‘Harsh’ parenting can lower a child’s educational achievement, according to new research.


Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh made the discovery, following a nine-year study of 1,500 high school students in Maryland.


The research report – published in the journal Child Development – found that children who were yelled at, hit, or threatened by their parents were more likely to under-perform and even drop out of school or college before graduation.



This was in contrast to the children of ‘kinder’ parents.


As part of the study, each student was asked questions about how they were treated by their parents. They were also quizzed on issues such as sexual activity, delinquency, and their relationships with their peers.


The results revealed that children treated more ‘harshly’ by parents at the age of 12 – 13 had lower levels of academic achievement, and were more likely to prioritise their peers’ norms ahead of their parents’ rules by the age of 15.



These students were also more likely to drop out of high school or college, and engage in early sexual activity along with delinquency (hitting and stealing).


While researchers didn’t gather feedback from parents or teachers, they did consider other factors – racial, socioeconomic and geographic – in their study.


Commenting on the findings, lead author Rochelle Hentges broke down the overarching message.



“If you’re in this harsh or unstable environment, you’re kind of set up to look for immediate rewards instead of focusing on long-term outcomes,” she explained.


“The premise of that is like in our ancestral environment: if you had this unstable or high-danger environment, it wouldn’t make sense for you to put a lot of time and resources toward something that might be in the future, if you’re not going to live to see that future.”


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