Chinese Adolescents’ Educational Utility Value and Perceived Difficulty: The Role of Socioeconomic Status and Parenting factors

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In the exploration of the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and parenting factors with educational motivations across diverse subjects and regions, mixed findings have emerged. Educational utility value (UV) and perceived difficulty (PD) across various subjects, as key education motivation outcomes, have been insufficiently addressed in their connections with SES and parenting factors in empirical studies. Inspired the situated expectancy-value theory, this study examined the role of socioeconomic status (SES) and parenting factors on Chinese adolescent’s utility value (UV) and perceived difficulty (PD) on the three main subjects, Mathematics, Chinese and English, during the first year of their secondary education. Employing data from the nationally representative China Education Panel Survey (CEPS), our analysis reveals a generally high UV across subjects within the sampled cohort. Notably, higher SES in the family is related to a lower probability of PD in all subjects, while predicts higher probability of strong UV in English studying. In terms of parenting factors, greater level parental control and warmth are associated with higher probability of students attributing strong UV in all subjects. Moreover, adolescents exhibit a greater probability of possessing enhanced English UV when they spend more time with their parents. Higher levels of parental control predict more likelihood of PD in mathematics, whereas increased parental warmth and time spent with children correlate with a greater probability of perceiving Chinese and English as not difficult. Importantly, parental warmth partly mediated all SES-UV and SES-PD relationship, empirically supporting SES-parenting factors-motivation theoretical association in the situated expectancy-value theoretical framework. However, weak model fits are found in these significant relationships, suggesting that SES and parenting factors elucidate only a modest proportion of variability in these outcomes.