Conversations around homework: links to parental mental health, family characteristics and child psychological functioning
Murray, L., Woolgar, M., Martins, C., Christaki, A., Hipwell, A. and Cooper, P. (2006) Conversations around homework: links to parental mental health, family characteristics and child psychological functioning. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 24 (1). pp. 125-149. ISSN 0261-510X
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1348/026151005x83568
Parents are increasingly expected to supplement their children's school-based learning by providing support for children's homework. However, parents' capacities to provide such support may vary and may be limited by the experience of depression. This may have implications for child development. In the course of a prospective, longitudinal study of children of postnatally depressed and healthy mothers, we observed mothers (N = 88) and fathers (N = 78) at home during maths homework interactions with their 8-year-old children. The quality of parental communication was rated and analysed in relation to child functioning. The quality of communication of each of the parents was related to their mental state, social class and IQ. While postnatal depression was not directly related to child development, there was some evidence of the influence of maternal depression occurring in the child's school years. Different aspects of parental communication with the child showed specific associations with different child outcomes, over and above the influence of family characteristics. In particular, child school attainment and IQ were associated with parental strategies to encourage representational thinking and mastery motivation, whereas child behavioural adjustment at school and self-esteem were linked to the degree of parental emotional support and low levels of coercion. Notably, the influence of maternal homework support was more strongly related to child outcome than was paternal support, a pattern reflected in mothers' greater involvement in children's schools and school-related activities. Some parents may need guidance in how to support their children's homework if it is to be of benefit to child functioning.