How Parents' Reactions To School Performance Influence Their Children's Wellbeing

Posted on December 21, 2020

Research shows that the first, “success-oriented” response is more common in the US than in China, where parents more often opt for “failure-oriented” responses instead. Recent studies in both countries have found that success-oriented responses tend to encourage psychological wellbeing but not necessarily academic success, whereas failure-oriented responses can foster academic performance, but with a cost to the child’s wellbeing.

The researchers studied 447 American children from three schools in the US and 439 children from a school in southern China. The children were in the same grade of school and were, on average, 13 at the start of the study. They completed a batch of initial surveys, and then a further batch a year later.

The team found that, in both countries, children who felt that their parents were more success-oriented in their responses were more likely to feel that their parents held self-worth goals for them, and statistically speaking, this went a long way to explaining higher levels of general wellbeing in this group a year later. In the US only, stronger perceptions that parents held self-worth goals were also associated with fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression a year on. Why wasn’t this seen in the children in China, too? It might be because children in China are subject to more academic stress, because of the format of the school examination system, the team suggests — and the impact of this on symptoms of anxiety and depression overwhelms any variations relating to parental response style.

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Source material from British Psychological Society

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