Can parental abilities explain the comorbidity between reading and arithmetic?

Can parental abilities explain the comorbidity between reading and arithmetic?

First Author: Peter F. de Jong -- University of Amsterdam
Additional authors/chairs: 
Elsje van Bergen
Keywords: Familial Risk, Intergenerational, Comorbidity, Reading Ability, Mathematics
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Individual differences in word reading and mathematics are related and problems in word reading are often comorbid with problems in math. According to the multiple deficit model such comorbidity is the result of common risk factors. Family-risk studies have shown that having a parent with reading or math difficulties increases the risk in their offspring. In this study we examined the effects of reading and math skills of both parents on these same skills in their children. We took a dimensional approach and asked specifically whether the common effects of fathers’ and mothers’ reading and math skills can explain the relationship between reading and math in their offspring.

Method: Participants were 341 children (Grade 2-9) from 215 families. The same tests for word reading and calculation fluency were administered to fathers, mothers and children. Parents also provided self-reports of their reading and math ability.

Results: Preliminary analyses showed that parents’ reading fluency had an effect on children’s reading and math fluency. Math fluency of fathers did not have any effect on their offspring, whereas mother’s math fluency had a specific effect on children’s math fluency. The results on parental tests and self-reports were similar.

Conclusion: Parental reading skills have effects on both the reading and the math abilities of their children. The reading skills of fathers and mothers can thereby regarded as common risk factors that can partly explain the association between reading and arithmetic. In contrast, the effects of parents’ math ability are small and specific.