The Potential Emotional Negative Effects of Too Much Homework

Over three hours can stress kids out, trigger health issues and more, a study says. Here's a metro Detroit teacher's view on the negative effects of too much homework.

School, piano lessons, soccer practice, homework and family time. There truly aren’t enough hours in the day for today’s busy kids. And, it turns out, they could be experiencing some negative effects of too much homework, in particular.

As parents, we want to raise well-rounded children who will become successful adults, so we keep them active in school clubs, sports and more – and make sure they stay on top of school stuff.

But when it comes to that homework, one study shows that too many hours of assignments are actually negatively impacting kids’ emotional state.

High school students who get an average of three hours of homework per night actually experience more stress, physical health issues and lack of balance in their lives, according to research out of Stanford University in California.

And it’s something that’s happening here in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor, too – but starting even earlier than high school.

In fact, Stacy Brooks, who once served as life skills teacher at Derby Middle School in Birmingham, says many students have expressed feeling overwhelmed by the amount of homework they receive, which ranges from one-and-a-half to three hours each night.

“Our school district is very competitive,” Brooks told Metro Parent in a 2014 interview. “I think they are under a lot of stress where I teach. And not just where I teach – we live in a very competitive society.”

Homework overload

In an effort to examine the relationship among homework, a student’s well-being and behavioral engagement, researchers looked at survey data from 4,317 students from 10 high-performing schools – four public and six private – in upper-middle class neighborhoods.

With parent consent, students completed a 40-minute survey during school. Teens were asked about homework load/usefulness, time for other activities, stress and more.

Questions included:

  • “In general, how well does your homework prepare you for tests, papers or projects?”
  • “How often do you worry about school assignments?”
  • “How often does schoolwork or studying keep you from having time for your family, friends or other activities?”

Kids were asked to rate them on a five-point scale, from 1 (never) to 5 (always).

“Students who did more hours of homework experienced greater behavioral engagement in school but also more academic stress, physical health problems and lack of balance in their lives,” the study notes.

That came as no surprise to Brooks, who says many students express feeling anxious about the amount of homework they have, even as early as sixth grade.

“They can’t deal with the homework – they are not used to it,” Brooks says.

Balancing act

Homework is stressful on parents, too, she adds, because they are balancing their careers and family time – plus, they still have to make dinner, clean the house and more.

So while they may not necessarily have to help their children with their homework, they do have to stay on top of it – and know how much their child has, when it’s due, etc.

According to the study, it also impacts the quality and quantity of family time. Your child might be missing Grandpa’s birthday because he’s too busy trying to juggle school with everything else.

Plus, “These kids are so over-scheduled. They are so well-rounded, but they have no free time,” Brooks says.

Teacher tips

Practice is a key part of learning, so homework isn’t going anywhere. And there are benefits; they just tend to plateau around the two-hour mark for high schoolers, the study notes.

So what can be done to stave off the negative effects of too much homework? Brooks has some suggestions on making things a bit easier.

“Have a calendar and a schedule and stick to it,” she says, but encourages parents to not overschedule their children.

Create a homework environment by designating a quiet spot – one that is free of distractions. Brooks also suggests checking your child’s school’s website or teacher blogs for upcoming homework and projects.

Finally, if your kid is really struggling with the workload, Brooks says it might be time to talk to his or her teacher.

“There might be a reason they have so much homework – wasting class time, struggling with the material – or they may have resources to assist you if your child is truly struggling.”

This post was originally published in 2014 and is updated regularly.


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