Connecting parenting to achievement: The effect of strength-based parenting to academic achievement, with the mediation of perseverance and engagement

This research article by leading scholar, Lea Waters and her colleagues (hyperlink: sheds light on the importance of strength-based parenting, a style of parenting characterized by knowledge and encouragement of a child’s unique personality, abilities, talents, and skills and strengths on wellbeing and achievement. Recent studies have demonstrated a unique contribution of SBP, above other parenting styles, in predicting a range of wellbeing indicators in adolescents. Given that wellbeing supports learning, and SBP predicts wellbeing, it is also plausible that adolescents with strength-based parents will have greater academic achievement.

In this study, 741 students from a public secondary school in Australia (Mage = 13.70, SD = 1.33; 50% female) completed a self-report survey measuring perceptions of parental style, engagement, and perseverance at the beginning of the school term, and subsequent academic results were obtained 3 months later.

At the beginning of term, SBP predicted higher wellbeing in the form of adolescent engagement and perseverance. SBP also demonstrated a significant effect on academic achievement which was mediated by perseverance, but not engagement. Thus, results supported a model in which adolescents with strength-based parents achieved higher grades via increased perseverance.

Results reaffirm the importance of the parent-student link, and dispositional qualities of engagement and perseverance, in predicting educational outcomes such as grades. This study extends positive education research beyond the classroom by demonstrating that positive parenting techniques like SBP can predict student wellbeing and academic achievement.

Interestingly, the teen ratings showed that parents who are strengths-based are also very often autonomy-granting and responsive. These interrelationships suggest that parenting styles are likely to occur in constellation with strengths-based approaches, and may indicate that other, complementary, positive parenting styles are mutually reinforcing.

What mechanisms may be at play to produce these results? One potential account is that SBP allows the adolescent to understand and use their own strengths to a greater extent, and this more frequent use of strengths offers greater intrinsic motivation and energy, which then increases the perseverance in academic tasks, ultimately resulting in higher achievement.

More research is definitely needed to clarify this mechanism, but until then we can draw a takeaway conclusion: it is worth focusing more on strengths and strength-based approaches both in parenting and in the broader educational environments.