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Parents Just as Stressed as Kids Over Homework

Photograph by Twenty20

We already know that kids often feel stress and anxiety over the amount of homework they bring home, but a new research study from Brown University published in the American Journal of Family Therapy shows parents also feel the same way, especially when there are language and culture barriers, or a parent's own educational background that prevents them from being fully able and confident in assisting with homework.

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The study included both English- and Spanish-speaking families in Rhode Island, and just slightly more than half of the families in the study indicated that their child was Hispanic or Latino. Researchers found that children in kindergarten and first grade spent significantly more time on homework than the National Education Association's guideline of 10 minutes per grade, per day, starting in first grade.

The kindergarteners and first-graders in the Brown University researchers' group spent nearly three times longer than the recommended 10 minutes per day working on homework each night, and time spent on homework per grade only increased from there on up.

Stress and tension within families, as reported by the parents, increased most when parents felt unable to help with homework, if the kids disliked doing the homework, and when the homework caused arguments — either between the child and parent, or between only the parents.

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And interestingly, parents who self-identified their children as Hispanic or Latino reported only slightly more family stress over homework and arguments with their child about homework than non-Hispanic parents. Although the perceived difference in stress between the parents with Hispanic children and those with non-Hispanic children was small, the study questions whether there is unintended discrimination against families where the parents are Spanish-speakers, unavailable to help with homework (in situations where there is a single parent, or parents are both working and unable to help), limited in skills to assist with homework because of the parents' educational backgrounds or knowledge base, or patience to teach their children when what they're learning at school is not enough instruction. Clearly, this opens the door to a necessity for further research on the subject.

Some of study's suggestions to reduce the stress homework puts on families include restructuring of homework to make it more interactive and applicable in the real world, changes in parents' participation so it may be more meaningful rather than as an instructor role.

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