According to a new study out of Stanford University, the pile of homework your son or daughter comes home with each day might have a negative effect on health. The study focused on more than 4,000 children in both public and private schools.
What researchers found was startling. Immense stress due to excessive homework created health issues.
The problems kids experienced
The study’s co-author, Denise Pope, said, “There’s an obvious link between these kids’ levels of stress and issues like ulcers, sleep disorders, over-exhaustion, digestive problems, unexplained weight loss, and migraines.”
The study also reported that the average student brings home about three hours’ worth of homework each day. However, some kids were bringing home in excess of five hours’ worth of homework.
It should come as little surprise, then, that nearly 60 percent of the students in the study reported that their biggest source of stress was homework. In private schools where the pressure to compete can be overwhelming, a lot of children claimed that performing well was the most important factor in their lives.
Effects on the family
Some parents reported going entire weekends without seeing their children, because the kids were too busy trying to finish their assigned homework before returning to school.
Pope claimed that there needs to be an intervention. She cited the physical damage that can come from the elevated stress levels. She added that high schoolers aren’t the only kids who are struggling. Similar results have also been seen in lower grades.
At this point, it’s well understood that less-affluent children are at a higher risk of developing anxiety, depression, and substance abuse problems. However, emerging research suggests that children of wealthy families may be threatened by the massive amount of scholastic pressure.
Nobody’s ahead of the game
Suniya Luthar, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, commented: “Although poverty is considered a risk factor, it hardly indicates that all impoverished children will fall victim to such disturbances. The same can also be said of children from more affluent families. It merely shows that more of these kids are at risk in comparison to those from average communities.”
Dr. Luthar points to overwhelming levels of stress in students’ day-to-day lives, from factors such as peer pressure, home life, educational policies, and pressure to excel in school. Naturally, people who have vast amounts of unresolved stress are statistically more likely to develop psychological problems and turn to substance abuse as a release.
What’s the solution?
Pope calls for a lessening of the homework load, and says that high schoolers should be limited to no more than two hours of homework each night. Elementary school students shouldn’t have to do more than an hour and a half nightly.
She has also pointed out that research does not support a positive association between homework and how well students perform in middle school. When asked about the potential for homework to help children develop organizational skills, work ethic, and a sense of responsibility, Pope said that this idea was also not backed up by research.
If families have questions about the level of stress that homework may be placing on the children, they should consider taking up the issue with a medical professional.