Socioeconomic status and school grades: Placing their association in broader context in a sample of biological and adoptive families

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SES has long interested researchers investigating school achievement. Its effects are often addressed by studying predictors of achievement in economically disadvantaged samples living primarily in biological families, confounding genetic and environmental influences. Little is known about SES's purely environmental effects. We measured them in 617 adoptive and biological families, adjusting for sample restriction of SES range. Controlling for gender, parenting, parental expectations for educational attainment (PEEA), IQ, engagement in school, and genetic and shared environmental influences on sibling pairs, SES still made a small but significant nonshared environmental contribution to school grades. IQ, PEEA, and SES had collinear associations with school grades, as did engagement and parenting. The associations of IQ and engagement with school grades were largely independent of each other. The link between PEEA and IQ was stronger in adoptive than biological offspring. We discuss the implications of these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)526-541
Number of pages16
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by US Public Health Service Grants #AA11186 and MH 66140 to Matt McGue and William G. Iacono. Wendy Johnson was also supported by a University of Minnesota doctoral dissertation fellowship. We thank the siblings and their families for their participation and the recruiting, interviewing, data management, and lab staffs of the Minnesota Twin Family Study for their work in gathering and compiling the data.


  • Adoption study
  • Gender differences
  • Parent expectations
  • Parenting
  • Restriction of range
  • School engagement
  • School grades
  • Socioeconomic status


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