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Academic performance according to the Cambridge University Reporter (2003) is frequently defined in terms of examination performance. Academic performance is characterized by performance in tests, in course works and performance in previous examinations.

Academic performance are standards of measuring general mental ability often referred to as scholastic aptitude, since they are based largely on definitions of intelligence tests, simple abstract reasoning and the ability to understand ideas and the relationship among them. In a rather more simplified way, academic performance implies a person’s achievement in learning, which takes place in a more or less controlled condition (Linn, Baker, & Betebenner, 2002). Academic performance is measured through a student’s past and present progress report. Numerous factors have been identified in various research studies to be responsible for the continuous declining of our educational system and the academic performance of students. Various factors such as classroom size, poor teacher-student ratio, inadequate instructional materials, attitude of teachers towards work and lack of seriousness in part of students (U. S. Department of Education, 1983).

According to the UCU prospectus, admission points are weights attached to the applicant’s past academic records and according to the Uganda Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions act (2001) there are three main entry schemes to higher education in Uganda, the direct entry (A’ level), the mature age entry scheme and diploma entry scheme. The admission points for this study were characterized by direct entry scheme (A’ level), diploma entry scheme and mature age scheme. Durden & Ellis (as cited in Staffolani and Bratti, 2002) observed that measures of prior educational performance are the most important determinants of student performance. This implies that the higher the previous performance, the better the students will perform academically.

Educationist all over the world recognize that the level of academic performance differs from one individual to another even when the individuals belong to the same class, are exposed to the same learning experiences in the same environment using the same materials. As a result, attempts have been made over time and space by psychologists, sociologists, educationist and all concerned with social and intellectual development of children to explain this phenomenon (Mayama, 2012; Lumuli, 2009).

Academic performance is affected by a number of factors including admission points, social economic status and school background. Geiser and Santelices (2007), Acato (2006), and Swart (1999) all argue that admission points which are a reflection of the previous performance influence future academic performance.

Despite the fact that the development of any nation depends largely on the quality of education of her citizen, the academic performance of most Nigerian youth in secondary schools is decreasing. This has become a major concern of education stake-holders and researchers. Imogie (2002) drew attention to the public outcries concerning the low quality of education in Nigeria. Ige (2007) confirmed that students who took the Senior School Certificate Examinations in Ekiti State performed poorly between 2005 and 2007.

Ugoji (2008) lamented that students’ academic performance is declining because they are confronted with so many school and nonschool related demands and responsibilities. Adeyemi in Abdu-Raheem (2010) agreed that the problem of students’ under-achievement has been an educational issue since the early 80s. Abdu-Raheem (2010) also confirmed through the data collected from Ekiti State Ministry of Education that only 26.9% of students that sat for Junior Secondary School Examinations for five academic sessions in Social Studies passed at credit level.

Hassan (1983) examined and listed the causes of poor academic performance among secondary school students. Some of the causes are low intellectual ability, poor study habits, low achievement motivation, lack of vocational goals, low self-confidence, low socioeconomic status of the family, poor family structure and anxiety. Different factors such as the child’s intelligence, state of health, motivation, anxiety, availability of suitable learning environment, adequacy of educational infrastructure, may influence students’ academic performance positively or negatively (Eweniyi 2005).

They identified low motivational orientation, low self-esteem/self-efficacy, emotional problems, poor study habits, poor teacher consultation and poor interpersonal relationships as some of the causes. Fayemi (2011) also highlighted inadequate funding, poor teaching methodology, infrastructural decay, low morale among the teachers, indiscipline among teachers and students as factors responsible for the students’ failure in national examinations. Adegbite (2014) noted that most Nigerian students at every level of education sponsor their education by engaging in various kinds of works like prostitution, keke driving, daily pay labourer, security guard, recharge card selling, fuel attendant and casual worker.

Female labour market participation has increased substantially in Nigeria and many countries of the world over the last few decades, especially mothers with young children. Belksy (1988) concluded that maternal employment during infancy had ill effects on children’s wellbeing. Specifically, he concluded that infants who were in non maternal   care for more than 20 hours per week were at elevated risk of being insecurely attached at age 1 and were more disobedient and aggressive between ages 3 and 8. However, his conclusions has been criticized on several counts, for example; it has been argued that the studies Belksy reviewed failed to take into account background variables that may have confounded with maternal employment  and children’s academic performance (Clarke-Stewart, 1989).

The past four decades has witnessed a significant rise in women’s employment, this shift has sparked a considerable academic debate regarding the consequences of maternal employment for families and especially for children (Jacobs and Gerson, 2004). Effective development of a child depends on the maternal care and support the child receives in the first three years of their development. Mothers of different occupational classes often have different styles of child rearing, different ways of disciplining their children and different ways of reacting to their children’s needs. These differences do not express themselves consistently as expected in the case of every family of the same socioeconomic status; rather they influence the average tendencies of families for different socioeconomic status (Rothesteen, 2004).

There are several tropical areas that are most commonly linked to academic performance including student role performance (SRP) factors. Student role performance is how well an individual fulfils the role of a student in an educational setting. Sex, race, school effort, extra-curricular activities, deviance and disabilities are all important influences on SRP and have been shown to affect test scores. School environment factors, such as school size, neighborhood, and relationships between teachers and students also influence test scores. Peer influences and peer conformity can lead to an individual participating in risk taking behaviours which have been found to have negative , indirect effect on test scores (Santos, Messervey and Kusumaker 2005)

The overall effect of maternal employment on children’s academic performance is not obvious, on one hand, children may benefit from higher levels of income as a result of maternal employment, and on the other hand, maternal employment reduces the period of time mothers spend with their children which is crucial to their academic performance. Hill et al. (2004) had also argued that socioeconomic status of parents do not affect the academic performance of their children, it makes possible for children from low socioeconomic background to compete favourably with their counterparts from high socioeconomic status background under the same academic environment.  Moreover, Smith, Fagan and Ulvund (2002) asserted that significant predictor of intellectual performance at the age of 8 years included parental socioeconomic status. Furthermore, other researchers had posited that parental socioeconomic status could affect school schedules (Guerin et al. 2001).

The role of a mother to a child at any given time cannot be overemphasized, the home is very germane and crucial to a child’s wellbeing and development in life. Family is the primary cell of the society where the child’s upbringing must begin since birth, still in cradle. According to Hugo, the person’s principles established since childhood are like letters engraved in the bark of a young tree, which grows, enlarge with it making its integral part. Therefore, right beginning marks the most important part of upbringing/education.

Nobody ever said that children are easy to raise, they don’t come with guidelines or instructions, and they certainly don’t come with a purse button. What they do come with is crucial set of physical and emotional needs that must be met. Failure of the mother to meet these specific needs can have wide-ranging and long lasting negative effects (Theisen, 2009). This is because mothers in the home are the children’s first teachers. As a child moves from infant to toddler and to preschooler, he learns how to speak, listen, write and read which later develops the child to achieve academically. Gadsden (2003) says greater maternal involvement at the early stage in children’s learning, positively affects the child’s school performance including academic achievement.

Hoffman (1963) found that children of working mothers appeared to be less assertive and less effective in peer interaction. These children help someone less in house hold chores than did the children of non-working mothers. Moore’s (1963) data indicate that children who had been left by their mothers from early infancy showed more dependent attachment to their parents than other children. They also exhibited symptoms of insecurity such as nail biting and bad dreams.

Maternal employment can have various effects, both positive and negative, on the cognitive development of children. Recent studies by Ruhm (2000) and Baydar and Gunn (1991) find that maternal employment has a negative effect on children’s cognitive development in the early years. Factors that may contribute to these negative effects are income effects, education levels of the parents, minority rates and other demographic variables such as divorce and living arrangements. The way in which these factors interact with maternal employment may be what is affecting cognitive development in children. In addition, the economic status of a family also seems to have an affect on child development. Studies conducted by Blau (1999) and Harvey (1999) focus on the various income effects on young children. These studies indicate that, by itself, income has positive affects on cognitive development in children. However, when interacting with maternal employment, there seem to be different outcomes. That is, maternal employment may have negative effects on children from high-income families, but positive effects children from low-income families.

How, you might ask can we talk about the neglect of children without mentioning their abandonment by mothers heading into the labour market? The answer is that it is not all clear that mothers work is a source of disadvantage for the children, at least not as a direct determinant. Recent reviews of studies of the effect working mothers on child academic performance find very few and inconsistent effects, far less clear cut than those associated with marital disruption (Preston 1984). A number of studies have used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to assess the effect of maternal employment on children’s cognitive abilities and behavioural adjustment. Maternal employment may have some negative effects when employment occur early in the first year of the child’s life ( Belksy & Eggebeen, 1991; Blau & Grossberg, 1990; Han, Waldfogel and Brooks-Gunn 2000).

Maternal employment and socioeconomic status are like backbone that provides financial and mental confidence in the students. Children whose mothers are working have extra money to spend on academic activities. Most academically good children are generally believed to be the children of parents with high socioeconomic status. Although recent research has shown that some children from low economic background sometimes perform equally well academically and sometimes even better. Mothers are the most immediate relation to the child, their financial status and education have an important influence on the personality of the child. Belonging to strong financial background, parents can provide latest technologies and facilities in the best possible way to enhance the educational capacity of their children. Danesty and Okediran (2012) lamented that maternal and paternal deprivation of the essential needs of the young students have prompted their poor performance in public and private examinations such as Junior Secondary School Certificate Examination (JSSCE), West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) and National Examination Council (NECO).

Socioeconomic status is an economic and sociological combined total measure of a person’s work experience and of an individual’s or family’s economic and social position relative to others, based on income and education, and occupation (Marmot, Michael, 2004) indicates When analyzing a family’s social economic status, the household income, earners’ education and occupation are examined, as well as combined income, versus with an individual, when their own attributes are assessed.

Social Economic Status (SES) according to Considine and Zappala (2002) is a person’s overall social position to which attainments in both the social and economic domain contribute. They add that social economic status is determined by an individual’s achievements in, education, employment, occupational status and income. In this study social economic status (SES) was characterized by family income, parental education and parental occupation. Graetz (1995) argues that children from high social economic status families perform much better at school compared to children from low SES families.


Mine (1968) found that the socioeconomic background of the child is related to high level of academic achievement. It was discovered that children from middle class families did better in school than children from working class families. This he attributed to the stimulating home environment which the children from the middle class had. Many other studies, (Ojo 1977; Young 1967) have shown that children whose parents are wealthy perform in most cases better than their counterparts from poor homes. According to Eze et al. (1990), this may be because the former has educational facilities at home. This has given way to speculations that a well balanced socioeconomic status will positively influence and accelerate the child’s overall performance. However, practical experiences have not always supported the above speculation. Some students from rich homes have been observed to perform badly in their academics while some students from poor homes have excelled in their academic activities. Within this framework therefore, it becomes pertinent to empirically test the role socioeconomic status plays in the academic performance of children.

Hill et al. (2004) argued that socioeconomic status of parents do not only affect the academic performance, but also makes it possible for children from low background to compete well their counterparts from high socio – economic background under the same academic environment. Moreover, Smith, Fagan and Ulvund (2002) had asserted that significant predicator of intellectual performance at age of 8 years included parental socio economic status (SES). In the same vein, other researchers had posited that parental SES could affect school children as to bring about flexibility to adjustment to the different school schedules (Guerin et al., 2001). In a previous local finding in Nigeria, Oni (2007) and Omoegun (2007) had averred that there is significant difference between the rates of deviant behaviour among students from high and low socio–economic statuses.

Asikhia (2010) agreed that the family educational background and socioeconomic status play pivotal roles in the learning process of the child. She stressed further that the child’s performance whether positive or negative could be attributed to the type of family such a child comes from. Ushie, Owolabi and Emeka (2012) confirmed that family type, size, socioeconomic status and educational background play an important role in children’s educational attainment and social integration. Uwaifo (2008) affirmed that family background of a child affects his reaction to life situations and his level of performance. Ndem and Adeyinka (2009) confirmed that parental support financially and morally have been found to be potent in improving student’s performance. Okoh (2010) opined that if the finances of students are not adequate, the situation may affect their academic performance.

The United States department of education (2000) discovered that the relationship between poverty of parents and students performance is not simple and direct. It confirmed that poverty is an important factor accounting for the differences in performance and achievement across rural, suburban and urban areas. Pettit (2004) attested that the status of parents does not only affect the academic performance of their children, but also make it impossible for children from low socioeconomic status background to compete well with their counterparts from high socioeconomic background under the same environment. Hess (1970) opined that while children with affluent parents may be more confident, those of poorer parents are likely to be wiser, this eventually strikes a balance between the children from high socioeconomic background  and those from low socioeconomic background thereby cancelling wealth as an essential variable in self concept development and academic performance. Families are the bedrock of the society, when mothers abdicate their traditional roles as primary caregivers of the child, the family fall apart and the society at large falls into social and cultural decline.

According to Graetz (1995), one’s educational success depends very strongly on social economic status of the parents. Considine and Zappala (2002) argue that families where the parents are advantaged socially, educationally and economically foster a high level of achievement in their children. The researcher agrees with Considine and Zappala (2002) because students from high social economic backgrounds are well exposed to scholastic materials, which aid their intelligence. Sentamu (2003), Kwesiga (2002) and Portes and Macleod (1996) as cited in Considine and Zappala (2002) all argue that the type of school a child attends influences academic achievement. According to Minnesota measures (2007), a report on higher education performance, which was produced by the University of Minnesota, the most reliable predictor of student success in college is the academic preparation of students in high school.

Children from high socioeconomic back ground are prone to perform better than those from low socioeconomic status homes. The major reason is that they are already in an environment that supports academic learning, children from low socioeconomic background may be expected to help their parents in their petty businesses thereby limiting the time they spend studying. No wonder then that Sears (1940) declared that children with a background of success set themselves realistic levels of aspirations. But conversely, some parents with low socioeconomic status strive to give their children the best education they can in which they had hitherto not received themselves. Such children, perceiving the awareness, set themselves realistic goals and become more serious in school work than those from high socioeconomic status homes.

Harderves (1998) reviews that those families whose children are doing well in school exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Establish a daily routine by providing time and a quite place to study with the children and assigning responsibilities for house hold chores.
  • Monitor out of school activities of their children, for example, setting limits on television watching, reduce time of playing, monitor the group of friends the pupils walk with, etc.
  • Encourage children’s development and progress in school, which is, maintaining a warm and supportive home showing interest in children’s progress at school, helping him or her with homework, discussing the value of a good education and future career with the children.


With the emergence of new economic pattern, increased opportunities for education, rising standards of living and increased modernization, women from middle and upper class families have also started coming out of the traditional role of a home maker to join the workforce. This trend has affected the society both positively and negatively. This study seeks to find answers to the following questions:

  1. Do children whose mothers work differ significantly academically from children with non-working mothers?
  2. Does the economic status of the parents affect the academic performance of their children?


This study is being undertaken with the aim of achieving the following objectives;

  1. To find out the roles maternal employment plays in the academic performance of their children.
  2. To determine the impact of socioeconomic status of parents on children’s academic performance.



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