Parental Expectations That Are Too High Can Harm Students, Researchers Say

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Editor’s note:  A version of this post was first appeared on Admitted in 2015.

Parental expectations that are too high can end up undermining student success in the classroom, research shows.

The findings, published in 2015, are derived from a five-year study of more than 3,500 middle and high school students in Germany.

Researchers examined the results of annual math tests given to students. They also asked parents to list the grades they hoped their children would earn, as well as the grades they thought their children could reasonably obtain.

The study showed that while realistic expectations helped kids perform well, unrealistically high expectations harmed student achievement.

“Although parental aspiration is an important vehicle through which children’s academic potential can be realized, excessive parental aspiration can be poisonous,” researchers noted.

The team repeated their study using data from US students and parents, and saw the same patterns.

“High parental aspiration led to increased academic achievement, but only when it did not overly exceed realistic expectation,” according to a press release from the American Psychological Association, which published the study. “When aspiration exceeded expectation, the children’s achievement decreased proportionately.”

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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