Maternal and paternal resources across childhood and adolescence as predictors of young adult achievement

Xiaoran Sun, Susan M. McHale, Kimberly Updegraff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Family experiences have been linked to youth's achievements in childhood and adolescence, but we know less about their long term implications for educational and occupational achievements in young adulthood. Grounded in social capital theory and ecological frameworks, this study tested whether mothers' and fathers' education and occupation attainments, as well as the mean level and cross-time consistency of parental warmth during childhood and adolescence, predicted educational and occupational achievements in young adulthood. We also tested interactions between parental achievement and warmth in predicting these young adult outcomes. Data were collected from mothers, fathers, and firstborn and secondborn siblings in 164 families at up to 11 time points. Predictors came from the first nine annual points (youth age M = 10.52 at Time 1) and outcomes from when young adults averaged 26 years old (firstborns at Time 10, secondborns at Time 11). Results from multilevel models revealed that both mothers' and fathers' educational attainment and warmth consistency from childhood through adolescence predicted young adults' educational attainment. Fathers' occupational prestige predicted sons', but not daughters', prestige. An interaction between mothers' warmth consistency, occupational prestige, and youth gender revealed that, for sons whose mothers' prestige was low, warmth consistency positively predicted their prestige, but this association was nonsignificant when mothers' prestige was high. Conversely, for daughters with mothers high in prestige, warmth consistency was a trend level, positive predictor of daughters' prestige, but was nonsignificant when mothers' prestige was low. Thus, maternal resources appeared to have a cumulative impact on daughters, but the process for sons was compensatory. Discussion focuses on the role of family resources in the gender gap in young adult achievement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-123
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Vocational Behavior
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017



  • Adolescence
  • Childhood
  • Educational achievement
  • Occupational achievement
  • Parental warmth
  • Young adulthood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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