Homework may do more than reinforce lessons that students learn in school each day.

New research from Germany suggests it may have a positive effect on children’s character, helping them become more conscientious.

“Our results show that homework is not only relevant for school performance but also for personality development, provided that students put a lot of effort into their assignments,” study author Richard Gollner, from the University of Tubingen, said in a university news release.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data on 2,760 students, starting when they transitioned from fourth to fifth grade and then annually for the next three years. The youngsters answered questions about how well they did in their recent homework assignments, rated their efforts and reported on various measures of conscientiousness, such as neatness.

The researchers found that students who invested more time and effort into their homework between fifth and eighth grade became more conscientious, leading the researchers to conclude that thorough and meticulous attention to homework can offset the temporary decline in conscientiousness that preteens typically experience. They noted that the students’ parents echoed this view.

The findings were published recently in the Journal of Research in Personality.

“The question whether doing your homework can also influence the development of conscientiousness has been mostly neglected in previous discussions of the role of homework,” said Ulrich Trautwein, director of the university’s Hector Research Institute of Education Sciences and Psychology.

“We need to define more precisely what expectations we have of the potential of homework and how those expectations can be fulfilled,” Trautwein said.

More information

The U.S. Department of Education offers information on how to help children with homework.

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