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Parent Rewards for Good Grades

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Figure 1: Science Grades by Parental Rewards for Good Grades

Many parents try to encourage good grades from their children, but some may wonder how far such encouragement should go. As the participants of the Longitudinal Study of American Youth (LSAY) are now all in their thirties, many are parents and might face similar dilemmas with their own children. In an attempt to encourage good grades from their children, some may turn to rewards, but do rewards really encourage higher grades?

When in high school, LSAY participants were asked whether or not their parents rewarded good grades, as well as, what grades they earned in four subjects: English, math, science, and social studies. A majority of students, about 60 percent, said that their parents did not reward good grades. The grades earned by students used in the data were collected in the 12th grade.

In the figures used, the bars represent the percentage of students in each category (reward or no reward for good grades) who achieved a certain grade for each subject. The data shows that there is very little difference in the percentage of students receiving each grade based on parental rewards for good grades (see Figure 1 above). In fact, in all four subjects the percentage of students who received �mostly As� was slightly higher for those whose parents did not reward good grades (see figures 2,3, and 4 below). One might conclude that rewarding grades has little or no effect on the grades students receive. One might also argue that students who struggle in school are more likely to need rewards as motivation for good grades than those who excel on their own. Even for those at the low end of the grade spectrum, however, the percentages are similar between those who are rewarded and those who are not.

The LSAY participants who now have children of their own can learn from their previous experiences and the experiences of their peers. Rewards from parents to encourage good grades do little to affect the grades their students earn and those who achieve top scores are often students who are not rewarded at all.

Figure 2: English Grades by Parental Rewards for Good Grades

Figure 3: Math Grades by Parental Rewards for Good Grades

Figure 4: Social Studies Grades by Parental Rewards for Good Grades

Prepared by Amanda Misko