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Parents At Home Improve Test Scores for Teenagers: Having a Stay-at-Home Parent Equals Higher Grade Point Averages in High School

October 30, 2014

We all know that having parents around in a child’s early years, say while they are in preschool and before has positive benefits, but researchers were surprised to find that having parents at home for middle school and high school students meant higher school performance for those students. Parents really do matter!

“The results suggest that even older students in middle or elementary school could use guidance from their parents,” Bettinger says. “For years, we have known that parental presence is extraordinarily important in the very early childhood years. What we’re finding is that parents continue to be important much further along in a child’s life than we had previously thought.”

It’s easy to think that teenagers are rebellious beings who don’t benefit from having parents around simply because the teens want to exercise their independence. Considering the brain development and rate of brain growth is similar to that of a two-year old, it’s not surprising that the the teenagers benefit from the attention from a parent in much the same way the two-year olds benefit; however, this benefit begins when the child is six or seven years old. In other words, parents unsurprisingly build a foundation for how their teen will perform when the child is still in first or second grade. That quick spurt of brain development in the teen years is impacted by whether or not a parent stays home with that child in the early grades of school and continues to be important into the teen years.

Researchers studied Norway’s system of giving parents a childcare subsidy if they stayed home with their children, and researchers found that the longer a parent stayed home, the better a child’s grades were in the 10th grade:

Nevertheless, the older children in families that did qualify for the payments tended to do better in school. On average, the older siblings in those families increased their grade-point averages in 10th grade by .02 points on Norway’s grading scale of one to six points. The increases seemed strongest among children around the age of six and seven at their sibling’s birth.

Granted, six and seven is the age most children start school, so having a parent home with them could provide a foundational element for school success. It could also be that having a parent involved early in giving a child attention when they start school helps support the study that found that the way children perform in first grade can predict their rate of high school graduation.

It makes sense to study this phenomenon more closely, but lo and behold–there is no substitute for a child’s parent! Having more parental attention leads to an increase in a child’s school performance. When even 5% of parents in Norway chose to stay home with their children, grade point averages shot up, causing researchers to determine that parenting at home has an “outsize impact” on children’s performance:

If those few parents were responsible for the overall jump in school performance—and the researchers think they were—it means that the individual parents had an outsized impact on their own children.

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