From kindergarten to the final years of high school, recent research suggests that some students are getting excessive amounts of homework.
In turn, when students are pushed to handle a workload that’s out of sync with their development level, it can lead to significant stress — for children and their parents.
Both the National Education Association (NEA) and the National PTA (NPTA) support a standard of “10 minutes of homework per grade level” and setting a general limit on after-school studying.
For kids in first grade, that means 10 minutes a night, while high school seniors could get two hours of work per night.
But the most recent study to examine the issue found that kids in early elementary school received about three times the amount of recommended homework.
Published in The American Journal of Family Therapy, the 2015 study surveyed more than 1,100 parents in Rhode Island with school-age children.
The researchers found that first and second graders received 28 and 29 minutes of homework per night.
Kindergarteners received 25 minutes of homework per night, on average. But according to the standards set by the NEA and NPTA, they shouldn’t receive any at all.
A contributing editor of the study, Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, told CNN that she found it “absolutely shocking” to learn that kindergarteners had that much homework.
And all those extra assignments may lead to family stress, especially when parents with limited education aren’t confident in their ability to help kids with the work.
The researchers reported that family fights about homework were 200 percent more likely when parents didn’t have a college degree.
Some parents, in fact, have decided to opt out of the whole thing. The Washington Post reported in 2016 that some parents have just instructed their younger children not to do their homework assignments.
They report the no-homework policy has taken the stress out of their afternoons and evenings. In addition, it's been easier for their children to participate in after-school activities.
This new parental directive may be healthier for children, too.
Experts say there may be real downsides for young kids who are pushed to do more homework than the “10 minutes per grade” standard.
“The data shows that homework over this level is not only not beneficial to children’s grades or GPA, but there’s really a plethora of evidence that it’s detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills, and their quality of life,” Donaldson-Pressman told CNN.
Read more: Less math and science homework beneficial to middle school students »
Consequences for high school students
Other studies have found that high school students may also be overburdened with homework — so much that it’s taking a toll on their health.
In 2013, research conducted at Stanford University found that students in high-achieving communities who spend too much time on homework experience more stress, physical health problems, a lack of balance in their lives, and alienation from society.
That study, published in The Journal of Experimental Education, suggested that any more than two hours of homework per night is counterproductive.
However, students who participated in the study reported doing slightly more than three hours of homework each night, on average.
To conduct the study, researchers surveyed more than 4,300 students at 10 high-performing high schools in upper middle-class California communities. They also interviewed students about their views on homework.
When it came to stress, more than 70 percent of students said they were “often or always stressed over schoolwork,” with 56 percent listing homework as a primary stressor. Less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor.
The researchers asked students whether they experienced physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss, and stomach problems.
More than 80 percent of students reported having at least one stress-related symptom in the past month, and 44 percent said they had experienced three or more symptoms.
The researchers also found that spending too much time on homework meant that students were not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills. Students were more likely to forgo activities, stop seeing friends or family, and not participate in hobbies.
Many students felt forced or obligated to choose homework over developing other talents or skills.
"Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good," said Denise Pope, Ph.D., a senior lecturer at the Stanford University School of Education, and a co-author of a study.
Read more: Should schools screen children for mental health problems? »
Working as hard as adults
A smaller New York University study published last year noted similar findings.
It focused more broadly on how students at elite private high schools cope with the combined pressures of school work, college applications, extracurricular activities, and parents’ expectations.
That study, which appeared in Frontiers in Psychology, noted serious health effects for high schoolers, such as chronic stress, emotional exhaustion, and alcohol and drug use.
The research involved a series of interviews with students, teachers, and administrators, as well as a survey of a total of 128 juniors from two private high schools.
About half of the students said they received at least three hours of homework per night. They also faced pressure to take college-level classes and excel in activities outside of school.
Many students felt they were being asked to work as hard as adults, and noted that their workload seemed inappropriate for their development level. They reported having little time for relaxing or creative activities.
More than two-thirds of students said they used alcohol and drugs, primarily marijuana, to cope with stress.
The researchers expressed concern that students at high-pressure high schools can get burned out before they even get to college.
“School, homework, extracurricular activities, sleep, repeat — that’s what it can be for some of these students,” said Noelle Leonard, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the New York University College of Nursing, and lead study author, in a press release.
Read more: Lack of mental healthcare for children reaches ‘crisis’ level »
What can be done?
Experts continue to debate the benefits and drawbacks of homework.
But according to an article published this year in Monitor on Psychology, there’s one thing they agree on: the quality of homework assignments matters.
In the Stanford study, many students said that they often did homework they saw as "pointless" or "mindless."
Pope, who co-authored that study, argued that homework assignments should have a purpose and benefit, and should be designed to cultivate learning and development.
It’s also important for schools and teachers to stick to the 10-minutes per grade standard.
In an interview with Monitor on Psychology, Pope pointed out that students can learn challenging skills even when less homework is assigned.
Pope described one teacher she worked with who taught advanced placement biology, and experimented by dramatically cutting down homework assignments. First the teacher cut homework by a third, and then cut the assignments in half.
The students’ test scores didn’t change.
“You can have a rigorous course and not have a crazy homework load,” Pope said.
Editor’s Note: The story was originally published on March 11, 2014. It was updated by Jenna Flannigan on August 11, 2016 and then updated again on April 11, 2017 by David Mills.
Throughout the school year, student’s live by a strict schedule that consists of school, extracurricular activities and homework. The amount of homework has intensified, students are getting less sleep during school nights, and the level of stress is at its highest peak. American teenagers are given too much homework during the school year, thus leading to unfavorable impacts mentally and physically. I have experienced in the past 2 years the stress, tiredness and isolation from family events due to being in high school. The load of homework I have received is ridiculous I have to miss family dinners and supporting my sister at her soccer and basketball games. I get about half the amount of sleep I used to get and my acne has gotten worse from all the stress. I feel that I’m not fully living my life and that I’m restricted by homework.
First of all, American teenagers are getting too much homework leading to unfavorable impacts mentally and physically such as spending less time with the people who are most important to you in life. A survey by the University of Phoenix in 2013 states “high school students had an average of 17.5 hours of homework every week and 3.5 hours from each teacher per week”. Considering if we go to school all day and have extracurricular activities then it leaves us very little time to spend with family and friends, causing us to miss the most important high school memories. The smallest moments when either you’re little sister or brother started talking or maybe your sister or brother shot the winning basket. Still you are stuck at home doing work, missing those priceless moments. The American College Health Association found, “the suicide rate among young adults, ages 15-24, has tripled since the 1950s and suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among students, these young people are often away from home”. School makes it very hard to spend any time with family because we either have presentations or essays to write. While these students are at school and are away from their family for too long they start to show signs of depression. Students with depression often turn to suicide to make everything go away and not have to deal with the stress anymore. At the same time that I believe having homework is good practice to learn the material. I believe that when every teacher gives out homework for practice it starts to piles up for the students. Moments in life should be cherished except for students who have too much homework they don’t get to cherish them, so many unfavorable impact mentally and physically cause students make them not enjoy life fully.
Secondly, American teenagers have too much homework that cause unfavorable impacts mentally and physically. Unfavorable impacts include the loss a lot of sleep for many students. I argue that students are losing sleep due to having a lot of homework. Supported by new research showing that “with lack of sleep students have a limited ability to learn, to listen, to concentrate and to solve problems”. Those are the basic principles of school this means it’s harder for us to do what is expected. The expectations are that we do all our homework no matter how much it must be done. Thus leading us to staying up late trying to finish the homework in order to succeed in the course. The school's new way of teaching is to get us to think about problems and solve without a guide. However with lack of sleep it isn’t easy to comprehend the task at hand if I’m so exhausted all the time. Data shows that “38% of teens have trouble falling asleep at night”. Moreover your mind doesn’t stop thinking right after you finish homework. Your mind is not relaxed which makes it hard to go to bed. Sleep is essential for the human body and with all of this homework students are getting it's hard for them to get the full 8 ½ hours they need to function. A lot of homework is a leading cause in having unfavorable impact mentally such as loss of sleep for students.
Furthermore, too much homework is given to American teenagers that causes unfavorable impacts mentally and physically. For instance the stress level has escalated in the past few years. The results of a survey by psychologist Norman Anderson showed,“the stress level between students a 5.8 out of 10 and adults with a 5.1 out of 10, that a 0.6 difference”. This shows just how stressed out we are today. We should be able to live life without being tied down because we are trying to finish homework late at night and causing a lot of stress. We also have pressure and expectations to finish our homework and turn it in when it’s due. “Factors that cause stress include academics, social pressure, post-secondary plans, family issues and finance”. Notice how the first two causes are school related such as finishing homework and the pressure of looking presentable. The social pressure that is put on girls to always look decent causes stress and then leads to acne. Stress causes acne for girls especially. This because we are supposed to have good skin otherwise we are not pretty and we stress out about our faces on top of everything else. This shows the unnecessary stress that we have on ourselves as students. Parents think that our lives aren’t as stressful compared to their lives such as dealing with bills and housework but recently experts suggest that school for us has increasingly become much more stressful. With all the expectations that students have today we put too much pressure on ourselves and cause us to be stressed out. Unfavorable impacts include stress and pressure about their academics and finishing homework on students isn’t good for their mental health.
To conclude, although teachers give too much homework may seem trivial, it is in fact crucial in terms of today’s concern over teen’s physiological and physical health. Some impacts include spending less time with family and friends while missing the important memories. Losing a lot of sleep making it harder to focus and learn. The level of stress has increased rapidly through the years. American teenagers are given too much homework during the school year has many unfavorable impacts mentally and physically.
Bidwell, Allie. "Students Spend More Time on Homework." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 27 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
Burden, Tanya. "Homework Anxiety: Survey Reveals How Much Homework K-12 Students Are Assigned and Why Teachers Deem It Beneficial." Homework Anxiety: Survey Reveals How Much Homework K-12 Students Are Assigned and Why Teachers Deem It Beneficial. University of Phoenix, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
Burrell, Jackie. "College and Teen Suicide Statistics: What You Should Know." About.com Parenting. About, Inc, 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
Jayson, Sharon. "Teens Feeling Stressed, and Many Not Managing It Well." USA Today. Gannett, 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
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@PsychToday. "Teen Stress: How Much Is Too Much?" Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 30 Sept. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.