Intergenerational Effects of Parents’ Math Anxiety on Children’s Math Achievement and Anxiety
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Title: Intergenerational Effects of Parents’ Math Anxiety on Children’s Math Achievement and Anxiety
Authors: Erin A. Maloney, Gerardo Ramirez, Elizabeth A. Gunderson, Susan C. Levine, and Sian L. Beilock
Journal and DOI: Psychological Science https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogdev.2021.101078
What did we ask?
Parents often help their children with their math homework. But what happens if those parents are anxious about math? Could their homework help backfire?
What did we do?
We conducted a large field study of children in first and second grade and explored how their parents’ anxiety about math relates to their children’s math achievement. We tested whether parents’ math anxiety predicts their children’s math achievement across the school year.
What did we find?
We found that when parents are more math anxious, their children learn significantly less math over the school year and have more math anxiety by the school year’s end—but only if math-anxious parents report providing frequent help with math homework. Notably, when parents reported helping with math homework less often, children’s math achievement and attitudes were not related to parents’ math anxiety.
Why is this important?
These findings provide evidence of a mechanism for intergenerational transmission of low math achievement and high math anxiety. These results also highlight that it is not enough to just tell parents to “Get involved”. Rather, we need to develop tools and resources to help parents help their children with their math learning.