Research Column

February 28, 1990 4 min read

Disadvantaged children who succeed in school hold values and attitudes significantly different from those of their less-successful peers, a recent study of responses from 10,000 high-school sophomores from low-income families concludes.

The study was conducted by Sandra Hanson, an assistant professor of sociology at Catholic University, and Alan Ginsburg, director of the planning and evaluation service of the U.S. Education Department. The researchers contrasted the values and attitudes of disadvantaged students who had grade-point averages in the upper one-fifth of their samples with students whose averages fell in the lower one-fifth.

They found that the higher performers were 43 percent more likely to believe it pays to make plans for the future; 163 percent more likely to indicate that they work hard in school; and 131 percent more likely to say they have mothers who think they should attend college.

The researchers presented their findings this month in Washington at the International Conference on Children and Youth at Risk.

The level of sexual activity of boys under age 15 living in metropolitan areas appears to have decreased over the past decade, according to a study by the Urban Institute.

Moreover, although proportionately more metropolitan-area adolescent males under age 20 were sexually active in 1988 than in 1979, those who were active had fewer partners and less sexual activity, the study found.

Freya L. Sonenstein of the Urban Institute, Joseph H. Pleck of Wheaton College, and Leighton C. Ku of Boston University compared data from the 1979 National Survey of Young Men and the 1988 National Survey of Adolescent Males.

They found that the proportion of adolescent males who reported having had sexual intercourse at least once increased from 52 percent in 1979 to 60 percent in 1988. But the proportion of males who said they began having sex before their 15th birthdays dropped from 26 percent to 19 percent.

In addition, the researchers found, the 1988 respondents on average reported fewer sexual partners since their first intercourse, fewer partners within the past month, and fewer occurrences of intercourse within the past month.

Condom use among respondents was more than twice as common in 1988 as in 1979, the study found. The researchers attributed the increased use of condoms to concern about aids.

Half of the nation’s schools, students, and teachers are located within nine states, giving their governors the power to profoundly alter the course of American public education, concludes the Center for Demographic Policy at the Washington-based Institute for Educational Leadership.

In addition, these state officials may be influenced in their educational decisions by the fact that by the year 2010 almost half of the children within their borders will be nonwhite, the center suggests in its January newsletter.

The center said three of the nine largest states--California, Texas, and Florida--are growing rapidly, having experienced population increases of 18 percent or more between 1980 and 1988. During the same period, the center reports, New Jersey saw its population rise by 5 percent, while the populations of New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan grew only a little.

The methods used to interview children suspected of having been sexually abused should conform to the children’s preferred means of communicating, and interviewers should not assume that anatomically correct dolls are the best means of obtaining information about abuse, a new study suggests.

Bruce D. Forman, a psychologist at the University of Miami, and Claudia A. Edwards, a university student, showed 45 girls, age 9 and 10--none of whom had been abused--a 12-minute videotape commonly used to increase child awareness of sexual abuse. They then asked one group to verbally recall what they had seen, another to draw pictures, and the third to use dolls.

Although the children who used drawings or dolls were more accurate and thorough than the verbal group when asked to tell everything they remembered, the differences between the groups were not statistically significant.

Moreover, there were wide variations within each group, indicating that some children have a much easier time with a given method than others, the study found.

Householders who have attended college for at least one year are three times more likely than householders without college experience to spend money on tuition for elementary and secondary school, writes Judith Waldrop, a research editor, in the February issue of American Demographics.

Householders with college experience also are four times more likely to spend money on college tuition, she notes.

Analyzing data from the 1986 Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Ms. Waldrop found that householders with college experience spend an average of $540, or 1.9 percent of their total expenditures, on education each year. The average annual expenditure on education by those without college experience is $118, or 0.7 percent of total spending.--p.s.

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 1990 edition of Education Week as Research Column