Research Studies

Research Studies

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American Journal of Family Therapy

Homework and Family Stress

ROBERT M. PRESSMAN, Ph.D.,New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, Providence, Rhode Island, USADAVID B. SUGARMAN, Ph.D.,Rhode Island College Department of Psychology Providence, Rhode Island, USAMELISSA L. NEMON, Ph.D., Brandeis University Heller School of Social Policy and Management, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA

JUDITH A. OWENS, M.D., Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, District of Columbia, USA

ALLISON SCHETTINI EVANS, Ph.D., Brown University Alpert School of Medicine, Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Jennifer Desjarlais, Dean College, Franklyn, MA, USA

Ke y Words: : homework load, homework burden, homework help, homework stress, homework rule, educational bias, family stress, educational inequality, educational discrimination, Hispanic vs non-Hispanic families

Submission Date: April 14, 2015

Publication Date: August 12, 2015  


  • New data: Actual homework load of primary and secondary school students.
  • Findings: Introduces the concept of inadvertent homework discrimination against disadvantaged families.
  • Findings: Effects of homework on family stress.


To develop an understanding of:

  • How homework impacts stress in families
  • How educational level, parental confidence, and language impact stress levels during homework execution


Homework load was measured utilizing the 10 Minute Rule, promulgated by the National Education Association.  Participants consisted of 1207 parents who presented with a child for a routine visit at one of 25 private and two public pediatric offices.  67% of the participants completed an English questionnaire and 33% completed a Spanish questionnaire.


  • Homework Load: Contrary to the 10 Minute Rule, primary school children received about three times the recommended load of homework. 
  • English vs. Spanish: The amount of homework load reported also varied significantly between English and Spanish speakers as it did between parents with limited education and those with advanced education.  The latter two findings raise the question of possible cultural and socioeconomic inequality in the use of homework, e.g., unintended discrimination in the use of homework as a teaching device. 
  • Family Stress:  Caregivers’ level of comfort in ability to help with homework accounted for 19.4% of the variance in reported family stress. This raises questions concerning inadvertent bias and its role in the increased stress reported by Spanish-speaking parents and parents who do not have a college degree.


  • Kindergartners average 25 minutes on homework; the NEA has not endorsed homework for Kindergartners.
  • First graders have up to 3X the NEA recommended homework load, while second graders have a figure 1.5X greater.
  • Conflict and arguments regarding homework occurred at a rate up to 200% greater in families where parents did not have at least a college degree
Full Study:  Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents’ Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background.

    American Journal of Family Therapy    


ROBERT M. PRESSMAN, Ph.D.,New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, Providence, Rhode Island, USAJUDITH A. OWENS, M.D., Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, District of Columbia, USAALLISON SCHETTINI EVANS, Ph.D., Brown University Alpert School of Medicine, Providence, Rhode Island, USAMELISSA L. NEMON, Ph.D., Brandeis University Heller School of Social Policy and Management, Waltham, Massachusetts, USAKey Words: Parenting, Screen Time ADHD, Homework, Learning Habit, Social Skills, GritAcceptance Date: June 18, 2014Publication Date: September 2, 2014   WHAT THIS STUDY ADDS: 

  • Database: Largest database of contemporary psycho-social issues now in existence.
  • Connecting the dots: Analysis of multiple variables on the same families permitting global analysis of the interaction of family life, media, and parenting styles with children’s grades, focus, mental health, sociability, and sleep.
  • Parenting: Analysis of the effects of two common parenting styles in relation to focus (ADHD), GPA, sleep, emotion, screen time, and grit.
  • Family Time: The overall effect between time a family spends together and the amount of media consumption a child has and the degree of emotional problems a child exhibits.
  • Media Safe-Zone:  Objective evidence regarding amount of screen exposure where children are relatively free of deleterious effects.
  • Media Danger-Zone: Objective evidence regarding the progressive amount of screen exposure a child has in relation to problematic academic performance and sleep.
  • Homework Time: Children’s GPA’s vs. relative homework load (using the National Teacher’s Association’s 10 Minute Rule) analyzed from first to twelfth grade.


  • To create a database of more than 20,000 American families for ongoing study of their routines, style of parenting, and the  presence of screen time upon child outcomes in the areas of academic performance, emotion, focus, homework, grit, sociability, and sleep.
  • To determine the impact of multiple variables on each other.


  • The survey instrument consisted of 109 prompts and corresponding replies. 46,125 viewers took part in The Learning Habit Survey. The analysis of this article focused on 21,145 parents of children who were in kindergarten through twelfth grade and who answered all items. Hyperlinks were provided by WebMD, AOL/Huffington Post, The National PTA and Parents Magazine.


  • As the largest known study of its kind, it was not possible to present and discuss the analysis of all variables within the confines of a journal article.  This may be found in The Learning Habit (Perigee/Penguin Random House, 2014), designed for parents and educators.
  • Parenting: Empowerment parenting, which is a style closely allied with authoritative parenting and rewards desired behavior, was more efficacious than traditional parenting, which is style closely allied with authoritarian parenting and punishes undesired behavior, in the promotion of children’s grades, sleep, focus (ADHD symptoms), grit and emotional health.
  • Screen time:  A “safe zone†from deleterious effects of screen time was calculated at 45 minutes. The “danger zone†occurred slightly before two hours with a half point drop in children’s GPA.  After four hours of accumulated screen time, the GPA of children dropped slightly more than a full point.
  • Family Time: Three variables were significantly related to reduced screen time among children, higher GPA, and fewer emotional problems. These were regular dinners, attending religious services, and playing board games together.
  • Homework:  Based on the 10 Minute Rule (10 minutes of homework per day for every year a child is in school, e.g.,  20 minutes for second grader, 70 minutes for a seventh grader) children who had this duration of homework time did better academically than children who had less.  However, there was virtually no benefit from time spent beyond the 10 Minute Rule.
  PDF: “Examining the Interface of Family and Personal Traits,Media, and Academic Imperatives Using the Learning Habit Study” click link below:The Learning Habit Study in The American Journal of Family Therapy PDF