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Introduction

Family is an important organ in any given society. It usually determines the kind of a person that one will be in future. Family can shape an individual either in a positive or in a negative way. The behavior of many individuals in life can be said to have originated from the family settings that they were brought up in. Human beings are social animals; thus, they tend to interact with the environment around them in a great way. This interaction should be managed with an objective of ensuring that what one ‘consumes’ from the environment has a positive impact on individual’s life in the long run. Psychologist are of the view that individual’s life is shaped at the age of one to ten years; therefore, it is very important for parents to ensure that they regulate the kind of environment that their children interact with in their childhood.

Education psychology scholars have invested most of their resources in terms of money and time to understand how the environment affects a student’s class performance. This paper analyses the findings of these scholars about the family influence on the life of a student in class. Therefore, this paper intends to answer the following questions in relation to educational psychology: a) How can family wrangles affect one’s performance in class? b) How can a student manage family matters, such as divorce, without letting them affect his/ her class performance? c) What motivational factors can be put in place by parents to help their children improve their performance in class?

This paper, therefore, seeks to make a deeper analysis of the family related issues and the performance of a student in class. It will seek to relate this issues on how they influence the psychology of a child in terms of development and growth socially, economically, spiritually and politically.

Research Methodology

The research on our subject of interest was carried out through collection of data in the field. The field data collection was carried out using observation method. The field study involved ten different schools with students from different backgrounds in terms of financial ability and cultural practices among other factors. The researchers observed the performance of various students in these schools who were subjected to different psychological settings. The students were from the financially able families as well as from poor families; some of them were exposed to the friendly family environment, while others had to live in cruel family setting. The performance of the students was observed in terms of their participation in the teaching process and their average mark at the end of term exam. In addition, the data for the study was also collected from secondary sources. The data was collected from the case studies of earlier researches carried out on the subject of our study.

Literature Review

When any given student goes into the classroom, she/he is not always alone, but he/she tends to bring his/her family with him, despite the normality or abnormality of the family according to the school’s standards (Couchenour & Chrisman, 1999). It is, thus, crucial for those living and working with the student to understand his/her family circumstances. Studies show that when a family is involved in the student’s school activities, the performance of the student in question tend to be good ( Ballen & Molles,1994). This realization has led to implementation of school programs that allow family participation in school activities with an aim of improving the performance of students (Columbia Teacher’s College, 1995).

Webster’s new world college dictionary (19970) defines a traditional family as “all those people living in a given household.” Unlike the traditional families, the families of the current age do not only consist of biological children and their parents, where mother stays at home to raise children and father goes to work in order to provide for his family. It is hard for this kind of family to exist in the current age (McCarthy, 1992). Things have changed as siblings have been left to the care of their fellow siblings after the death of their parents and children are being raised by single parent after their parents’ divorce.

All the mentioned above factors must be taken into consideration when teaching a student and interacting with his/her family. In addition, some important questions must be considered, which earlier were not given much consideration, such as who is to be called for parents’ conference and who is supposed to sign student’s report card? Things are made worse in situation where the student’s custody is being shared. Some students in high school are married and therefore, they live independently from their guardians. Who is supposed to write absentee excuses? This question may seem to be weightless at the first glance, but clear policies should be put in place at the beginning of every school year to address issues that may arise from such kind of situations.

Schools in today’s society consist of children from different cultural backgrounds (Burnnet, 1994). These different cultural settings bring with them diverse ideas and attitudes to the family and education. If teachers are not able to understand and take into account these cultural differences, they may act as barriers to learning activities in schools. This may result into creation of family as well as learning difficulties instead of advocating for learning and family involvement in school activities. The only way out of this situation is educating families in manners that are non-confrontational, with an aim of making them school allies rather than enemies. It is only by reaching mutual understanding ground and tolerance of various cultures different from our own that we can successfully manage to educate our children.

Findings

The data that was collected from the four different settings of our study clearly shows that there is need for family to be integrated in school activities in order to make the performance of a given student better. Our research revealed that those students from rich and friendly families tend to be good in class activities. On the other hand, students from poor and hostile families tend to perform poorly in class work. These different outcomes can be attributed to the psychological environment that students are exposed to outside school. Those students who come from families who take interest in their studies are motivated to work harder, which results in better performance. Motivation is crucial in the success of any given student performance as it is a sign of appreciation of work well done.

Those students who are subjected to harsh and hostile psychological environment tend to be withdrawn in classroom; this results into poor performance. Case studies revealed that in order to teach successfully as a teacher, one has to understand the cultural background of the students. Policies and measures should be taken to ensure that different cultural settings among the students are integrated for the purpose of ensuring learning activities in the school are not affected negatively. The different family structures also have an impact on student’s performance. These structures in today’s society include: single parenthood, community families, and sibling families. They all have to be taken into consideration in the determination of how to improve the performance of students.

From the data collected, it is very clear that family has a direct impact on the performance of a student. Thus, there is a need for school administrations to come up with measures that would encourage family participation in school activities. This can be achieved through organization of academic clinics where parents would discuss issues that are affecting student’s performance together with the students as well as with their teachers. It is also very important for school administration to put in place measures that would encourage cultural differences tolerance and understanding with an aim of preventing the negative effects of cultural discrepancies on school performance.

Conclusion

Thus, based on the data that was collected from this research, the following recommendations were developed that can be used to manage family influence on students’ performance:

(i)   Family should be encouraged to involve themselves in school activities as it results into better performance of the students.

(ii) Cultural differences should be managed since they should act as motivation to student to perform better rather than create disunity in school, which will in turn have a negative impact on the performance in the school.

(iii) Every teacher should understand the kind of family setting that his/her student comes from in order to successfully integrate this knowledge into the learning process.

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