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Teen Stress at Home Lingers in School

Study Shows Home Stress Affects Academic Performance; School Stress Spills Over at Home
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 15, 2008 -- A stressful situation at home can affect teenagers' performance at school for days, according to a new study.

Researchers found the negative effects of stress at home linger and affect teenagers' academic performance at school for up to two days. Meanwhile, stress over grades and other demands at school may also spill over into the home life of teens.

"The findings from this study indicate that there are indeed short- and long-term consequences of daily stress that should not be overlooked," says researcher Lisa Flook, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a news release. "By the same token, the two-directional process of spillover between family and school identified here suggests that reducing stress in the family may have benefits for adolescents' school adjustment and vice versa."

Teen Stress Spillover

In the study, published in Child Development, researchers surveyed an ethnically diverse group of 589 ninth-graders in the Los Angeles area from three schools. The teens were asked to report their daily school and family experiences in a diary every day for two weeks.

The diary included a checklist that measured conflict with parents, family demands, learning difficulties, school attendance, and other potentially stressful issues.

The results showed that when the teens experienced family stress at home they had more problems at school with attendance and learning the next day. The reverse was also true. When teens had school stress, they experienced more problems at home the next day. Those stress spillover effects lasted for two days after the initial stress.

In a separate analysis among 503 teens who participated in the study in both the ninth and 12th grade, researchers found those who had higher levels of family stress and school stress at the start of high school had poorer academic performance by their senior year. Also, students with higher levels of academic problems in ninth grade had greater levels of family stress in 12th grade.

Researchers say the findings suggest that reducing stress could have both short- and long-term effects on teens' well-being and academic achievement.

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