Parents should be demanding, but not too demanding, study says

Adi Bloom

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Overly demanding parents may be discouraging their children from achieving at school, new research has found.

The attitude of a family towards academic achievement affects how well children perform in school even more strongly than how wealthy they are, the researchers conclude.

Academics from Wayne State University, in the US state of Michigan, point out that previous research has shown that “parental involvement may mediate the effects of poverty, parents’ educational attainment and race on achievement”.

They therefore questioned 146 sets of teenagers and parents to find out how parents’ attitudes – and children’s perceptions of their parents’ attitudes – affected their schoolwork.

Parental attitude was found to predict children’s academic achievement. “The parent’s attitude towards achievement may be viewed as a necessary emotional support system, needed in order for their child to complete college,” the researchers wrote, in a paper delivered to the American Educational Research Association conference, held recently in Chicago.

They found that a range of factors affected how demanding parents were of their children. For example, parents over the age of 50 were notably less demanding of their children than parents of any other age group. Perhaps, the academics suggested, older parents take “a more relaxed approach to parenting, due to possibly having raised children previously”.

Alternatively, they added: “It may be due to a type of wisdom that learning…itself is more important than…a particular grade.”

Parents in non-traditional families were also more likely to be demanding of their children than those in traditional two-parent families. These parents were also more likely to be involved with their children’s schools and activities than those in traditional families.

The combined effects of parental demands and a positive attitude towards school could offset the effects of financial disadvantage, the researchers found. “Students from either a traditional or non-traditional family structure can overcome poverty…through increased parental involvement with the adolescent’s academic achievement,” they said.

However, the academics also found that too many parental demands could be detrimental to children’s success. As levels of parental demand increased, pupils’ school grades tended to decrease.

“Some adolescents do not work well under pressure,” the researchers said.


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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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