth to adulthood.