As children enter high school, their engagement in school can decline, followed by their achievement. But a study has found that young people who said they felt responsible to their parents were more invested and engaged in school and often earned higher grades, independent of the quality of the parent-child relationship.
Responsibility was defined as children’s feelings of obligation to their parents and their motivation in school to please them, such as meeting parental expectations.
“When parents are involved in teens’ learning, teens tend to develop a sense of responsibility to parents”
The findings suggest that parents need to communicate to teenagers the importance of acting responsibly as they enter high school.
“Explicitly talking with teens about acting responsibly is likely to be useful,” said Eva M. Pomerantz, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who led the study.
“Involvement in teens’ lives is also very important. For example, when parents are involved in teens’ learning, teens tend to develop a sense of responsibility to parents, which maintains their achievement over the middle school years.”
The study looked at students in the United States and in China—two countries likely to have considerably different ideas about adolescence—and was conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Beijing Normal University. It appears in the journal Child Development.
The study also found that in the United States the youths’ sense of responsibility to their parents declined over the first two years of high school, but this was not the case in China.