The effects of homework on students' social-emotional health

Children’s and adolescents’ social-emotional health is moving to the forefront of attention in schools, as depression, anxiety, and suicide rates are on the rise for youth (Bennett & Kalish, 2006). At the same time, students are experiencing intense academic demands, including an increased focus on grades, standardized test scores, and larger amounts of assigned homework (Kohn, 2006). While the interplay between social-emotional challenges and scholastic demands has been postulated upon in literature, there is little research on the effects of academic stress on the social and emotional health of elementary-aged students (Kohn, 2006). The present research study investigated parent, teacher, and student perspectives regarding homework on students’ social-emotional health using newly developed surveys. Additionally, teachers’ and parents’ awareness of homework policies at their respective schools and the primary purposes of why teachers assign homework were examined. The participants in this study were students in grades 3-6 (n = 213), their parents (n = 223), and their teachers (n = 16). While the results of this research are preliminary,the data provide some information regarding the lack of school homework policies, as well as misinformation about those policies among parents and teachers. Additionally, the data suggest that the impact of homework on students’ social-emotional health is inconsistent across raters, as parents and students perceive a more negative impact relative to teachers. Lastly, while research indicates teachers have good intentions for assigning homework (e.g., work ethic and independence/responsibility), prior research suggests homework is not often an effective way of teaching these skills. As a result of the current study, limitations, recommendations for future research, and suggestions for districts, educators, and parent advisory groups are discussed.