School climate, family structure, and academic achievement: A study of moderation effects

Meagan O'Malley, Adam Voight, Tyler L. Renshaw, Katie Eklund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


School climate has been lauded for its relationship to a host of desirable academic, behavioral, and social- emotional outcomes for youth. The present study tested the hypothesis that school climate counteracts youths' home-school risk by examining the moderating effects of students' school climate perceptions on the relationship between family structure (i.e., two-parent, one-parent, foster-care, and homeless households), and academic performance (i.e., self-reported [grade point average] GPA). The present sample consisted of 902 California public high schools, including responses from over 490,000 students in Grades 9 and 11. Results indicated that, regardless of family structure, students with more positive school climate perceptions self-reported higher GPAs. Youths with two-parent, one-parent, and homeless family structures displayed stepwise, linear improvements in self-reported GPA as perceptions of climate improved. Foster-care students' positive school climate perceptions had a weaker effect on their self-reported GPA compared with students living in other family structures. A unique curvilinear trend was found for homeless students, as the relationship between their school climate perceptions and self-reported GPA was stronger at lower levels. Overall, the moderation effect of positive school climate perceptions on self-reported GPA was strongest for homeless youth and youth from one-parent homes, suggesting that school climate has a protective effect for students living in these family structures. A protective effect was not found for youth in foster-care. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)142-157
Number of pages16
JournalSchool Psychology Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Academic achievement
  • Family structure
  • Foster care
  • Homeless
  • School climate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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