Could teacher-perceived parental interest be an important factor in understanding how education relates to later physiological health? A life course approach

PLoS One. 2021 Jun 17;16(6):e0252518. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0252518. eCollection 2021.


Education is associated with later health, and notably with an indicator of physiological health measuring the cost of adapting to stressful conditions, named allostatic load. Education is itself the result of a number of upstream variables. We examined the origins of educational attainment through the lens of interactions between families and school i.e. parents' interest in their child's education as perceived by teachers. This study aims to examine whether parental interest during a child's educational trajectory is associated with subsequent allostatic load, and whether education or other pathways mediate this relationship. We used data from 9 377 women and men born in 1958 in Great Britain and included in the National Child Development Study to conduct secondary data analyses. Parental interest was measured from questionnaire responses by teachers collected at age 7, 11 and 16. Allostatic load was defined using 14 biomarkers assayed in blood from a biosample collected at 44 years of age. Linear regression analyses were carried out on a sample of 8 113 participants with complete data for allostatic load, missing data were imputed. Participants whose parents were considered to be uninterested in their education by their teacher had a higher allostatic load on average in midlife in both men (β = 0,41 [0,29; 0,54]) and women (β = 0,69 [0,54; 0,83]). We examined the role of the educational and other pathways including psychosocial, material/financial, and behavioral variables, as potential mediators in the relationship between parental interest and allostatic load. The direct link between parental interest and allostatic load was completely mediated in men, but only partially mediated in women. This work provides evidence that parents' interest in their child's education as perceived by teachers is associated with subsequent physiological health in mid-life and may highlight a form of cultural dissonance between family and educational spheres.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allostasis / physiology*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Biomarkers

Grant support

MKI received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. [856478]). CJ received funding from the Institut National du Cancer & the Institut de recherche en santé publique is (grant No. INCA-CA-2019-204).