• Vol. 36 No. 9, 735–742
  • 15 September 2007

The Association Between Parental Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Medical Students’ Personal and Professional Development



Introduction: In order to commit to their mission and placement requirements, medical education policy-makers are required to understand the background and character of students in order to admit, cultivate and support them efficiently and effectively. Materials and Methods: This study sample consisted of 408 homogeneous medical students with the same level of education, occupation, school and societal environment. They differed mainly in their family background. Therefore, this study used part of a multidimensional “student portfolio system” database to assess the correlation between family status (indexed by parental education and occupation) and medical students’ mental health status and characters. The controls were a group of 181 non-medical students in another university. Results: The parents of the medical students were from a higher socioeconomic status (SES) than the parents of those in the control group. This showed the heritability of genetic and environment conditions as well as the socioeconomic forces at play in medical education. Students’ personal and professional development were associated with their parents’ SES. The mother’s SES was associated with the student’s selfreported stress, mental disturbances, attitude towards life, personality, health, discipline, internationalisation and professionalism. The fathers’ SES did not show a statistically significant association with the above stress, physical and mental health factors, but showed an association with some of the personality factors. The greater the educational difference between both parents, the more stress, hopelessness and pessimism the student manifested. Conclusions: Medical educators need to be aware that socioeconomic factors have meaningful patterns of association with students’ mental and physical health, and their characters relating to personal and professional development. Low maternal SES negatively influences medical students’ personal and professional development, suggesting that medical education policy-makers need to initiate support mechanisms for those with latent vulnerability.

In order to commit to their mission and placement requirement efficiently and effectively, policy-makers need to decide which types of students their training units should recruit, what type of curriculum they should design and what kinds of support mechanisms they should implement.

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