BYU Salt Lake Center American Heritage professor Joan Shrum describes family background, intelligence, education and other factors as important indicators of one’s ability to attain economic status.
Some students are surprised to hear the first item, family background, as the most influential driving force behind economic status. Some may jump to the conclusion that it is because wealth is handed down from one generation to the next, but perhaps parents hand down more than just wealth.
Several students reported that their study habits, academic discipline and work ethic have all been influenced by their parents.
“My dad went to Harvard,” said English major Nick Hardy. “I’ve seen how hard my dad works, and it has definitely influenced me to get good grades. My dad created his own opportunities when he finished college, and I want to be able to do the same thing for myself.”
Some students share Hardy’s mentality while others have taken a different approach.
“Honestly, I can’t really say I study to learn; I study to get good grades,” said public health major Aj Gubernick. “My parents were always happy when I got good grades, but I can’t say that they motivated me to learn as much or get as much out of my education as I possibly could, if that makes sense.”
According to one of the Marriott school’s academic advisors, Laura Pingree, many students, independent of economic background, tend to have the same attitudes about studying and academic achievement as their parents.
“Often, the students I advise have goals that are very influenced by the paths of their parents,” Pingree said. “Students have grown up watching their parents work in a certain industry, make a certain amount of money and, in other ways, been indirectly influenced by the choices of their parents.”
It’s not always that students take after their parents’ study habits and work ethic because they want the same success as their parents; rather, students operate under the mindset that the way their parents studied and worked is the way they should also.
“More times than not, students see their parents’ path as a standard or a precedent for success,” Pingree said. “They see their parents as icons and respond by following in similar paths and by setting similar goals.”
The idea that parents influence their children’s study habits, academic discipline and work ethic is universal and goes beyond cultural boundaries.
“Doing well in school means making my parents happy,” said Chinese visa student Kevin Bai. “Even in 7th grade I would go away to boarding school and wouldn’t come home until the weekends, and even then sometimes I wouldn’t see my parents because they were on trips. I have sacrificed a lot to come to school.”