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Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents’ Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background

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Family stress was examined in the context of children's homework load and parents' perception of their capacity to assist their children with homework. Homework load was measured utilizing the 10 Minute Rule promulgated by the National Education Association. Family stress, measured by self-report, increased as homework load increased and as parent's perception of their capacity to assist decreased. Contrary to the 10 Minute Rule, primary school children received about three times the recommended load of homework. The amount of homework load reported also varied significantly between English and Spanish speakers, as it did between parents with limited education and those with advanced education.
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Homework and Family Stress: With
Consideration of Parents’ Self
Confidence, Educational Level, and
Cultural Background
Robert M. Pressmana, David B. Sugarmanb, Melissa L. Nemonc,
Jennifer Desjarlaisd, Judith A. Owense & Allison Schettini-Evansf
a New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, Providence, Rhode
Island, USA
b Department of Psychology, Rhode Island College, Providence,
Rhode Island, USA
c Heller School of Social Policy and Management, Brandeis
University, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA
d Dean College, Franklin, Massachusetts, USA
e Children's National Medical Center, Washington, District of
Columbia, USA
f Alpert School of Medicine, Brown University, Providence, Rhode
Island, USA
Published online: 15 Jul 2015.
To cite this article: Robert M. Pressman, David B. Sugarman, Melissa L. Nemon, Jennifer Desjarlais,
Judith A. Owens & Allison Schettini-Evans (2015) Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration
of Parents’ Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background, The American Journal of
Family Therapy, 43:4, 297-313, DOI: 10.1080/01926187.2015.1061407
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01926187.2015.1061407
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The American Journal of Family Therapy, 43:297–313, 2015
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0192-6187 print / 1521-0383 online
DOI: 10.1080/01926187.2015.1061407
Homework and Family Stress: With
Consideration of Parents’ Self Confidence,
Educational Level, and Cultural Background
ROBERT M. PRESSMAN
New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
DAVID B. SUGARMAN
Department of Psychology, Rhode Island College, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
MELISSA L. NEMON
Heller School of Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Waltham,
Massachusetts, USA
JENNIFER DESJARLAIS
Dean College, Franklin, Massachusetts, USA
JUDITH A. OWENS
Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
ALLISON SCHETTINI-EVANS
Alpert School of Medicine, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Family stress was examined in the context of children’s homework
load and parents’ perception of their capacity to assist their chil-
dren with homework. Homework load was measured utilizing the
10 Minute Rule promulgated by the National Education Associa-
tion. Family stress, measured by self-report, increased as homework
load increased and as parent’s perception of their capacity to assist
decreased. Contrary to the 10 Minute Rule, primary school children
received about three times the recommended load of homework.
The amount of homework load reported also varied significantly
between English and Spanish speakers, as it did between parents
with limited education and those with advanced education.
Address correspondence to Robert M. Pressman, Ph.D., ABPP, Director of Research, New
England Center for Pediatric Psychology, 1 Regency Plaza, Providence, RI 02903. E-mail:
rpressman@pedipsyc.com
Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at
www.tandfonline.com/uaft.
297
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298 R. M. Pressman et al.
Homework is variously regarded as a necessary component to educa-
tion, a worrisome reality for youth, and source of stressful interaction be-
tween parents and children. Teachers, struggling to fit core curricula into an
already full day of classes, use homework to meet academic requirements.
Students carrying backpacks over-filled with books, papers and electronic
devices (such as tablets and smartphones) have become a commonplace
sight in primary, middle, and high schools across the country, as they carry
their work with them (Katz, Buzukashvili, & Feingold, 2012). Furthermore,
many parents struggle to balance extra-curricular activities with homework
requirements, while some additionally struggle to assist their children in com-
pleting their homework. It is not surprising, then, that the topic of homework
is controversial and the overall benefits are being questioned. The gauntlet
for the “homework wars” was, in fact, laid down by Edward Bok, in ANa-
tional Crime at the Feet of American Parents published in the Ladies Home
Journal in 1900. That war, now in its second century, has not abated.
While the amount of homework students receive has gotten consider-
able press and attention, there is little evidence that there has been any sig-
nificant increase in homework amount over the past 30–50 years (Loveless,
2014; Gill & Schlossman, 2003; Gill & Schlossman, 2004). And yet, despite
homework being an omnipresent factor in the lives of most school-aged
children, research has been equivocal about the relationship of homework
load and its association with student achievement (Cooper & Valentine, 2001;
Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006; Dettmers, Trautwein, & L¨
udtke, 2009; Luo
et al., 2014).
The question of “How much homework is desirable?” has been sub-
stantially addressed by Cooper (Cooper & Valentine, 2001; Cooper, 2006).
Ten minutes multiplied by the child’s grade level was the recommended
allotted time for nightly homework. Teachers would, therefore, assign about
10 minutes of nightly homework for first graders and this expectation would
increase to 120 minutes for seniors in high school. The “10 Minute Rule” was
purported to be embraced and promulgated by National Education Associa-
tion (2006). Notwithstanding the acceptance of this recommendation, there is
evidence suggesting that, since its adoption, the amount of homework being
assigned to lower grade levels has increased beyond the guidelines (Love-
less, 2014). In our study, we explored the adherence to the 10 Minute Rule.
Homework has been cited as a common—and sometimes major—source
of stress and conflict between parents and children (Katz, Buzukashvili, &
Feingold, 2012; Pomerantz, Ng, & Wang, 2006). Several factors may mediate
the homework-stress relationship. Homework may supplant more enjoyable
family leisure pursuits. When homework routines conflict with family leisure
time and other family routines, homework has been found to be associated
with lower measures of emotional well-being among children and parents
across several studies (Katz, Buzukashvili, & Feingold, 2012; Offer, 2013).
Another mediating factor is the parent’s perceived self-efficacy in aca-
demic areas associated with the homework. When parents perceive greater
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Homework and Family Stress 299
efficacy to help their children succeed in school, they tend to engage more
with their child’s school which, in turn, promotes positive academic out-
comes for children through high school (Green, Walker, Hoover-Dempsey,
& Sandler, 2007). Specifically, when parents feel greater self-efficacy, they
also report greater home-based involvement. Children who have parents
with greater self-efficacy to help in academic realms are also likely to have
parents who are more involved with children’s homework. In turn, it is prob-
able that these children will experience better academic outcomes coupled
with less school-related stress at home (Green, Walker, Hoover-Dempsey, &
Sandler, 2007).
Parents may feel even greater pressure to be involved in their chil-
dren’s homework when their children struggle with academically related
tasks. However, while parents may believe they are helping with home-
work, in actuality, their “assistance” may cause tension or confusion for the
child (Patall, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008; Pressman, Nemon, Owen, & Schet-
tini, 2014). When parents are overly negative or controlling, children tend to
be lower achieving. Children are particularly vulnerable to negative parental
involvement with homework when they are struggling academically. More-
over, when parents are inappropriately involved in children’s homework or
household chores, their children’s emotional well-being may suffer (Offer,
2013). When parents are involved in their children’s homework in ways that
are controlling or negative, children are more likely to experience nega-
tive academic outcomes that involve grades and self-confidence (Pressman,
Nemon, Owen, & Schettini, 2014). These negative outcomes could be related
to higher parent-child conflict surrounding homework, children’s greater dis-
like of homework, and higher family stress related to homework. In contrast,
parents who are involved in positive ways with children’s homework, allow-
ing them to take initiative, to solve their own problems, to focus on the joys
of learning, and only help when needed, tend to have children who are
higher achieving (Pomerantz, Moorman, & Litwack, 2007).
Martinez (2011) posits that children who believe they cannot turn to
their parents for help with homework are vulnerable to negative academic
outcomes. Further, although many parents seem to be providing emotional
support, Martinez suggests that Latino students are more likely to believe
that they cannot go to their parents for homework assistance; they perceive
that their parents may have too many educational and language deficits to
adequately provide them with help. Further implied is that many of these
students report feeling overwhelmed by or unmotivated to complete their
homework tasks. Conversely, students from Latino families who achieve
higher levels of academic success (i.e., homework completion, higher GPAs,
etc.), tend to have parents who boast higher educational levels, incomes, and
English-language proficiency, and are often actively involved in academic
realms (Keith & Lichtman, 1994).
Latino families may be further at risk for impeding their children’s home-
work success with regard to constructing at-home environments that are con-
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300 R. M. Pressman et al.
ducive to academic progress. In comparison to Eastern European and Asian
immigrant families, Latino parents are less likely to implement educational
achievement practices, such as setting a regular bedtime or restricting screen
time (Vera, Israel, Coyle, Cross, & Knight-Lynn, 2012). Moreover, Vera and
colleagues found that Latino families were less likely than their counterparts
to report monitoring homework progress and completion. Lopez (2007) con-
cluded that language barriers of exclusively Spanish-speaking parents were
a probable contributor to negativity toward their children’s schools.
Further, higher family stress surrounding homework also seems to be
associated with students’ academic achievement—regardless of whether chil-
dren are of White, African American, or Latino racial descent (Gershoff, Aber,
Raver, & Lennon, 2007; Lugo-Gil & Tamis-LeMonda, 2008; Raver, Gershoff,
& Aber, 2007). Lower achievement among children could certainly include a
greater dislike of homework (e.g., Wingard, 2009). Wingard’s ethnographic
research results support the notion that homework can be a problematic
domain of family life, a common source of everyday family tension, and a
frequently disliked activity among children.
Our study examines predictors of family homework stress when provid-
ing homework assistance, children’s feelings of dislike for homework, and
parental expectations to help with homework. Additionally, we focus on
differences among these variables between English-speaking and Spanish-
speaking families, as the latter compose the largest minority population in
the United States (Ramirez, 2004).
Based on the results of past studies, we developed five main hypothe-
ses:
1. As children progress from 1st to 12th grade, average homework load will
increase approximately 10 additional minutes per grade level;
2. As caregivers’ perceived efficacy in their ability to aid their children de-
clines, family-related stress increases;
3. There is a positive association between the child’s dislike of homework
and homework related stress;
4. As parents perceive a greater need to be involved in a child’s homework,
family stress increases.
5. Spanish-speaking families will experience higher levels of homework
stress than English-speaking families.
METHOD
Participants
A total 1173 parent respondents participated in the study. All parents had
children in grades kindergarten (K) through high school (grade 12) and fre-
quented one of 27 pediatric offices in the Greater Providence area of Rhode
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Homework and Family Stress 301
Island. In the spring data collection period, there were 566 respondents: 448
identified as mothers, 86 identified as fathers, and 32 did not self-identify as
either a mother or as a father. In the fall data collection period, there were
607 respondents: 482 identified as mothers, 93 identified as fathers, and 32
did not self-identify as either a mother or as a father. In the spring, two-thirds
(66.2%) of the respondents elected to complete the questionnaire in English
while the remaining third (33.8%) chose to complete the survey in Spanish.
This was similar in the fall, where 67.3% of respondents elected to take the
questionnaire in English and 32.7% of respondents completed it in Spanish.
Survey Instrument
For this study, a self-administered 46-item questionnaire was developed,
which could be completed in the waiting room of the pediatrician’s office.
The survey contained questions that explored the demographics related to
the parent: age, race/ethnicity, gender, education level, and number of chil-
dren; similar information was requested about the chosen child. Another set
of questions focused on homework issues: the amount of homework re-
ceived, the number of days and weekends spent working on homework, the
length of time it took to complete homework, school expectations regarding
homework, parent engagement with homework, and the potential loss of
extracurricular activities as a result of homework. This was supplemented by
questions regarding the target child’s grade point average (GPA), academic
performance, stress (for both youth and family), focus, sleep habits, and
chores. Most questions were followed using five-point Likert scales, with an-
chors ranging from “Rarely” to “Usually.” At conclusion of the questionnaire,
parents were asked if their child had an Individualized Education Program
(IEP) or a 504 Plan and their experiences in trying to get help or assistance
for their child at school.1
The questionnaire was written in English and then translated into Span-
ish by a professional translator. To test the authenticity of the translation,
another translator, operating blindly, translated the questionnaire back to
English. No substantive differences between the re-translated copy and the
original English copy were found.
Bi-lingual (Spanish and English) Collaborative Institutional Training Ini-
tiative (CITI) certified research assistants distributed and collected the ques-
tionnaires. All responses to the questionnaires (n =1173) were loaded into
a statistical software database (SPSS version 22.0) and analyzed. Redundant
entry was executed to test for accuracy.
Procedure
The survey was conducted at two separate points within one calendar year;
once in the spring (May and June) and once in the fall (September and Octo-
ber). The survey was conducted using convenience and purposive sampling;
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302 R. M. Pressman et al.
specifically, targeting parents at pediatric offices (n =27) within the Greater
Providence area of Rhode Island. The survey was available every day the
offices were open, throughout full hours of operation.
Respondents received a paper survey, along with a pencil and instruc-
tions that included study information (i.e., purpose, use), confidentiality
clauses, study contact information, and anticipated time to complete the
survey. A research assistant was available to assist, but was required to fol-
low a script. Once the respondent completed the survey, it was placed in an
envelope, sealed, and inserted in a drop box. These boxes were collected
daily, with all surveys remaining sealed, until they arrived at the office for
data upload into the SPSS.
Both topic and design of the study had built in limiting factors. Because
it was constructed to be completed while parent and child were waiting to
be seen at the pediatrician’s office, the survey was limited in the number of
items that could be presented. In addition, we had no objective means to
establish the actual amount of homework, GPA, or family stress, e.g., in home
observation or securing transcripts. Instead, we utilized parents’ perception
of these variables, which we found to be practical and adequate at this stage
of exploration. Finally, the concept of the actual amount of homework the
child received, was itself problematic. Some children finish all or part of their
homework at school or on a school bus; some parents differentiate between
reading activities and all other forms of home study. We did not account for
these factors in our study.
Selected Variables for Analysis
Descriptive data was analyzed to determine frequencies and representative-
ness. Specific descriptive variables were used to further determine signifi-
cant differences between groups (i.e., grade level, English-speaking versus
Spanish-speaking households, etc.).
For data analysis, there was focus on parents’ reports regarding the
amount of time their children spent on homework and their agreement or
disagreement on several 5-point Likert scale questions such as 1) There
are arguments or disagreements among the adults in my family about my
child’s homework; 2) The school expects parents to help with the homework;
3) Parents need to teach the material; and 4) My child has said that s/he
dislikes homework. Furthermore, parents also answered what kind of effect
their children’s homework had on the family, with higher rankings being
associated with more positive effects.
RESULTS
There were 1173 respondents to the questionnaire of which 566 responded
in the spring and 607 responded in the fall. Approximately two-thirds of all
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Homework and Family Stress 303
respondents utilized an English questionnaire, while one-third responded in
Spanish. Seventy-nine percent of all respondents identified as mothers, while
15% identified as fathers and 6% did not self-identify as a mother or a father.
Of the 1173 parents who responded, nearly half (47%) had a household with
two children, about one-fourth had a household with one child (26%), and
the remaining one-fourth (27%) had three or more children in the home. Just
over half of all respondents indicated that their child was Hispanic/Latino
(51.8%).
The grade range for respondents’ children was relatively evenly spread
across all grades, with the largest groups being kindergarten (13%) and sixth
graders (10%) and the smallest groups being eleventh graders (4%) and
eighth graders (5%). The average size of respondents per grade was 7.7%
with a standard deviation for all grades of 0.5.
Forty percent of the respondents indicated they held a high school
diploma or general education diploma/degree (GED), while an additional
25% indicated they had some college. About 16% stated they were college
graduates and 7% held a post-graduate degree. Of interest, 13% of respon-
dents had some high school but had not acquired a diploma or GED.
We compared the amounts of homework that children brought home
from school across grade levels, as reported by their parents. Next, we de-
termined the associations among caregivers’ comfort with helping on home-
work, the child’s dislike of homework, parental expectations to help with
homework, and homework-related stress among families. In particular, we
examined how each of these former variables was predictive of homework
stress in families. Finally, we explored whether any significant differences ap-
peared between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking families with regard
to these variables and homework stress.
Hypothesis 1: As Children Progress From 1st to 12th Grade, Average
Homework Load Will Increase Approximately 10 Additional Minutes
Per Grade Level.
Overall, the actual homework load increased as students progress from
kindergarten (K) until 12th grade, with a significant spike in the 6th and
7th grades and the largest average amount of time in the 10th grade at 53.9
minutes per night. As previous studies suggested, there is a steady increase
in primary school, but not at a rate of 10 minutes per grade. (See Figure 1.)
Thus, Hypothesis 1 was not supported. Further, there is consistency in high
school (9th through 12th grade) at about an hour per night.
The data was then analyzed by ethnicity, specifically examining parent
responses that identified their children as Hispanic or non-Hispanic. (See
Figure 2.) While there was consistency between the two groups in early
primary school (kindergarten and 1st grades), there is a significant shift be-
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304 R. M. Pressman et al.
FIGURE 1 Reported time spent on homework (in minutes) by grade.
tween self-identified Hispanic and non-Hispanic children starting in the sec-
ond grade. Parents of Hispanic children noted higher rates of homework in
the 2nd, 3rd, and 12th grades. Alternatively, parents of non-Hispanic children
perceived significantly higher rates of homework throughout all of middle
school (6th, 7th, and 8th grades), as well as 10th and 11th grades. An inde-
pendent samples t-test analysis indicated that the difference in homework
load between the 570 identified Hispanic children (mean =37.7 minutes)
and the 546 non-Hispanic children (mean =43.1 minutes) differed reliably
(t=−2.89, p<0.01).
An analysis of perceived homework load by parent educational sta-
tus was also examined. (See Figure 3.) Throughout primary school, parents
across all educational levels indicated similar rates of homework load. How-
ever, during middle school and high school, perceived rates shifted dramat-
ically. For parents with less than high school or a high school diploma/GED
educational level, there was a distinct drop in perceived homework load
in middle school. In the 7th grade in particular, parents with less than a
high school education estimated that their child spent 25.8 minutes per night
on homework, while parents with some college education cited a nightly
homework rate of 82.5 minutes per night, a variance range of almost one
hour (56.7 minutes). Further, we see an additional spike in perceived home-
FIGURE 2 Reported time spent on homework (in minutes) by self-identified ethnicity.
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Homework and Family Stress 305
FIGURE 3 Reported time spent on homework (in minutes) by parent/caregiver education
level.
work load—particularly among parents who are college graduates— who
indicated an average nightly homework rate of 97.9 minutes. This is in stark
contrast to parents with a high school diploma or GED (33.3 minutes) and
parents with less than a high school education (45.0 minutes).
In summary, primary grade children were spending more time on home-
work than was expected, until about the 3rd grade. Meanwhile, high school
students were spending just under an hour on homework, which was sub-
stantially less time than expected (i.e., 90 to 120 minutes). Loveless’ thesis
(2014) that there has been a significant increase in the amount of home-
work being assigned to lower grade levels was supported. In fact, K through
2nd grade students are carrying as much as three times the recommended
homework load.
Hypothesis 2: As Caregivers’ Perceived Efficacy in Their Ability to Aid
Their Children Declines, Family-Related Stress Increases.
A correlational analysis was conducted using two target variables: caregivers’
level of comfort in ability to help with homework and perceived family stress
and tension. The data suggested significant correlation between caregivers’
level of comfort in ability to help with homework and family-related stress
(r(df) =−0.21, p<0.001). As caregivers expressed decreasing degrees
of comfort with assisting their child with homework, there was an increase
in family stress and tension. Thus, the hypothesis was supported that, as
caregivers’ perceived efficacy in their ability to aid their children declines,
there is an increase in family-related stress.
This was further supported by a significant correlation between care-
givers’ level of comfort in ability to help with homework and the perceived
effect the child’s homework had on the family (r(df) =0.27, p<0.001). We
found that as caregivers’ perceived efficacy in their ability to aid their chil-
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306 R. M. Pressman et al.
dren declined, the more likely they were to perceive homework as having a
negative impact on their family.
Hypothesis 3: There Is a Positive Association Between the Child’s
Dislike of Homework and Homework Related Stress. Thus, as a
Child’s Dislike of Homework Increases, so Does Family Stress.
Multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine the degree to which
family stress and tension would be predicted by three variables: caregivers’
level of comfort in ability to help with homework, parental expectations to
help with homework, and a child’s dislike of homework. The multiple regres-
sion model with all four predictors produced R2=0.122, F (3, 1071) =49.47,
p<0.001. After controlling for the other variables in the model, children who
disliked homework had significant positive regression weights (β=0.28),
indicating that children who dislike homework are also more likely to be
in homes that experience higher stress and tension. The caregivers’ level of
comfort in their ability to help with homework had a significant negative
weight (β=−0.16), indicating that after accounting for children who dislike
homework, those households with higher concerns about caregivers’ level
of comfort in their ability to help with homework were expected to have
a lower impact to family stress and tension (a suppressor effect). Parental
expectations to help with homework did not contribute to the multiple re-
gression model. In summary, the results indicate that caregivers’ level of
comfort in ability to help with homework and the child’s dislike of home-
work are significant factors, explaining 12.2% of the variance in reported
family stress and tension.
Multiple regression analyses were also conducted to examine the rela-
tionship between the three target variables: caregivers’ level of comfort in
ability to help with homework, parental perceived expectations to help with
homework, and a child’s dislike of homework. Moreover, we examined the
ability to predict family stress and tension, along with two additional vari-
ables: arguments with the child about homework or disagreements among
the adults in the household about the child’s homework. The multiple regres-
sion model with all six predictors produced R2=0.194, F(4, 1052) =63.173,
p<0.001: arguments among adults in the household over child’s homework
(β=0.28), arguments with the child over their homework (β=0.09), and
children that disliked their homework (β=0.08). After controlling for the
other variables in the model, all six predictors had significant positive regres-
sion weights, indicating that homes with higher rates of stress and tension
are more likely to have adults and children arguing over homework, as well
as children who dislike their homework. The caregivers’ level of comfort
in their ability to help with homework had a significant negative weight (β
=−0.13), indicating that after accounting for arguments in the home and
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Homework and Family Stress 307
children who dislike homework, there was likely to be less stress and ten-
sion in the family (a suppressor effect). In summary, the results indicate that
arguments among adults and children along with a child’s dislike of home-
work and caregivers’ level of comfort in ability to help with homework are
significant factors, explaining 19.4% of the variance in reported family stress
and tension.
Hypothesis 4: As Parents Perceived a Greater Need to
be Involved in a Child’s Homework, We Anticipated an Increase
in Family Stress.
Correlational analyses were conducted to examine the relationships between
the parent’s perceived expectations to help their children with homework
and family stress. These variables were also correlated with the child’s grade
point average (GPA). No significant correlation was found between per-
ceived expectations to help with homework and family stress and tension.
However, a significant correlation was found between the child’s GPA and
family stress (r =−0.20, p<0.001); as well as, a significant correlation be-
tween the child’s GPA and perceived expectations to help with homework
(r =−0.11, p<0.001). The relationship between the child’s GPA and family
stress was negative, indicating that as the child’s GPA decreased, family stress
and tension increased. Similarly, as the child’s GPA decreased the perceived
expectations to help with homework increased. In short, GPA was more
likely to contribute to family stress and tension than perceived expectations
to help their child with homework.
Hypothesis 5: Spanish-Speaking Families Would Experience Higher
Levels of Stress Around Homework Than Would English-Speaking
Families.
Correlational analysis was conducted to determine any differences in
homework-related issues, as well as family stress and tension, between the
English-speaking and the Spanish-speaking families in the sample studied.
Correlational analyses revealed a slight but significant association between
participants’ primary language and a child’s dislike of homework (r =−0.09,
p<0.01) as well as a slight but significant relationship between arguments
and disagreements among adults about the child’s homework and the re-
spondent’s primary language (r =0.06, p<0.05). Also of interest was a
slight but significant association between families that self-identified their
child as Hispanic and parental arguments with the child about homework
(r =−0.07, p<0.05). In summary, Spanish-speaking families reported a
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308 R. M. Pressman et al.
higher, although slight, level of family stress surrounding homework, when
compared to their English-speaking counterparts.
DISCUSSION
Based on our review, we sought to bring clarity to five assumptions regarding
homework and its relation to emotional equilibrium of the family. A pivotal
assumption was that the homework load, per the 10 Minute Rule, would
be manifested in a steady increase in homework load from K–12th grade;
thus our first hypothesis: As children progress from 1st to 12th grade, average
homework load will increase approximately 10 additional minutes per grade
level.
Our results did not support this assumption. Although the overall load
of homework assigned per day generally increased as students progressed
from grades 1 through 12, we found that the increases in homework load
were inconsistent across all grade levels. More specifically, parents of pri-
mary grade students reported that their children were spending substantially
more time on homework than we expected; while parents of high school
students reported that their adolescents were spending substantially less time
on homework than we expected. First graders had three times the homework
load recommended by the NEA, while 12th graders had half the anticipated
load.
The 10 Minute Rule does not give a figure for recommended Kinder-
garten homework load. Yet, in our study, we found that the average home-
work load for Kindergarten was 25 minutes per day, which may be both
taxing for the parents and overwhelming for the children. Further, in a pe-
riod of life when children are focused on early stages of socialization and
finessing motor skills, we anticipate that an overload of homework will likely
interfere with a Kindergarten-aged child’s ability to play and participate in
extra-curricular activities. Additional research here is indicated.
The usefulness for the loading of homework toward children in grades
1 through 3 has not been supported in the literature. Although homework
studies that compare achievement vs homework load have been equivocal,
the general consensus is that excessive homework not only shows no ben-
efit, but may be detrimental. (Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006; Pressman,
Nemon, Evans, & Schettini, 2014).
The disproportionate homework load for K–3 found in our study calls
into question whether primary school children are being exposed to a posi-
tive learning experience or to a scenario that may promote negative attitudes
toward learning.
We found support for two hypotheses, which taken together, present a
conundrum. These were:
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Homework and Family Stress 309
1. As parents’ perceived efficacy in their ability to aid their children declines,
there will be an increase in family stress.
2. As parents perceived a greater need to be involved in a child’s homework,
there will be increase in family stress.
Putting aside the debate, as to whether or not homework is academi-
cally beneficial, comes, perhaps, a more relevant debate: ought a parent to
be involved in a child’s homework at the instructional level? The conundrum
relates to educational inequities among public school students who come
from families with one parent, whose parent may be unavailable at home-
work time, and/or may not have the education, temperament, or language
proficiency to assist the child vs. students who come from families with two
parents, one or both of whom are available, and may have educational train-
ing and/or temperament to provide their children with instruction. It may be
argued, that the expectation that parents provide instructive guidance to a
child with his homework, would be, through no fault of the child, a benefit
to some children and a detriment to others.
Ironically, parents’ successful intervention of teaching or correcting as-
signments may obscure teachers from discovering academic problems or
needs of the child. Additionally, there is an emerging body of evidence
that such assistance may even be academically and behaviorally detrimental.
(Donaldson-Pressman, Jackson, & Pressman, 2014). Considering the over-
load of homework in primary grades, there exists the possibility that a high
degree of parent correction and instruction, in early grades, may result in a
pattern of academic dependency that persists thorough a child’s senior year.
(Donaldson-Pressman, Jackson, & Pressman, 2014).
In brief, the case for having parental involvement at the instructional
level with a child’s homework, appears to be outweighed by negative soci-
ological, emotional, and educational consequences.
Although the hypothesis that there will be a positive association be-
tween the child’s dislike of homework and homework stress was supported,
we found that a parent’s self-appraised ability to help their child with home-
work mitigated the strength of reported family stress. Once again, we see
competency surface into the equation and possible inequities among stu-
dents who come from families of varied parental competence.
A substantial portion of our participants spoke Spanish. Lopez (2007)
and others have suggested that Spanish-speaking families may feel ostracized
from their child’s school, due to language or cultural barriers. Our finding
regarding homework load and family stress for Spanish speaking families
gave indicators of problems, but could not be explained within the context
of this study. Further research is indicated.
We hypothesized that Spanish-speaking families would experience
higher levels of stress around homework than would English-speaking fam-
ilies. Although the hypothesis was supported, the effect was small. It should
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310 R. M. Pressman et al.
be noted that, after the data collection phase of our study, we learned that
culturally, the word “stress” may have a different and greater negative con-
notation, among Spanish speakers, than among English speakers. The effect
may have suppressed Spanish speakers from attributing stress to their fami-
lies. This is also fodder for additional study.
Another unexplained phenomenon occurred with homework load.
Homework load reported by Spanish speaking parents for students in grades
1 through 2 was greater than it was for non-Spanish speakers. However, the
homework load for children above grade four by Spanish-speaking par-
ents was lower than the homework load reported by non-Spanish–speaking
parents. Lopez’s material might suggest that Spanish speaking parents experi-
enced a sense of disengagement or isolation from their children’s homework
as the work became more complex and the issue of language became more
prevalent. Additional research will be needed to shed light on the issues
of homework related stress and homework load found in Spanish speaking
families.
CONCLUSIONS
In our review, we found concurrence that homework be limited and thought-
fully applied to primary school children. In addition, there is a body of evi-
dence to support the thesis that an overload of homework is associated with
a decrement in performance. Nonetheless, it was unsettling to find that in
our study population, first and second grade children had three times the
homework load recommended by the NEA. Although the 10 Minute Rule
has been apparently endorsed by the NEA since 2006, we did not find evi-
dence that this standard was being uniformly applied. Further investigation is
necessary to determine if our findings generalize beyond our specific study
population.
We found that homework load, parents’ view of self-efficacy in assisting
with homework, and language/cultural factors were all contributors to family
stress. Additionally, we found that a major part of this picture was the expec-
tation, among parents, that they assist their children with homework at the
instructional level. Because of the variability in parents’ knowledge, skill, and
availability, we wondered about the wisdom of this expectation. Moreover,
it raises a question of inadvertent educational discrimination against families
who may be disadvantaged because the parents may be: Spanish speakers;
unavailable to assist their child; limited in skill, knowledge or temperament
to teach their child.
Based on our findings we recommend:
1. Reforming the distribution of primary school homework to conform to the
10 Minute Rule.
Downloaded by [Melissa Nemon] at 14:34 24 July 2015
Homework and Family Stress 311
2. Creating homework that is interactive and real world applicable, (e.g.,
math used to help build a birdhouse, compute money needed to buy a
toy at the store, or balance a checkbook) so the family experiences it
together in a meaningful way.
3. Restructuring homework so that parents perform as mentors and/or agents
of support rather than as tutors or instructors (Donaldson-Pressman, Jack-
son & Pressman, 2014):
a. Providing the child with appropriate tools to execute the homework.
b. Making available a designated quiet place for the child to study.
c. Insuring that the child is actually in that place at a designated time, for
the recommended time per grade, and distraction free.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
Rachel H. Farr, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, pro-
vided assistance in the review of the literature.
NOTE
1. Survey items are available through correspondence with lead researcher, Robert M. Pressman,
Ph.D.
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Na podstawie dotychczas prowadzonych badań można sformułować wniosek, że uczniowie polskich szkół czują się przeciążeni nauką. Celem niniejszego artykułu jest próba udzielenia odpowiedzi na pytanie o przyczyny zaistnienia tego problemu. Wydaje się, że problem przeciążenia uczniów polskich szkół jest złożony i wynika on ze współwystępowania wielu niesprzyjających czynników jednocześnie.
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