News

Parents and teachers have more influence than peers


20 May 2009

A Faculty of Education and Social Work study has found that getting on well with parents and teachers has a strong positive influence on adolescents' academic outcomes – up to three times the influence of getting along with peers.

The study's principal author, Associate Professor Andrew Martin, said the findings could give 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," he said.

"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."

The research showed that academic motivation slumped when in children who did 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 3450 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.

When the researchers examined the key relationships affecting non-academic outcomes such as physical self-concept, honesty and 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," Dr Martin said.

"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, "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 and Jasmine Green, has just been published in the US-based Teachers College Record.