How has the relationship between parental education and child outcomes changed in Australia since the 1980s?
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This paper examines how the relationship between parents’ educational achievement (a marker of their socio‑economic status) and children’s early developmental outcomes has evolved in Australia since the early 1980s. The specific focus of this paper is whether the gradient in children’s early developmental outcomes by parents’ education has changed since the 1980s. A comparative analysis of two surveys is undertaken that follows Australian cohorts of children through their early years – the Australian Temperament Project (following children born in Victoria in the early 1980s) and the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (following a representative sample of children born in Australia in 1999). The analysis shows that the relationship between parental education and children’s early developmental outcomes does not in general appear to have changed greatly over the years. The gradient associated with behaviour difficulties, persistence in behaviour difficulties over time, and in reading skills has either remained the same or strengthened somewhat, while the gradient associated with social skills has weakened. The paper concludes with a discussion of issues that might explain these trends.