Want Your Kids to Do Well in School? It Could Come Down to Their Friends

Mar 27, 2017 at 1:04 p.m. ET
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Could peer pressure actually determine your child's academic success? Turns out a kid's grades may hinge on their friends — not their teachers. That's the finding from a study published in the International Journal of Education Research. So the next time you're freaking out about what teacher your kid got, maybe take a look at your child's circle of friends instead.

In the study, college students enrolled in an online psychology class received rationale (as to why the class was important and vital for their future success) from peers, the teacher or none at all.

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The students who received rationale from their peers scored an average of 92 percent on their final grade. Those who got it from their teacher scored 86 percent. And those who didn't get any? They still managed an average of 90 percent.

Researchers believe that students just identify more with other students than an instructor. "When I hear a peer's story, it connects to the story I am telling myself about who I want to be in the future," said co-author Cary Roseth, an associate professor of educational psychology.

Even the students who received no rationale did better than those who received it from the teacher. So why aren't instructors making more of an impact? Researchers believe the fact that teachers control the grades and tell the students what to do may undermine their efforts to communicate the importance of the class.

Bottom line? Encourage your children to hang with those smart, motivated kids — not the ones sneaking cigarettes in the bathrooms when they are supposed to be in class. I've noticed that kids pretty much want to do whatever their friends do. (I am sure of this because in elementary school, my friends and I all wore super-cool knickers with argyle socks.) So if your children are spending time with classmates who want to do well, it will probably rub off on them too.

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