This is the most comprehensive review of evidence on the link between attitudes, aspirations and behaviours on the one hand, and educational outcomes on the other. Based on a synthesis of over 166,000 research reports, the results are surprising. There is no evidence of a causal link from the attitudes or aspirations of young people and their parents to educational outcomes for young people. Policies based on enhancing motivation, self-efficacy and self-esteem may be ineffective or worse in raising attainment or widening participation. Instead the international evidence suggests that parental involvement in their children's education is the key to enhanced success, and to ethical and cost-effective ways of improving results for disadvantaged families.