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Conceptual And Operational Definition Psychology Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Two broad and universal dimensions of parenting practices have been recognized as critical components of the parenting practices from the past two decades namely parental warmth and parental control (Suchman, Rounsaville, DeCoste & Luthar, 2007). These parenting practices have direct effect on child development outcomes (Darling and Steinberg, 1993).

A study among adolescents in Republic of China by Chen, Liu & Li (2000) found that the degree of parental warmth and control as perceived by children significantly decreased from aged of 12 years old to 14 years old due to increase of social and emotional support from peer or other network beside family and increasing of self-control. The result of the study also showed that children perceived the similar level of parental warmth from father and mother.

Another study among Chinese population in Republic of China revealed that Chinese perceived their parents were greater dominating control associated with less parental warmth (Lau, Lew, Hau, Cheung & Berndt, 1990). Moreover, the study also showed that there were similar correlations between the perceived warmth and control of fathers and mother. In contrast, the study among Korean American adolescent demonstrated that children reported slightly significant difference that their mother warmer than father, t (244)=3.09, p<.005 (Kim & Rohner, 2002). It is consistent with Korean cultural ideology of om bu ja mo that refers to strict father but benevolent mother. Children also reported that both their father and mother were moderate in parental control (Kim & Rohner, 2002).

Based on study on parenting dimensions and family harmony found that the better family harmony was related to greater warmth and less control of the parents but not with parental indulgence (Lau et al. 1990). It was also showed that children perceived family harmony mostly influenced by how mother treated them rather their father.

Based on Lian and Yusooff (2006) study among 400 Malaysian adolescents indicated that warmth and supportive family encourages successfully negotiation of disparity hence help to keep conflict at low or moderate level. Furthermore, the quality of interaction especially encouragement and involvement among family members play an important role to children’s academic performance.

Cahalan (2008) demonstrated that paternal warmth was a significant predictor of test anxiety (β=.25) as student who having more relationship with father experiencing higher levels of test anxiety. This finding suggested that children who having warmth father want to please their parent by perform well in academic and consider that as one of children’s goal in order to maintain a close relationship with their parent. Calahan (2008) also stated the warmth relationship between parents and children may exacerbate academic stress which manifest as test anxiety among the children. In addition, Chen et al (2000) revealed that maternal warmth had significant influences to the prediction of emotional adjustment namely loneliness and insecurity (β=-.18)) and depression (β=-.21) but paternal warmth significantly predicted later social (β=.17) and school achievement (β=.20). Furthermore, Suchman et al (2007) also demonstrated that parental warmth had significant effect on children’s psychological adjustment, as parental warmth increase, children’s clinical maladjustment decreased and children’s personal adjustment increased.

The consequences of parental control, most children perceived parental control as negative aspect and often be a major source of parent-child conflict (Lau et al., 1990). Moreover, lack of parental warmth indicates the declination of school performance and high risk of delinquency (Lian & Yusoof, 2006).

Test Anxiety

Testing is widely used in various sectors and determines the decision about people. As a consequence, there is no surprise that the testing situation may arouse anxiety in many individual and there are many people in society start become test anxious in the early phase of their life (Zeidner, 1998,p.4). According to American Test Anxieties Association (2004) about 16 to 20% of students have high test anxiety and another 18% of students are disturbed by moderate test anxiety, affirming that test anxiety is the most prevalent academic impairment in schools today.

The test anxious students characterized by have high vulnerability and a particularly low response threshold for anxiety in evaluative situation.

A study by Ndirangu, Muola, Kithuka & Nassiuma (2009) found that 68.1% of the 80 secondary students in Kenya experienced test anxiety before taking examinations. The study also revealed that there was significant difference between test anxiety levels among students before and after examinations (P < 0.01 t = -3.736) and proved that the level of test anxiety varied between before, during and after examination (Ndirangu et al. 2009). In Malaysia, a study by Ping, Subramaniam and Krishnaswamy (2008) found that, most students had moderate to low Spielberger Test Anxiety Inventory-Trait (STAI) scores. The result indicated that twenty-one (33%) students fell into category of low STAI while thirty-three (52%) students had moderate scores and nine students (14%) were in the high category of STAI. The students mostly experienced the elevation the symptoms of anxiety ten minutes before the exam, which recommended that most of them were having preemptive anxiety. However, these symptoms reduced as the students continued with their examination (Ping et al. 2008).

The level of test anxiety among female reported significantly higher than male counterparts (Lagozzino, 2008). Cahalan (2008) also found that higher prevalence of test anxiety among females than males due to possibilities that females were more sensitive to evaluative stimuli. In contrast, Ndirangu et al. (2009) found there is no significant difference (P > 0.5, F = 0.445) between test anxiety levels in females and males. They stated that both females and males have the same fears toward examination and want to excel in exam.

The level of study occupied by student also has significant differences in test anxiety. Cahalan (2008) found that student in grade 5 reported higher level of test anxiety than student in the grade 3. The increasing demand to achieve academically may contribute to the increasing test anxiety as the grade increased (Hill and Wigfield, 1984).

According to Doan (1993), paternal pressure to be succeeded academically, increasing fathers’ anxiety then would be related to the increasing degree of test anxiety among their children. Further, children feel more anxious when their fathers place a great pressure to be better than others that close with them.

Zeidner (1998, p.4) established that test anxious students have the capability to do well but perform poorly in exam because of their debilitating level of anxiety and then may limit their educational and vocational development. The test anxious student has less positive perception toward test compare to low and moderate test anxious student (Galassi, Frierson &Siegel, 1984). A study by Yousefi, Talib, Mansor, Juhari & Redzuan (2010) established that 18.5% from 400 Iranian adolescent had severe test anxiety. It also showed that test anxiety decreased academic performance yet declined the motivation toward capability for attention and the worst, it leads to academic failure.

Statement of Problem

American Test Anxieties Association (2004) estimated that 10 million children are affected of test anxiety in North America and test anxieties seem to be increasing in line with the increased national prominence on standard test. The prevalence of test anxiety showed the increasing number of student who having test anxiety across the age spans (Lagozzino, 2008). Test anxiety also has significant effect in decreasing student’s capabilities and affect students to excel in their studies (Ariff, Rosmaini & Hancock, 2007). On top of that, Everson and Millsap (1991) established that test anxiety as a major educational problem distressing millions of student in school or colleges. However, most of test anxiety concept and models are adapted from the broader domains such as learning theory and self-regulation. Zeidner (1998, p. 91) stated that there is urgent need for more comprehensive and integrative model and research of test anxiety that cover the complex process of test anxiety including the development, correlates and consequences of test anxiety. The comprehensive picture of interaction between factors contribute to test anxiety and it consequences can be used to overcome the prevalence of test anxiety.

Sarason (1980, as cited in Hassanzadeh, Ebrahimi & Mahdinejad, 2012) indicated that test anxiety originated from personality characteristic which form in interaction with parent’s attitude. Parental child-rearing factors such as parental warmth and control put children at risk for the development of test anxiety because these are the important factor contributing to development of competencies and expectancies (Zeidner, 1998, p.153). Test anxiety can be happened in any time even as early stage of life. According to Hill and Wigfield (1984), test anxiety emerges for some children as early in preschool and elementary school due to unrealistic demands or over expectation by parents. Parents react negatively to their children’s failure and children become fearful of evaluation in achievement situation. Student who are concern about self-image and felt responsible to maintain their parent’ reputation become more anxious while taking an examination (Halim & Hana, 2010). The above studies consistently indicate that relationship and interaction between parents and child has a contribution on the development of test anxiety among children.

Consequences of failing to identify the test anxiety experienced by students will not only influence their individual academic performance but also possibly cause emotional impairment (Lagozzino, 2008). Zeidner (1998, p. 148), also stated that negative response from parents due to poor performance not only develop negative view of themselves but also develop hostile attitude and negative feeling toward the rejecting parent. The negative feelings then lead to the guilty feelings which results in self-derogations and repression of hostile feelings. In addition, the problem of untreated test anxious students will continue into their adulthood where the career choices become restricted and they will have lower quality of life (American Test Anxieties Association, 2004). On the other hand, children who belong to parents who are high on warmth, moderate on discipline, high in communication, and moderate in expectations of maturity are reported to have less anxiety and depression and demonstrate the least amount of ferocity (Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling, 1992).Similar result had been found by Suchman et al. (2007) established that children who perceived their mother higher on parental warmth having less symptom of anxiety, depression, social stress and have stronger internal locus of control. In later development phase, test anxious children have greater risks for worsen anxiety symptoms and others emotional impairment. Thus, more investigation about the process of test anxiety is needed to prevent the consequences of test anxiety from the early stage.

The study by Deckard et al. (2011) regarding the association between parental warmth and control in thirteen cultural groups indicated that the association between warmth and control differed significantly. The study among 1,421 respondents representing thirteen cultural groups in nine countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, North and South America showed the ranging association between warmth and control varies from zero to 0.8 across all the cultural. According to the study, the Chinese and Thai groups had the lowest levels of parental control, African American and Latino families showed relatively high levels of warmth and control and European American families has high level of warmth but low level of control. Chen et al (2000) also emphasized on the importance to investigate parenting practices and its significance for child development in different social and cultural contexts. This study hopes to shed some light on the cross cultural issue on the relationship between parental warmth and control and test anxiety among Malay adolescent in Malaysia.

Currently in Malaysia there are only a few studies that regarding perceived parental warmth and control as well as studies about test anxiety. While there are many studies had been proved that both perceived parental warmth, control and test anxiety affected children’s outcome. However, no published Malaysian studies that have explored the relationship between the three variables proposed, i.e perceived parental warmth and perceived parental control, test anxiety and academic performance. A study among Iranian adolescent by Yousefi et al. (2010) revealed that 66 (16.5%) respondents were considered as having mild test-anxiety, while 260 (65%) of them had moderate test-anxiety and 74 (18.5 %) had severe test-anxiety. These figures raise awareness and call for research that replicate the studies in the Malaysia sample in order to examine the significant of test anxiety on adolescent outcomes.

Based on the result of several researches, there is significant relationship between parental warmth and control with test anxiety (e.g Cahalan, 2008). As well as the significant relationship between parental warmth, parental control and academic performance had been found (e.g. Chen, Liu & Li, 2000). Besides, the significant result also had been found on the relationship between test anxiety and academic performance (e.g. Yousefi, Talib, Mansor, Juhari & Redzuan, 2010; Ariff, Rosmaini & Hancock, 2007). Nevertheless, these studies did not look into test anxiety as a mediator between the relationship between parental warmth, control and academic performance, thus leaving a gap in research.

A study by Duchesne and Ratelle, (2010) revealed that the association between parents’ controlling behaviors and students’ performance goals 1 year later was mediated by students’ anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, the relationship between parents’ involvement and students’ performance goals 1 year later also was mediated by students’ anxiety symptoms. Thus, Duchesne and Ratelle, (2010) suggested that further investigation and research should be done to conclude the adoption of performance goals in the later grade and the symptoms of anxiety as the mediator on the relationship between parenting practices and academic performance. Hence, this is a need to investigate the relationship between the perceived parental warmth and control associate with academically performance with test anxiety as a mediator among Malay’s secondary school students in Malaysia.

Justification of The Study

Everson and Millsap (1991) stated that test anxiety is one of the factors that affect academic performance. In light of this, Zeidner (1998) indicated that more awareness needs to be raised regarding process of test anxiety.

Therefore, this study will be able to contribute significantly to the limited relationship study of perceived parental warmth, parental control, test anxiety and academic performance in Malaysia. The role of test anxiety as a mediator will provide new insights into understanding the relationships between the three variables (parenting practices: perceived parental warmth and control, test anxiety and academic performance) among adolescent in Malaysia. The findings of the present study will provide useful information in designing intervention for students experiencing test anxiety. The information can also provide useful information in developing more effective preventive programs of test anxiety.

Previous research (e.g. Deckard et al., 2011; Chen et al., 2000) indicated that parenting practices was significantly different in social and cultural context. Hence, this study will only focus on one focus group namely Malay adolescent.

Furthermore, the findings of the present study will provide a better understanding of the impact and influence of parenting styles on children’s behaviour. It can help formulate better guidance for parents who face difficulties in dealing with children with academic problems.

Conceptual and Operational Definition

Parenting practices

Conceptual definition

Parenting practices can be defined as specific content and aims of parents toward their children (Darling and Steinberg, 1993)

Operational definition

In this research, only two major components of parenting practices namely parental warmth and parental control will be investigated. Two broad and universal dimensions of parenting practices have been acknowledged as critical components of the parenting practices from the past two decades namely parental warmth and parental control (Suchman et al. 2007).

Perceived parental warmth

Conceptual definition

In this study, the conceptual definition of perceived parental warmth is the expression of interest in children’s activities and friends, participation in children’s activities, expression of interest and praise for children’s achievement, and demonstration of affection and love (Amanto,1990). Baumrind (1991) used term parental demandingness and defined as comprising the use of direct supervision and confrontation, high maturity demands, firm and constant discipline. Rohner, Khaleque, & Cournoyer (2011) referred perceived parental warmth as affection, care, comfort, apprehension, nurturance, support, or love that children can experience from their parents.

Operational definition

As for operational definition, parental warmth will be assessed by adolescent’s perception of his or her parents as affectionate and accepting toward them. Parental warmth will be measured using The Child Parental Acceptance Rejection questionnaire developed by Rohner (1984).

Perceived parental control

Conceptual definition

Amato (1990) has defined parental control as the amount of supervision by parents, the decisions about their children’s activities and friends, and the rules that parents fixed for their children. Baumrind (1991) used term parental responsiveness and defined as affective warmth, cognitive responsiveness, unconditional acceptance, supportive, attachment and bonding, involvement, and always open to discussion. While, Rohner et al. (2011) defined perceived parental control as behavioral control, or the extent to which parents are perceived to place limits or restrictions on behaviors and insist on compliance with these proscriptions and prescriptions.

Operational definition

In this study, parental control is operationally defined as adolescent’s perception of parental behavioral control, or the extent to which parents are perceived to place limits or restrictions on behaviors and insist children to obey command. Parental control will be measured using The Child Parental control questionnaire formulated based on the Parental Acceptance-Rejection Theory (PARTheory) developed by Rohner (1984).

Test anxiety

Conceptual definition

According to Zeidner (1998), test-anxiety is a multidimensional sign that can be described as a group of phenomenological, physiological, and behavioral responses that came along with possible negative consequences or failure on an examination or other comparable evaluative situation.

Operational definition

In this study, test anxiety is operationally defined by adolescent’s experience of specific symptoms of anxiety before, during and after examination. Test anxiety will be measured by set of questionnaire consists of adapted and modified Test Anxiety Inventory (TAI), a self-reporting questionnaire developed by Speilberger (1972).

Academic performance

Conceptual definition

Academic performance refers to achievement that is measured by standardized tests of educational ability or knowledge (Steinberg, 2008).

Operational definition

As for the operational definition, academic performance will be measured through the result of mid-year and monthly examinations. However only the result of 5 core subjects namely Bahasa Malaysia, Mathematic, Sciences, History and Geography will collected to formulate overall score.

Research Questions

Is there any relationship between paternal parenting practices with academic performance of Malay adolescents?

Is there any relationship between maternal parenting practices with academic performance of Malay adolescents?

Is there any significant relationship between paternal parenting practices and test anxiety?

Is there any significant relationship between maternal parenting practices and test anxiety?

Is there any significant relationship between test anxiety and academic performance?

Does test anxiety mediate the relationship between parenting practices and academic performance?

Research Objectives

The main objective of this study is to investigate the relationship between parenting practices and academic achievement with test anxiety as mediator among Malay adolescents in Malaysia.

The specific objectives of this study include:

To examine the relationship between perceived paternal parenting practices and academic performance among Malay adolescents.

To examine the relationship between perceived maternal parenting practices and academic performance among Malay adolescents.

To study the relationship between perceived paternal parenting practices and test anxiety.

To study the relationship between perceived maternal parenting practices and test anxiety.

To examine the relationship between test anxiety and academic performance.

To investigate the mediating effect of test anxiety in the relationship between perceived parenting practices and academic performance.

Literature Review

Parenting practices and academic performance

The relationship between parental practices specifically parental warmth and parental control and academic performance has been well researched in the Western and Chinese community. Based on the findings from the empirical studies, children are reported wide range of academic performance depending on the degree of perceived parental warmth and control.

A correlational study conducted by Lian & Yusoof (2006) investigated the effect of parental relationship on the academic performance of secondary school student found that there were strong relationship between good relation with parents, high parental warmth and firm control toward academic performance. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVAs) indicated that for children aged between 16 years old to 18 years old, there a significant difference academic performance and parental conflict (F[5,194]=8.189,p<0.05).The finding also revealed that high achiever student characterized their parents as understanding, supportive, encouraging but not pressuring, not overly restrictive or severely in discipline. This study also discovered that student who perceived of low parental warmth have poor academic performance and high risk of delinquency. A family atmosphere of warmth and supportiveness promotes good environment for academic performance yet successfully keep conflict at the low or moderate level. Children in bad relationship with family members are more likely to have antisocial behavior, low self-esteem and immaturity.

In a related study, Kim and Rohner (2002) explored views on Parental Warmth, Control, and Involvement in Schooling among 245 Korean American Adolescents, mean age was 13.9 (SD =1.8). All participants required to complete the Parental Acceptance-Rejection/Control Questionnaire (PARQ/Control) to access parental warmth and control and Parents’ involvement in adolescents’ schooling to access perceived parental (maternal and paternal) involvement in youth’s schooling. Through t-test, indicated that adolescents perceived both their mothers and fathers as warm and loving but they perceived their mothers to be slightly but significantly warmer than their fathers, t (244) = 3.09, p < .005. Furthermore, the finding also demonstrated that adolescent perceived their mothers to be slightly but significantly more controlling than their fathers, t (244) = -2.41, p < .05. Both parents were seen on the average to be moderate in parental control. Via partial correlation, adolescent perceived maternal acceptance (pr = .24, p < .001) and paternal acceptance (pr =.23, p = .001) were significantly correlated with GPA, indicating that the more parental warmth, the better adolescent did in school. Neither maternal nor paternal control was significantly associated with adolescents' academic performance.

Paulson and Slavin (1991) studied the influences of three parenting practices on children’s school achievement: commitment to children’s school achievement, responsiveness and demandingness. The study defined demandingness as discipline and control strategies and rule behavior while responsiveness as openness to children’s needs and warmth. 79 grade ninth students from the public school in a suburban country in the southeast of United States who lived with both parents were selected as participants. Via multiple regression analysis, it was found that both maternal and paternal demandingness and responsiveness were significantly related to achievement among boys but not in girls. Semi partial correlation revealed that maternal demandingness (rsp=.34, p<.05) and responsiveness (rsp=.38, p<.01 were significant in determine boy's achievement. While paternal demandingness, responsiveness and commitment to achievement explained a significant proportion of the variance in achievement outcome in boys (R2=.45, p<.01). The study concluded that parental practices have important influences on achievement outcomes in boys but not in girls.

Parenting practices and test anxiety

Thergaonkar & Wadkar’s (2007) study comprising 207 students the age ranged between 15 to 17 years from three educational institutions and 200 mothers in Pune, India revealed information about democratic attitude of parents, acceptance of parents by the child, parental attitude regarding academics, parental expectations and gender stereotyped perceptions of parents regarding academics. The battery of questionnaires administered for students included Test Attitude Inventory (TAI), Test of Democratic Attitude of the Parents (TDAP), and Test of Acceptance of the Parent by the Child (TAPC) while mothers were administered the Parental Attitude regarding Academics Scale (PAA) and the Parental Expectations and Gender Stereotyped Perceptions in the Area of Academics Scale (PEGSA). Correlation analysis demonstrated statistically significant negative correlations between test anxiety and democratic attitude of parents (r=-.257) and acceptance of parents (r=-.171). Thergaonkar & Wadkar’s (2007) emphasized that perception of parental warmth was likely to reduce the test anxiety and help children to adjust. However, the result also indicated that there was no statistically significant correlation between test anxiety and attitudes and expectation of mothers towards their child’s academics and gender stereotyped perceptions of mothers regarding academics.

A cross sectional correlation study by Cahalan (2008) consisting of 114 student that enrolled grades 3 to 5 at public school in Manhattan explored the primary students’ experience of test anxiety in an ecological framework. Perception of parenting was measured by child version of Parent-Child Relationship Questionnaire (PCRQ) which containing 5 factors including parental warmth, disciplinary warmth, personal relationship, power assertion and possessiveness. While test anxiety was measured by the short form of Children test anxiety scale. Through regression analysis, neither maternal warmth (t=1.76, p=.08) nor power assertion (t=1.25, p=.21) predict the test anxiety. While, the analysis showed that paternal warmth was a significant (b=.25, t=2.34, p=.02) predictor to test anxiety but power assertion was not significant (t=1.76, p=.08) predictor of test anxiety. The role of paternal warmth as a positive predictor of test anxiety indicates that the more paternal warmth, children will experience higher level of test anxiety. Cahalan (2008) suggested that children whose parents have high level of parental warmth yet highly emphasize the importance of academic performance will manifest the pressure to do well into test anxiety. Therefore, depending on the specific goals adopted by parent, the experience of a warm parent-child relationship may worsen academic stress instead of lessening it.

Overall the literature consistently reported a significant relationship between parental warmth with test anxiety among children and adolescent. However, certain discrepancies were noted particularly with respect to maternal warmth toward test anxiety. Nevertheless, there are limited source of literature regarding the relationship between parenting practices (warmth and control) and test anxiety.

Test Anxiety and academic achievement.

The impact of test anxiety on the academic performance has been well researched worldwide.

A study by Yousefi et al. (2010) studied the relationship between test-anxiety and academic achievement among 400 Iranian students. The study in Sanandaj, Iran among adolescent aged range of 15-19 years old were randomly selected from nine high schools reported that 3% of the respondents fail (0-9.99) in their exam, 43.8% scored between (10- 14.99) classified as weak, 26.2% score moderate (15-16.99) in exam while 27 % respondents reported as having excellent result (17-20). The questionnaire used were Test-Anxiety Inventory (TAI) (Abbolghasemi, 1988) adapted to Iranian context to determine the level of test anxiety among students. A total of 66 (16.5%) respondents were reported as having mild test-anxiety, whereas 260 (65%) of them had moderate test-anxiety and 74 (18.5 %) had severe test-anxiety. The Pearson correlation revealed that there was a significant correlation (r= -0.23, p=.000) between academic achievement among adolescents and test anxiety. Authors stated that one of the explanations which test-anxiety impacted on academic performance due to test anxious student encounter task-irrelevant thoughts, such as anxious about self-evaluative aspects of failure. Furthermore, this situation limits their working memory capacity then interrupts the recall of prior knowledge and reduced academic performance.

Rezazadeh and Tavakoli (2009) studied the relationship between gender, academic achievement, years of study and levels of test anxiety among 110 undergraduate students (65 females and 45 males) from University of Isfahan. The Suinn’s Test Anxiety Questionnaire with 48 questions was used to collect the data. Findings showed that 11.8% of students of sample having test anxiety. The findings also revealed that female students have a higher level of test anxiety (X=123.72, SD=35) in contrast to their counterpart (X=113.27, SD=32.14). Authors stated that girls afraid the consequences of failure due to more pressure were placed on females to succeed in school than males. Moreover, another possible explanation is that males are more defensive about confessing anxiety because it might be perceived as threatening to their masculinity. The study also discovered that there was statistically significant negative correlation (r=-.199) between test anxiety and academic achievement. Apart from that, the study also established that there was no meaningful relationship between test anxiety and years of study. In another study, Vitasari, Nubli, Othman, Herawan and Sinnadurai (2010) examined the relationship between study anxiety and academic perfor


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