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Ditton, Hartmut; Bayer, Michael; Wohlkinger, Florian (September 2019): Structural and motivational mechanisms of academic achievement. A mediation model of social-background effects on academic achievement. In: British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 70, No. 4: pp. 1276-1296
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This paper takes up ongoing discussions on the inequality of educational opportunities and formulates a conceptual model to link separate lines of research. Our particular focus is on combining motivational and structural approaches into a mediation model that explains differences in academic achievement. In the literature, four main mechanisms of social reproduction are discussed. Two main pathways refer to (1) parents’ expectations regarding their children’s academic success and (2) replicating cultural capital through intra-familial cultural practices. (3) Parents’ perception of children’s abilities depends on social position and is influential for expectations of success. (4) For all three pathways, we expect effects on students’ motivational characteristics, which in turn influence academic achievement. We test our conceptual model by structural equation modelling using longitudinal data from primary school students in Germany. Empirical evidence is in line with the assumptions in the model. Cultural reproduction and expectations of success can be seen as the key components of the model. However, both chains of reproduction are related to each other by parents’ perception of child’s ability, and their effects are mediated by child’s motivational characteristics.