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Parental enthusiasm 'can affect children's attainment in specific subjects'

09/05/2017 Joanna

The degree to which parental assistance with school work is effective depends on the parent's own enthusiasm for the subject, according to a new study.

Research from the Hector Research Institute of Education Sciences and Psychology at the University of Tubingen has indicated that parental motivation can make a difference in determining whether their assistance has a positive or negative impact on their child's academic outcomes.

The researchers sought to investigate which family characteristics have a positive effect on academic outcomes and which characteristics can be more of a hindrance, assessing data from more than 1,500 year 10 students and their parents.

It was shown that parental involvement does not inherently lead to higher academic outcomes, with specific family characteristics that promote high achievement. Notably, when families were interested in mathematics and perceived their own maths competence to be high, children tended to perform better in the subject - regardless of the parents' amount of academic involvement.

By contrast, the most unfavourable conditions for academic achievement were shown to be experienced by students whose families were very involved in their education and considered their child to need support in maths, but otherwise showed low levels of interest and perceived competence in the subject.

Students from these involved but unmotivated families not only performed poorly in maths, but also showed low levels of motivation.

Study leader Isabelle Hafner said: "Helicopter mums can impair their child's performance if they are not themselves interested in the subject they want to support their child in."

Further research is needed to shed further light on the complex interplay of factors that affect academic achievement, but the findings of this study should nevertheless provide food for thought for teachers and parents alike.

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