Does Strength-Based Parenting Predict Academic Achievement
If you've read my past blogs, you'll know that I've been fascinated by the impact of strength-based parenting on a child's mental health for a number of years now. My studies and studies by other researchers across the globe have demonstrated that strength-based parenting supports a range of wellbeing outcomes such as life satisfaction, self confidence, and positive emotions. However, with the work I do in schools, I got to wondering if the benefits of strength-based parenting go beyond subjective wellbeing outcomes to also have impacts on objective, concrete outcomes in a teen's life such as school grades. Given that wellbeing supports learning, and that strength-based parenting predicts wellbeing, I reasoned that it is also plausible that teens with strength-based parents could have greater academic achievement. In a recent study of mine published in The Journal of Happiness Studies my colleagues and I explored this question.
Positive Education & Strength-Based Parenting: The Study Rationale
"The schooling of children has, for more than a century, been about accomplishment, the boulevard into the world of adult work…but imagine if schools could, without compromising either, teach both the skills of well-being and the skills of achievement." — Martin Seligman, Imagine Positive Education
Positive psychology interventions (PPIs) are being used in classrooms all over the world and have been tested for their impact both on wellbeing and on academic achievement in the field of Positive Education. By and large, the positive education research findings show that classroom PPIs can help to build both wellbeing and academic achievement. But given that formal positive education programs can often be costly, require teacher training and require finding room for the lessons in the weekly timetable, finding ways to harness the positive influence of a student's existing relationships to help with wellbeing and grades seems like a fruitful and complimentary approach to formal positive education programs.
As the field of positive education matures, calls have been made to extend the boundaries of research beyond classroom interventions and take into account the broader social systems that impact a student’s wellbeing and achievement.
In this study, we considered how a key element in the student’s social system—their parents—can positively influence student wellbeing and achievement. Specifically, the purpose of this study was:
To consider how the processes of perseverance and engagement predict academic success, and
To assess whether a strength-based approach to parenting (i.e., in which parents regularly acknowledge and encourage their child’s unique personality, abilities, talents, and skills) predicts academic achievement through boosting their levels of perseverance and engagement.
At the beginning of term, a large sample of students from a public secondary school in Australia completed a self-report survey measuring perceptions of parental style, engagement, and perseverance. Subsequent academic results were obtained three months later. This design allows for both subjective data (i.e., the students own reports of their wellbeing and the degree to which they feel their parents are helping them use their strengths) and objective data (i.e., academic grades for each student provided by school records).
The results of our study indicated that a strength-based approach to parenting, in which parents encourage their children to recognise and use their own strengths, is an enabler of academic success.
Those students who rated that their parents were strength-based had higher wellbeing, engagement and perseverance. Strength-based parenting also demonstrated a significant effect on academic achievement which was mediated by perseverance, but not engagement.
Adolescents with strength-based parents achieved higher grades via increased perseverance.
Results reaffirm the importance of the parent-student link in predicting educational outcomes such as grades.
What mechanisms may be at play to produce these results?
One potential account is that because strength-based parenting prompts a student to better understand and use their own strengths this offers greater intrinsic motivation and energy (and, as will be discussed below, engagement), which then increases the perseverance in academic tasks, ultimately resulting in higher achievement.
Turning to engagement, the strong relationship found between strength-based parenting and engagement is consistent with the existing literature in positive education, which has found that strengths identification and strengths use lead to greater engagement in adolescents.
For those research buffs among us who would like to consider the full statistical mediation model, we did not find a significant indirect effect of strength-based parenting to achievement through engagement, despite the substantial evidence that engagement relates to higher academic achievement. When considering the theoretical conceptualization of engagement put forward by Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi (2014) these results may not be overly surprising. Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi propose that engagement leads to achievement because of the connection that engagement has with perseverance. When individuals experience intense engagement (flow) in an activity, this encourages them to persevere at an activity because the flow experience is itself rewarding; this continued perseverance subsequently fosters skill development and achievement. According to this interpretation, then, engagement may be considered one antecedent of perseverance. This intriguing prospect would suggest that engagement remains an important component in the relationship between strength-based parenting and academic achievement, but that its effect on student achievement is generated by virtue of engagement’s impact on perseverance.
Considering the many interweaving social systems that produce youth wellbeing and achievement, it is important that positive education takes a socio-ecological approach and that researchers consider the important role that parents can play.
Beyond the boundaries of the school system, this study indicates that parents can play a crucial role in promoting wellbeing and academic achievement in their children.
We found that a strength-based approach to parenting predicts perseverance and engagement, and that perseverance is one mechanism linking strength-based parenting to academic achievement. These results indicate strength-based parenting may be an important factor for schools to address in boosting student wellbeing and academic achievement. Schools can consider how it is they can assist parents to better know their son's and daughter's strengths through a parent education evening on strengths, books clubs on strengths, parent-teacher interviews that discuss the child's strengths, and regular school communication (e.g., newsletters, website, emails) about strengths.
This article was pulled from a journal article called Does Strength-Based Parenting Predict Academic Achievement? The Mediating Effects of Perseverance and Engagement co-authored by Daniel Loton and Hayley K. Jach in the Journal of Happiness Studies.
The article in its entirety and/or references can be accessed here.
To see more journal articles written by Dr. Lea Waters, please visit her website.
Photo credits (in order of appearance): Avel Chuklanov, Nicole Honeywill, Jerry Wang, Santi Vedri and Ben Mullins on Unsplash.
Tags: #StrengthSwitch, #SBP, #StrengthBasedParenting, #PositiveEducation, #VisibleWellbeing, #Strengths, #Resilience, #PositivePsychology, #Wellbeing, #School, #EducationAuthor, #EducationSpeaker, #ParentingAuthor, #ParentingSpeaker, #Families, #Psychology, #Character, #CharacterStrengths, #MentalHealth, #Parenting, #Parent, #Children, #Child, #Education, #Teaching, #Teacher, #StrengthBasedTeaching
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