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"The Effect of Family Factors on a Student’s Grit" by Sydney Grandison

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

The Effect of Family Factors on a Student’s Grit

Sydney Grandison, Dominican University New York


Abstract: Research on the effect of parenting styles on a child’s education and career choices has shown that a more involved and emotionally supportive parent tends to result in children with higher grades. Some researchers have argued that this type of parenting style increases a child’s “grit.” Grit is a positive personality trait distinguished by perseverance and passion for achieving long-term goals. Research about grit and parenting style has focused on the role of gender, the difference between how mothers and fathers treat each child. However, no study has investigated whether a traditional household structure (mother and father) or a non-traditional household structure (other arrangements) affects grit. This study aimed to examine if parenting styles (permissive, authoritative, and authoritarian) and family factors, such as household type, influenced grit. The results from using the Parental Authority Questionnaire and the Grit-O scale showed that none of these factors had any significant impact on grit.


 

An individual with grit strives to overcome challenges, maintaining effort and interest over the course of many years despite failure and adversity. Grit is defined as the perseverance and passion for achieving long-term goals despite setbacks, difficulties, and plateaus in progress (Duckworth et. al, 2007). A person's grit is essential to accomplish a task when there is a strong temptation to give up while undertaking an incredibly difficult task. Grit is a key factor in achieving success, and it is something that can be developed and nurtured. Developing grit requires practice and a willingness to push through difficult moments. Having a growth mindset is essential for developing grit and staying motivated to achieve goals. Fernández et. al (2022) investigated the impact of parenting behaviors on grit sustainability. Finding that behaviors linked to warm and supportive parenting showed a positive relationship with the child’s grit, Fernández et. al (2022) inferred that the child would have long-term success maintaining high levels of grit. The researchers also inferred that parenting behaviors linked to psychological control would potentially cause long-term problems in the effectiveness and sustainability of grit building in children.


A number of researchers have argued that a parenting style that emphasizes parental involvement in a child's life and emotional support is associated with a higher level of “grit” in children (Dunn, 2018, Fernández et al., 2022, Mushtaq et al., 2019, Yang, 2021). According to Baumrind's (1971) parental authority prototypes, this emotionally supportive nature is also parallel to authoritative and permissive parenting styles. In Baumrind's (1971) model of parental authority, there are three types of parenting styles: permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative. These parenting styles are characterized by specific parenting behaviors. Parents who practice authoritative parenting are nurturing, responsive, and supportive of their children, yet they set firm boundaries for them. Rules are explained, discussions are held, and reasoning is used to control children's behavior. A child's viewpoint is often heard, but not always accepted. In the permissive parent's perspective, a child should be allowed to be true to his or her nature and should not be limited by others. A permissive parent does not demand anything from their children. A child has few responsibilities and can regulate most of their behavior and choices. An authoritarian parent is not responsive to the emotional needs of their child. Authoritarian parenting is characterized by its extreme strictness. It demands a lot of children without providing them with a lot of support. Rather than nurturing a child, an authoritarian parent focuses more on obedience, discipline, and control.


Research conducted by Dunn (2018) examined the relationship between parenting styles and students' grit, using a questionnaire that included questions about the participants' gender. The study found that females exhibited a higher level of grit when compared to males. Lan and Wang (2020) investigated the relationships between problematic internet use, parental attachment, and grit. The attachment a child has to both mother and father making the child feel safe, secure, and protected are important deterrent factors against addiction to internet use. When a child has a higher level of grit, they will have a lower affinity for problematic internet use (PIU) and vice versa. “In general, PIU is defined as a maladaptive behavior characterized by an insatiable desire for Internet use, which results in significant distress or impairment as a result of the behavior. As youths rapidly adopt new technologies but have relatively immature cognitive control abilities, there is an increased risk of developing PIU during adolescence. As a result, adolescents' daily lives may be disrupted by the onset of PIU, resulting in a wealth of psychosocial problems as well as underachievement at school.” (Lan & Wang, 2020). PIU is defined as a serious public health concern among Chinese adolescents when concerning the increase of internet addiction and the decrease of grit in schoolwork. There was evidence that increased levels of grit buffered against boys' PIU under paternal attachment security conditions and girls' PIU under paternal attachment insecurity conditions. “Adolescents with attachment security have an internal working model in which they view themselves as deserving of love and support, and others as reliable and responsive. As a result, the sensitive and responsive care provided by attachment figures to adolescents may reduce adolescent psychological distress and reduce the possibility of adolescents developing PIU. The risk of PIU in adolescents is associated with attachment insecurity.” (Lan and Wang, 2020). Adolescents who experience parental attachment insecurity are more likely to use the Internet excessively in order to seek comfort and belonging. Steele and Levy (2011) examined the links between grit and attachment styles. The key questions the authors addressed were: Do adults with positive memories of their childhood relationships with parents have higher grit scores? Do individuals with adult romantic relationships characterized by less anxiety, less avoidance, and more security have higher grit scores? The main hypotheses or predictions of the study were that adults with positive memories of their childhood relationships with parents and secure adult attachment styles will have higher grit scores. Steele and Levy (2011) conclude that individuals reporting lower avoidance and lower anxiety in current adult relationships and higher care experiences in past childhood relationships with mother and father score higher on grit scales. The limitation of the study is that the results of the questions asked are based on the person’s perception of current and past attachments to parents and in adult relationships. Steele and Levy’s (2011) research suggests that a parenting style that provides structure and guidance while also holding the child’s emotional needs in high regard would have the most positive impact on grit. While the bulk of the literature focuses on gender and parenting style in relation to grit, very few studies have focused on family structure in relation to grit. This study aims to investigate the relationships between parenting style, family structure, and gender, and their impact on grit. It also is designed to assess the hypothesis that an authoritative parenting style will produce higher levels of grit in students and that family structure will have little to no effect on grit.


Methods


The purpose of this study was to investigate whether factors such as parenting style, family structure, and gender cause higher levels of grit among the participants. Family structure was characterized by the participants' self-reporting of parental involvement and the relationship status between the participant’s parents. The participants attested to their parent’s involvement in their childhood by identifying whether they were raised by both parents or a single parent. Participants also clarified whether their parents were together or separated to testify to the relationship status between their parents. The parent’s relationship status was classified as either a single-parent family, a family headed by two partners, either married or unmarried, or a two-parent family where the parents were separated or divorced.


Participants


Students studying psychology at Dominican University New York, specifically those taking general psychology courses, were the sample group for this study. At the end of the fall semester in December 2022, all participants were surveyed through Dominican University’s online SONA system, which manages the student pool of test subjects. Studies are posted to the SONA system, and participants can log in to learn more about current studies and sign up to participate in the ones they find interesting. Participants were informed that they would be giving implied consent when agreeing to do the survey.


Instruments


Demographic questions (gender, age, parental involvement, and parent relationship status), the Grit-O Scale, and the modified Parental Authority Questionnaire (PAQ) were completed by participants. The Grit-O Scale used a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (not at all like me) to 5 (extremely like me). The modified parental authority questionnaire used a series of binary questions/closed questions (Appendix B).


The Grit-O Scale


The Grit-O scale consists of 12 items (Duckworth et al., 2007) that form three subscales: perseverance of effort, consistency of interest, and adaptability to situations. Perseverance of effort (four items) measures the degree to which an individual persists in accomplishing tasks (e.g., “I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge”). Consistency of interests (four items) measures the degree to which an individual persists in pursuing interests (e.g., “New ideas and new projects sometimes distract me from previous ones”). Adaptability to situations (four items) measures the degree to which an individual's ability to adjust effectively to changing circumstances in life (e.g., “I am able to cope with the changing circumstances in life”). In this scale, some of the statements are reverse coded. The reverse coding of survey items refers to the rephrasing of a “positive” item in a “negative” manner. The purpose of this method is to determine if respondents provide consistent responses.


Modified Parental Authority Questionnaire


The Parental Authority Questionnaire (PAQ) has been widely used in various contexts and with a variety of participants. PAQ was developed to measure Baumrind's (1971) permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative parental authority prototypes. The PAQ consists of 30 items per parent and yields permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative scores for both the mother and the father; each of these scores is derived from the lived experience evaluation of the parent's authority by their child (Buri, 1991). “Authoritarian” (ten items) assesses whether the individual believes their parent(s) exhibits behaviors consistent with the characteristics of an authoritarian (e.g., “My parental figure has always felt that most problems in society would be solved if we could get parents to strictly and forcibly deal with their children when they don't do what they are supposed to as they are growing up.”). “Authoritative” (ten items) determines whether the individual believes their parent(s) behave in a manner consistent with the characteristics of an authoritative parent (e.g., “My parental figure gave me direction for my behavior and activities as I was growing up and they expected me to follow their direction, but they were always willing to listen to my concerns and discuss that direction with me”). “Permissive” (ten items) identifies whether the individual believes that their parent(s) exhibits permissive behaviors (e.g., “As I was growing up my parental figure allowed me to form my own point of view on family matters and they generally allowed me to decide for myself what I was going to do”).


Proposed causal model and data analysis


Based on the literature review, the present study proposed a causal relationship

between grit as the dependent variable and gender, parenting style, and two of the family structure variables (i.e., the participants' self-reports regarding parental involvement in their childhood and the relationship status of parents) as independent variables. T-tests and ANOVAs were used to examine the relationships among variables.


Results


An ANOVA was used to examine the mean differences in Grit-O scores among the three groups of self-reported information. Previous studies report that female participants average higher grit scores than male participants (Dunn, 2018), and that participants raised by authoritative parents tend to have higher grit scores than participants raised by the other two parenting styles (Dunn, 2018, Fernández et al., 2022, Mushtaq et al., 2019, Yang, 2021). These results were not replicated in this study.


Based on the grit scores of both males and females, an ANOVA was conducted. The average grit scores of the female participants were 3.32, while the average grit scores of the male participants were 3.42. There was no significant difference between the grit scores of males and females. This study also examined the grit scores of the participants based on family structure. The average grit score of participants raised by both mother and father within the same household was 3.40. Participants raised by divorced/separated parents achieved an average grit score of 3.31. Participants raised by a single parent achieved an average grit score of 3.24. This study found that the grit scores based on the participants' family structures did not differ significantly. An ANOVA showed that family style did not have a significant impact on grit scores (P=0.69).


The participants were often raised by parents with different parenting styles, so the grit scores between the parenting styles were assessed for the fathers and mothers of the participants separately. Based on the mother’s parenting style, the authoritarian mother had an average grit score of 3.25, the authoritative mother had an average grit score of 3.47, and the permissive mother had an average grit score of 3.36. An ANOVA was used to compare grit scores based on the mother’s parenting style and showed no significant difference (P=0.38). The grit scores of the three parenting styles based on the fathers of the participants were also analyzed using an ANOVA. Based on the father’s parenting style, the authoritarian father had an average grit score of 3.30, the authoritative father had an average grit score of 3.40, and the permissive father had an average grit score of 3.33. Results indicate that the parenting styles of the participants' fathers did not significantly affect their children's grit (P=0.86).


Discussion


There were no significant differences in grit scores between the participants, regardless of their gender, family relations, or parenting style of either their mother or father. However, the grit scores for the participants raised in single-parent households had a slightly lower average grit score than the scores produced by the two other types of families. Although the difference between the average grit scores of the three family types was not statistically significant, it should be noted that the sample size for the participants raised by a single parent was small, consisting of only six participants. There is a contradiction between the finding of this study and what has been demonstrated in previous studies. Many of these studies (Fernández et al., 2022, Lan & Wang, 2020, Lin & Chang, 2017, Mushtaq et al., 2019, Yang, 2021) were conducted in foreign countries, which may suggest that factors. such as cultural and social differences may play a role. These factors were not included in the present study.


Cultural implications


Grit may be affected by cultural factors and sociocultural context. Several studies analyzing grit in their participants were (Lan & Wang, 2020, Lin & Chang, 2017, Mushtaq et al., 2019, Yang, 2021) conducted in Asian countries which point to the cultural emphasis on discipline, work commitment, academic achievement, the balance of individual and societal needs, and deference to authority. In Asian cultures, authority deference is highly valued, so demanding parenting styles may also be more highly valued. Values regarding success and perseverance in achieving long-term goals may differ depending on the culture. According to Mendez (2015), “cultural values embedded in society and the family context provide children and adolescents with interests, habits, and personality traits such as perseverance, responsibility, independence, and hard work” (as cited in Lin & Chang, 2017, p. 2199).


Social factors


Social factors may also have played a confounding role in the present study. The current study’s participants were adults with an average age of 19.50, so parental influence remains prevalent. Parental control tends to be more significant in the adolescent and pre-adolescent periods. According to Albert et al., (2013), peers have a significant impact on an individual during adolescence. Since many of our participants are exiting adolescence and entering adulthood, their passion for attaining their goals might also reflect that of their peers. Vaterlaus et al. (2015) point to the increased influence of social media on the behaviors of young adults as well. In addition to parents, there may be other influences that contribute to grit.


This study sought to determine whether parenting style and the household environment affected grit, but coaches, teachers, and mentors may also influence grit. These other influences, however, were not accounted for in the study. Forty-nine of the fifty-five participants were raised by both parents. It should be noted that fifteen of the participants who were raised by both parents had divorced parents. The remaining six participants were raised by a single parent. According to the United States Census Bureau (2023), 23% of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with a single parent, which represents nearly a quarter of all children under 18. In future studies, it is recommended that a more diverse group of participants be recruited in order to represent the group of individuals raised by a single parent.


Limitations and future directions


Future studies should increase the number of questions regarding participants’ family structure. The participants were asked which parents raised them and whether or not they were separated in order to determine whether they were raised in a two-parent household. As a result of this line of questioning, uncertainty was raised, in particular when many of the participants raised by both parents reported that their parents had different parenting styles. Future studies might ask participants which parent played a primary role in raising them (if applicable), and when parents separated in order to determine which parental authority had the greatest impact.


Earlier, it was stated that the research done in preparation for the examination consisted mostly of studies conducted on participants raised in Eastern cultures, which are motivated by parental obedience, whereas Western cultures tend to believe that this will negatively impact their child's development. It would be beneficial to study how different parenting styles encourage grit within an individual based on his or her cultural background. Future studies might include questions about participants’ cultural or ethnic background in order to study whether cultural background plays a role in grit scores.


Participants were asked to indicate their perception of their parents' parenting style during the survey. As a result, the success of the parental authority questionnaire depends solely on the participants' memories of their parent(s) as a guide to completing the questionnaire. A questionnaire was distributed to participants via the SONA student portal, which is used by students who have taken general psychology courses or are enrolled in such courses. During general psychology, students are introduced to parenting styles and the effects these styles can have on their children. Since the participants likely have existing knowledge of these parenting styles, bias may have played a role in how they answered the questions.


Conclusions


The current study found no significant correlations between grit and family structure and no significant difference between male and female participants when comparing their average grit scores. There was also no significant difference between the average grit scores of the authoritative, permissive, and authoritarian parenting styles.


References


Albert, D., Chein, J., & Steinberg, L. (2013). The teenage brain: Peer influences on adolescent decision making. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(2), 114-120. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44318645


Baumrind, D. (1971). Current patterns of parental authority. Developmental Psychology, 4(1, Pt.2), 1–103. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0030372


Buri, J. (1991). Parental authority questionnaire. Journal of Personality Assessment, 57(1), 110-119. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327752jpa5701_13


Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087-1101. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.92.6.1087


Dunn, K. M. (2018, February). Investigating parenting style and college student grit at a private mid-sized New England University [Doctoral dissertation, Johnson & Wales University]. ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?url_ver=Z39.882004&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:dissertation&res_dat=xri:pqm&rft_dat=xri:pqdiss:10750334


Fernández‑Martín, F. D., Arco‑Tirado, J. L., Mitrea, & E. ‑C., Littvay, L. (2022, May). The role of parenting behaviors on the intergenerational covariation of grit. Current Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-022-03185-w


Lan, X., & Wang, W. (2020, December). Parental attachment and problematic internet use among Chinese adolescents: The moderating role of gender and grit. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(23) 8833. doi:10.3390/ijerph17238933


Lin, C.-L., & Chang, C.-Y. (2017). Personality and family context in explaining grit of Taiwanese high school students. EURASIA Journal of Mathematics Science and Technology Education, 13(6), 2197-2213. https://doi.org/10.12973/eurasia.2017. 01221a


Mushtaq, A., Banu, N., Zinna, A. A. (2019, March). The relationship between perceived parenting styles and grit in adolescents. International Journal of Research and Analytical Reviews, 6(1), 225-228. http://ijrar.org/viewfull.php?&p_id=IJRAR19J3819


Steele, H., & Levy, J. (2011). Attachment and grit: Exploring possible contributions of attachment styles (from past and present life) to the adult personality construct of grit. Journal of Social & Psychological Sciences, 4(2), 16-49. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A314443334/AONE?u=bron88970&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=66d54da5


United States Census Bureau. (2023, March). National Single Parent Day: March 21, 2023, United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/stories/single-parent-day.html


Vaterlaus, J. M., Patten, E. V., Roche, C., & Young, J. A. (2015, April). # Gettinghealthy: The perceived influence of social media on young adult health behaviors. Computers in Human Behavior, 45, 151-157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.12.013


Yang, H.-M. (2021, October). Associations of socioeconomic status, parenting style, and grit with health behaviors in children using data from the Panel Study on Korean Children (PSKC). Child Health Nursing Research, 27(4), 309-316. https://doi.org/10.4094/chnr.2021.27.4.309


Appendices

Appendix A

Three Part Questionnaire


What is your gender?

-Female

-Male

-Non-Binary

-Not listed, please explain

–Prefer not to answer


What is your age?


Who raised you?

-Both Mom and Dad

-Same-sex parents

-Only Mom

-Only Dad

-Other, Please Explain.


Are your parents divorced/separated?

-Yes

-No


Appendix B

Modified Parental Authority Questionnaire


Directions for taking the Perceived Parenting Styles Questionnaire: Please respond to the following 30 items. Be honest – there are no right or wrong answers! Fill out one set for each parental figure.


1. While I was growing up my parental figure felt that in a well-run home, the children should have their way in the family as often as the parents do.

-Yes

-No


2. Even if their children didn't agree with them my parental figure felt that it was for our own good if we were forced to conform to what they thought was right.

-Yes

-No


3. Whenever my parental figure told me to do something as I was growing up they expected me to do it immediately without asking any questions.

-Yes

-No


4. As I was growing up, once the family policy had been established, my parental figure discussed the reasoning behind the policy with the children in the family.

-Yes

-No


5. My parental figure has always encouraged verbal give-and-take whatever I felt that the family rules and restrictions were unreasonable.

-Yes

-No


6. My parental figure has always felt that what children need is to be free to make up their own minds and to do what they want to do even if this does not agree with what their parents might want.

-Yes

-No


7. As I was growing my parental figure did not allow me to question any decision they had made.

-Yes

-No


8. As I was growing up my parental figure directed the activities and decisions of the children in my family through reasoning and discipline.

-Yes

-No


9. My parental figure has always felt that more force should be used by parents in order to get their children to behave the way they are supposed to.

-Yes

-No


10. As I was growing up my parental figure did not feel that needed to obey rules and regulations of behavior simply because someone in authority had established them.

-Yes

-No


11. As I was growing up, I knew what my parental figure expected of me in my family, but I also felt free to discuss those expectations with my parental figure when I felt they were unreasonable.

-Yes

-No



12. My parental figure felt that wise parents should teach their children early just who is the boss in the family.

-Yes

-No


13. As I was growing up my parental figure seldom gave me expectations and guidelines for my behavior.

-Yes

-No


14. Most of the time as I was growing up my parental figure did what the children in the family wanted when making family decisions.

-Yes

-No


15. As the children in my family were growing up, my parental figure consistently gave us direction and guidance in rational and objective ways.

-Yes

-No


16. As I was growing up my parental figure would get very upset if I tried to disagree with them.

-Yes

-No


17. My parental figure feels that most problems in society would be solved if parents would not restrict their children's activities, decisions, and desires as they are growing up.

-Yes

-No


18. As I was growing up my parental figure let me know what behavior she expected of me and if I didn't meet those expectations, they punished me.

-Yes

-No


19. As I was growing up my parental figure allowed me to decide most things for myself without a lot of direction from them.

-Yes

-No


20. As I was growing up my parental figure took the children's opinions into consideration when making family decisions, but she would not decide on something simply because the children wanted it.

-Yes

-No


21. My parental figure did not view themself as responsible for directing and guiding my behavior as I was growing up.

-Yes

-No


22. My parental figure had clear standards of behavior for the children in our home as I was growing up, but they were willing to adjust those standards to the needs of each of the individual children in the family.

-Yes

-No


23. My parental figure gave me direction for my behavior and activities as I was growing up and they expected me to follow their direction, but they were always willing to listen to my concerns and discuss that. direction: with me.

-Yes

-No


24. As I was growing up my parental figure allowed me to form my own point of view on family matters and they generally allowed me to decide for myself what I was going to do.

-Yes

-No


25. My parental figure has always felt that most problems in society would be solved if we could get parents to strictly and forcibly deal with their children when they don't do what they are supposed to as they are growing up.

-Yes

-No


26. As I was growing up my parental figure often told me exactly what they wanted me to do and how they expected me to do it.

-Yes

-No


27. As I was growing up my parental figure gave me clear direction for behaviors and activities, but they were also understanding when I disagreed with them.

-Yes

-No


28. As I was growing up my parental figure did not direct the behaviors, activities, and desires of the children in the family.

-Yes

-No


29. As I was growing up I knew what my parental figure expected of me in the family and they insisted that I conform to those expectations simply out of respect for her authority.

-Yes

-No


30. As I was growing up if my parental figure made a decision in the family that hurt me, they were willing to discuss that decision with me and admit it if they had made a mistake.

-Yes

-No


Appendix C

12-Item Grit Scale


Directions for taking the grit scale: Please respond to the following 12 items. Be honest – there are no right or wrong answers!


1. I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


2. New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


3. My interests change from year to year.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


4. Setbacks don’t discourage me.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


5. I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


6. I am a hard worker.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


7. I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


8. I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to

complete.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


9. I finish whatever I begin.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


10. I have achieved a goal that took years of work.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


11. I become interested in new pursuits every few months.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


12. I am diligent.

  • Very much like me

  • Mostly like me

  • Somewhat like me

  • Not much like me

  • Not like me at all


Note. The three-part questionnaire that was distributed to the participants, which contained demographic questions, the modified parental authority questionnaire, and the 12-item grit scale.


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