Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
March 28, 2001
Pushing kids to excel often backfires, study finds
Parents who push their children to excel in school and extra curricular activities may be harming their kids’ ego and academic performance, according to a study by a University of Guelph professor.
“Our findings show that parental pressure is associated with lower self-esteem, a lower sense of assertiveness and less competence in school skills,” said Prof. Gerald Adams of the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition. By comparison, children who are under less parental pressure tend to do better in school, get along with their peers, follow rules and handle frustration, the study found.
“Parents usually have good intentions,” said Adams, who is renowned for his work on adolescent identity development. “They might think they are helping their child by using pressure when the child is showing problems in school, but it often backfires. If parents have high expectations of their child doing well, the child will have those same expectations. She or he will start to think that no matter how well they do, mom and dad expect more.”
Adams, who has written a series of books that examine the effect parenting styles have on childhood and adolescent behaviour, originally set out to discover what factors determine how well children follow rules in school and get along with classmates. But during his study of more than 300 children in grades 4 and 7, he found that parent-child interactions are the greatest predictor of rule compliance and sociability. So he expanded the research to also examine the effect of parental pressure on children’s school and social lives. “We have learned that there are a lot of characteristics that can predict how well a child will do in school, regardless of the teachers they have,” he said.
Other findings include:
“Our research shows that parental support has positive influences on a child’s school activities, but there is a very fine line between parental support and parental pressure,” Adams said. “But children are capable of deciphering between the two, and they are most influenced by positive things.”
For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, 519-824-4120, Ext. 3338.