Year

1996

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Department of Psychology

Abstract

The purposes of this thesis were to investigate the relationships between attributional style, trait anxiety and academic performance with some key demographic and family factors. The thesis consisted of two parts. The purpose of Part One was to investigate the relationships between trait anxiety, attributional style and academic performance of students enrolled in 18 primary public schools in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia. In each of these schools one class of students in grade 4, 5, and 6 were included (N= 554 students; 277 boys and 277 girls). The results of Part One showed significant differences between low and high trait anxious children on their composite attributional style for negative events. Children with low trait anxiety scored significantly superior to children with high trait anxiety (p < .001). The results also showed that the academic performance of students with low trait anxiety was noticeably higher than the academic performance of students with high trait anxiety (p < .01). Academic performance was significantly correlated with pessimistic attributional style, suggesting that low performance is associated with more stable negative attributional styles and with more global negative attributional styles. In addition, the academic performance of English-speaking students was significantly higher than the academic performance of the non-English-speaking students (p < .05). Moreover, there were significant differences between non-English and native English-speaking children for trait anxiety (< .01), however, these groups were statistically similar for attributional style (p>.05).

Concerning gender differences, remarkable differences were also found between boys and girls regarding their academic performance, trait anxiety and attributional style (p < .05). Academic performance and trait anxiety were significantly higher for the girls than for the boys (p < .01). Regarding attributional style, girls attributed positive events to internal, stable, and global causes and negative events to external, unstable, and specific causes. Boys, on the other hand, tended to attribute negative events to internal, stable, and global causes and positive events to external, unstable, and specific causes. No significant correlation were found between academic performance and grade, academic performance and birth order, academic performance and family size, or between anxiety and grade, anxiety and birth order and between anxiety and family size (p > .05). Furthermore, there were no significant correlations between attributional style, birth order and family (p> .05).

Part two of the study was designed to determine the effects of socio-economic status as determined by parents' occupation and education on the academic performance of their child, and to investigate predictions of parents' anxiety and attributional style on children's academic performance, trait anxiety and attributional style (N = 280 fathers and 374 mothers).

The results of Part Two showed remarkable cultural differences regarding parents' anxiety and their attributional style. Regarding fathers' attributional style, there were significant cultural differences between hopelessness and language spoken at home, negative stability and language spoken, and composite negative attributional style and language spoken (p < .05). Furthermore, high-anxious parents, more than low anxious parents, attributed negative events to more internal, stable and global causes (p <.001).

Students' academic performance significantly increased with higher socioeconomic status (SES) of their parents. Specifically, academic performance increased with improving fathers' occupation and education (p < .001). In addition, the pessimistic attributional style of students with middle SES was significantly higher than pessimistic attributional style of students with high SES (p < .01).

Finally, multiple regression analyses indicated that the best predictor of children's academic performance was sex (R2 = .10) followed by fathers' occupation (R2 = .25) and education (R2 = .09), children's global negative attributional style (R2 = .29), children's anxiety (R2 = .21), mothers' global positive (R2 = .24) and fathers' stable negative attributional style (R2 = .16). Results showed that fathers' stable negative attributional style was the best predictor of girls' academic performance (R2 = .16), followed by mothers' education (R2 = .18) and children's stable positive attributional style (R2 = .21). Regarding non-English-speaking students, only children's global negative attributional style (R2 = .18) and children's sex contributed to predicting academic performance (R2 = .29). Thus, the results of this thesis infer that children's academic performance may function of selected personal characteristics of themselves, their parents, and cultural factors.

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