Parents and teachers who fear their good work instilling academic discipline and motivation is ruined by a child's peer group can take heart: new research shows they have more influence on young people than they think.
A University of Sydney study has found that getting on well with parents and teachers has a strong positive influence on adolescents' academic outcomes - and a bigger influence than getting on with peers. These findings provide new hope to parents and teachers who too often assume that they cannot compete with the power of the peer group.
"Parents and teachers who might feel powerless during adolescence have a bigger influence on academic motivation than they think - sometimes up to three times the impact of peers," said Andrew Martin, an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education and Social Work and the study's lead researcher.
"If you think you have no impact, stick with it because you do, and not just in the early years - at all stages of secondary school teachers and parents have a significant impact." He also cautioned that the flipside of the research is that academic motivation suffers when a child does not get on well with teachers or parents. "The study clearly points to the importance of positive connections and quality relationships with teachers and parents in adolescents' lives."
The study looked at 3,450 Australian high school students in Years 7 to 12. Quality teacher-student relationships had the most significant impact on students' academic outcomes, followed by parent-child relationships. Some of the key academic outcomes assessed were motivation, engagement, homework completion, enjoyment of school, attendance, and educational aspirations.
Interestingly, when the study looked at non-academic outcomes (for example physical self-concept, honesty, emotional stability) peers had a bigger influence than teachers and parents.
"An important aspect of the study was to uncover the different ways parents, teachers and peers influence different parts of adolescents' lives," said A/Professor Martin. "Our findings attest to the need for young people to have a range of positive interpersonal relationships in their academic, home/family, and social lives."
The study, titled Young People's Interpersonal Relationships and Academic and Non-academic Outcomes: Scoping the Relative Salience of Teachers, Parents, Same-Sex Peers, and Opposite-Sex Peers, by Andrew Martin, Herbert Marsh, Dennis McInerney & Jasmine Green, has just been published in the US-based Teachers College Record.