In this study, authors Lucia Ciciolla, Alexandria S. Curlee, Jason Karageorge and Suniya S. Luthar surveyed sixth graders from affluent families. Each child was asked to rank the emphasis their parents placed on six values. Three of the values related to achievement (attend a good college, excel academically and have a successful career in the future) and three related to kindness (be respectful to others, try to help others in need and be kind to others).
A child’s perception that their parents place a high value on achievement does not imply that the parents do not value kindness. However, the data revealed that the child is very aware of their parents’ priority or emphasis. The researchers also attempted to capture the impact of critical parents.
The results of this study are statistically significant: Children from affluent families who perceived that each of their parents value kindness much more than achievement outshine other children both psychologically and academically. That may be worth repeating. Children who perceive that each of their parents value kindness much more than achievement outshine other children both psychologically and academically.
It should also be noted that children who come from families where achievement seems to be valued more than kindness have higher anxiety and depression, lower self-esteem and performed more poorly in school. Children who ranked the lowest in psychological wellness and academic achievement had a least one parent who valued achievement more than kindness and at least one parent who was highly critical.
The study did not account for the quality of family relationships, culture, personalities or a myriad of other families values. The complexities of human interactions are difficult to replicate in laboratory studies. Coincidentally, David Daniels, Ph.D., who will be a guest lecture at LJCDS on September 18, 2017, will discuss that laboratory results do not always transfer to the classroom. (Dr. Daniels is recognized for his excellence in bridging neuroscience and education. He will be presenting to parents What Really Works: Parents’ Roles in Developing a “Learning Brain," on Monday, September 18, 8:15 a.m. in the Community Hall.)
Most families want their children to both achieve and be kind. The research suggests that a child who believes that their parents give a high priority to the pursuit of kindness has a better chance to meet both of these goals. These students are best situated to inspire greatness for a better world.
Ciciolla, Lucia, et al. “When Mothers and Fathers Are Seen as Disproportionately Valuing Achievements: Implications for Adjustment Among Upper Middle Class Youth.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, May 2017, pp. 1057–1075., doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-016-0596-x.