A tenth of parents who took part said it saved stress if they did the work themselves, although not all of them admitted to doing so regularly. A quarter said they had to stop themselves from completing all the exercises.
Seventy per cent of the respondents said their children were happy to let them do it. In fact, in just over a third of cases, parents said their offspring often wandered off and left them to slog alone over their text books.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “I’ve helped my own children on occasion and have discovered sometimes that I don’t know as much as I thought about some things.
“But there is a difference between helping and doing and it is clearly not a good idea to complete it. The question is what these parents are trying to prove. It is not a formal test, so why sacrifice their children’s learning in an attempt to make their children look good?”
In fact, the study suggested this was precisely the motive for many parents to get involved. Four in ten claimed they got a real “buzz” if their child got top marks on a project they had helped with, while a third said they felt there was a competition between themselves and other parents when it comes to homework.
Mr Hobby said one reason parents were taking over the nightly chore was in order to avoid family arguments over getting it done.
The study found evidence that this may well be the case, and that rows over homework often broke out between couples, as well as between parent and child.
One in 20 couples admitted to arguing over their child’s school work, with such clashes occurring at an average rate of three per month.
The causes included the best way to tackle homework, which parent will help out, criticism that one parent is not helping enough, or that they are interfering too much.
One additional reason for the tension, hinted at in the research, could be that the parents themselves find the work too difficult to do themselves.
A quarter of those taking part in the survey said they considered the tasks their children were sent home with were too hard, while nearly two thirds admitted there have been times when they were unable to help because it was too taxing.
And it seems that the angst caused by homework does not stop when you are grown up. Almost a fifth of parents said it sometime made them feel incompetent, while just under a third said it caused them to feel paranoia about their own levels of intelligence.
A spokesman for the Bett trade-show said: “Most parents will get called upon to help with their children’s homework at some point during their education.
“But these results show there is a fine line between helping your child understand what they are studying and completely taking over.”
Social workers employed by the advocacy groups distribute cautionary tales from real life intended to make immigrant parents think twice before administering an imported version of tough love. Parents are warned that Muslim children of parents accused of abuse can be placed in non-Muslim families, where they may inadvertently be fed pork. Children from nonreligious families may be taken to Christian services by their foster families, parents are warned.
When the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, an advocacy group, printed a brochure to advise parents on child abuse issues, it addressed fundamental cultural beliefs.
''In the Chinese culture, the family is most important,'' it said. ''A Chinese family might expect their child to support the family by doing well in school and obeying his parents.
''In America, the individual is the most important. American society might consider the family's discipline to be too strong, especially if the child is hurt physically or emotionally.''
The difficulty in adopting American ways, said Patrick So, a psychotherapist for the New York City School Board, largely stems from different beliefs about children.
''In Asia, your child is considered your property and you can do whatever you want,'' he said. ''In the Western culture, it's not the case.''
The clash about how to discipline a child is not new in New York City, where half of the population are immigrants and their children. Many immigrant parents have said for years that American parents are too permissive, and that children are disrespectful to elders.
Half a century ago, principals paddled the disobedient, and other forms of physical punishment were tolerated. But for more than 30 years, such punishment has been forbidden in New York schools. The schools have gone from places where punishment was administered to agencies looking for signs of physical abuse, sometimes at the hands of parents from cultures with different beliefs about punishment. The Board of Education would not comment on the Queens case, citing privacy.
As the emphasis has shifted from keeping families together to removing children to prevent harm, the conflicts over disciplinary practices have become acute, said Edward Zigler, a Yale child psychology professor who was a founder of Head Start.
Well-meaning advice can put parents in a predicament, said social workers, since many parents know no other way to discipline children.
Mrs. Liu, a Chinatown resident who would give only her last name, said she had been at a loss after she learned about local laws.
''I don't even dare to touch him,'' said Mrs. Liu, referring to her mischievous 11-year-old son. ''Every time I want to hit him, he threatens to call 911 and have me arrested.''
Joe Semidei, a director of the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, said his organization teaches parents other ways to discipline children.
Mr. Semidei said: ''Here are some examples: You are not going to the baseball game this weekend if you do this. But you are going to have a new toy if you do that. You negotiate with the kids and lay the boundaries. Here in America, you reinforce good discipline by rewards.''
But many immigrant parents see this as bribery, and they cannot understand why they are not allowed to do what they think is best. They grow more antagonistic toward the child welfare system when their children encounter negligent foster parents or guardians.
''Some Chinese kids have become addicted to drugs in foster care, and a few teenage girls got pregnant.'' said Xuejun Chi, who was a university professor in China and is now a social worker at the Y.M.C.A. in Chinatown. ''When their parents eventually get them back, they are so messed up. The parents ask, 'How has the system cared for them any better than I did?' ''
Professor Zigler says corporal punishment can make children abusive or depressed as adults, but he favors less drastic measures than removing children every time their parents hit them too hard.
''Taking children away from their homes is itself a form of child abuse,'' he said. ''We have to give immigrant parents a chance to get acculturated.''
When immigrant parents do give up children to foster care, advocacy groups usually sympathize and find them legal advice to win their children back.
The Chinese American Planning Council, whose family counseling program is financed by Children's Services, helps families whose children have been put in foster care reach settlements with the family courts to prevent long separation. The agreements often include mandatory sessions for parents on raising children.
Billy Wong, a director of the Chinatown Y.M.C.A., offers a class on anger management for parents.
The Coalition for Asian American Children and Families has started a campaign to recruit Asian families to provide foster care for Asian children.
Children's Services is willing to become more sensitive to cultural differences. ''Our goal is to keep families together, not to break them up,'' said Kathleen Walsh, a spokeswoman. ''But our ultimate goal is to keep the children safe.'' The agency has formed an immigrant issues group, which meets once every three months, when officials are briefed by immigrant community leaders about their groups' cultural practices.Continue reading the main story