Coping With School Failure and School Achievement

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20th Mar 2019 Psychology Reference this

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DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY IN CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS OF SCHOOL FAILURE

Abstract (100 to 150 words)

he present study examined the relationship between goal orientation, coping with school failure and school achievement. Two questionnaires, Goal Orientation (Niemivirta, 1996a) and The School Failure Coping Scale (Rijavec & Brdar, 1997), were administered to 1057 high school students (aged from 15 to 17 years).

The first goal of this study was to explore whether students can be classified in groups according to their goal orientation. The results identified four clusters of students with different achievement profiles: learning oriented, work-avoidance oriented, both performance and learning oriented and both performance and work-avoidance oriented group. Learning oriented group used emotion-focused coping the least frequently while students with combined performance and work avoidanc orientation used this kind of coping the most frequently.

The second goal was to test the relationship between goal orientation patterns and the adoption of emotion-focused and problem-focused coping strategies, and academic achievement. It was hypothesized that goal orientation could predict school achievement directly and indirectly through coping strategies. Coping strategies were considered as mediators between goal orientation and school achievement. Path analysis demonstrated that direct effects of goal orientation on school achievement were not significant. The relationship between goal orientation and school achievement was mediated by coping strategies.

Key Words: School failure, Depression, Anxiety, Coping.

The problem of school failure is of great importance, as it affects students’ lives and future. In some cases, it leads to marginalization, rejection, alienation and exclusion; hence, the risk of a variety of other problems such as psychological and behavioral may emerge. Patterson and his colleagues (1989) point to an anti-social behavior as a consequence of such marginalization. We say that students who are marginalized and cannot easily adjust tend to drop out school.

Although the importance of this topic, unfortunately, literature on the phenomenon of school failure of normally intelligent children and adolescents is still poor. There is a shortage of research that might offer an understanding of school failure in terms of psychological disorders.

As a response to this fact, the main objective of this study is to look deep for emotional and psychological disorders accused to be guilty of this failure and, consequently, remove the stigma of being failure and irresponsible from students who lie behind their classmates.

The main question we ask is: Do children and adolescents, who fail at school, really suffer from any psychological disorder, particularly depressive and anxiety disorders? And yet, another question emerges: Are females more susceptible to these disorders than males?

As potential answers the above formulated questions, the following hypotheses were set up for the study:

  • Children and adolescents who fail at school suffer from depressive disorders
  • Children and adolescents who fail at school show evidence of anxiety disorders
  • There is a gender significant difference in depressive disorders
  • There is a gender significant difference in anxiety disorders
  1. LITERATURE REVIEW
    1. School failure

The term “school failure” is difficult to define clearly; for some, it would include any kind of failure, repetition or delay in finishing school which usually leads the student to disqualification, and even to being stigmatized, especially because of the segregation between high and low achievers (Bourdieu,1994).

On the other hand, researchers advanced several approaches to elucidate school failure, among these approaches we mention:

  • Intelligence based on IQ scores. Supporters of this theory blame low IQs for school failure.
  • Socio-economic status with children’s academic achievement: Supporters of this theory blame the poverty for school failure (Herbert, 1996; Turkheimer et al., 2003; Thomson & Harris, 2004; Berliner, 2006, 2009).
  • Interaction theory: Keddie (1973) and many others reproach the teacher for school failure. For them, teachers have a pre-defined opinion of how a student should talk and react and accordingly students are evaluated.

Although all the above mentioned approaches, school failure may occur among students of high socio-economic status, beloved by their teachers, and have the ability and intelligence to succeed. Thus, these children get is a stigma of being a failure, a worthless, stupid and irresponsible person, while hidden emotional psychologicaldisorders are often the roots of their inability to meet the school’s standards.

For us, several factors may lead to school failure, among these factors we mention depression and anxiety and the incapacity of using appropriate coping strategies.

  1. Depression

Depression in children and adolescents is often a recurrent and very serious public health problem, it can occur with comorbid behavioral problems, suicidal risk, and psychiatric disorders, touching their whole life by impairing their social, emotional and physical health as well as their learning.

Depression in children and adolescents may be expressed differently from that in adults, with manifest behavioral disorders (e.g. irritability, verbal aggression and misconduct), substance abuse and/or comorbid psychiatric disorders. In children aged between 6 and 12 years, the most common signs are classified into are school difficulties, somatic disorders (e.g. Recurrent abdominal pain, headaches), fatigue, apathy, eating disorders, lack of motivation, loss of concentration, irritability, restlessness which often lead professionals to misdiagnose the child with ADHD instead of depression (Melnyk et al.,2003). As for adolescents, the most common signs and symptoms are mood swings, social isolation, hypersomnia, feeling of hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders and drug or alcohol abuse (Richardson et al., 1996).

Risk factors for suicide in young people are: previous suicide attempts; a close family member who has committed suicide; past psychiatric hospitalization; recent loss of a significant figure (through death, divorce or separation); social isolation; drug or alcohol abuse; exposure to violence in the home or the social environment; and handguns in the home. Early warnings for suicide are talking about it, preoccupation with death and dying, giving away special possessions, and making arrangements to take care of unfinished business.

Williams (2009), offers a description to identifying depressed adolescents, such as:

  • Somatic symptoms with features of anxiety.
  • Sometimes poor functioning at school, socially, or at home.
  • Bad behavior, particularly in boys.
  • Rapid mood swings often occur.
  • The fact that children are able to enjoy some aspects of their life shouldn’t preclude the diagnosis of depression.
    1. Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal part of living, it’s a biological reaction. Anxiety keeps us away from harm and prepares us to act quickly when facing a danger; it is a normal reaction to a stressful situation, thus it can help us cope with it. Yet we may find it sometimes in the core of the development of psychological disorders especially when anxiety becomes an excessive irrational worry of everyday situations, and a disabling condition severe enough to interfere with a person’s ability to focus and concentrate where it becomes a disorder.

Helfinstein (2009) believes that “anxiety refers to the brain response to danger, stimuli that an organism will actively attempt to avoid. This brain response is a basic emotion already present in infancy and childhood, with expressions falling on a continuum from mild to severe. Anxiety is not typically pathological as it is adaptive in many scenarios when it facilitates avoidance of danger. Strong cross-species parallels—both in organisms’ responses to danger and in the underlying brain circuitry engaged by threats—likely reflect these adaptive aspects of anxiety”.

Half a century ago, Grinker (1959, p.56) believed that normal anxiety could be objective and real when we face natural situations that generate anxiety, e.g. child before his exams, parents in front of their child’s illness.

Almost a century ago, in his A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis” (1920), Freud believed that anxiety was used “in connection with a condition regardless of any objective”, it’s “a subjective condition, caused by the perception that an “evolution of fear” has been consummated”.

Nowadays, for the American Psychologists Association (2013) describe Social Anxiety Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder among the anxiety disorders include where

  1. METHOD
    1. Sample

The sample of this study comprised of 187 children and young adolescents (Males = 122 and Females = 65) aged between 10 and 15 years suffering of school failure and enrolled in the fourth to the eighth grades, randomly drawn from 10 schools located in Mount Lebanon Caza (5 governmental and 5 private).

  1. Tools
    1. Anxiety

The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children (STAIC) developed by Speilberger in 1970 was used. It consists of two 20-item scales that measure state and trait anxiety in children between the ages of 8 and 14.

The A-State scale examines the shorter-term state anxiety that is commonly specific to situations. It prompts respondents to indicate how they feel ‘right now’ (e.g. calm, upset) on a 3-point scale ranging from 1 to 3. Summing responses creates a total score that can range from 20 to 60.

The A-Trait scale measures longer-term trait anxiety, which addresses how the child generally feels. It asks respondents to choose the best word that describes them in general (e.g. rarely, sometimes, and often) on a 3-point scale ranging from 1 to 3. Summing responses creates a total score that can range from 20 to 60.

A separate score is produced for the State scale and the Trait scale to determine which type of anxiety is dominant and which type of treatment is the most appropriate.

In 2001, we standardized this scale for the Lebanese children aged between 8 and 17; the cut points for normal children were:

A-State scale: 33.36

The A-Trait scale: 37.26

The PROMIS Anxiety scale (AS) is the 13-item Short Form that assesses the pure domain of anxiety in children and adolescents. The PROMIS Anxiety scale was developed for and can be used with children ages 8–17. Each item asks the child receiving care to rate the severity of his or her anxiety during the past 7 days, and is rated on a 5-point scale (1=never; 2=almost never; 3=sometimes; 4=often; and 5=almost always) with a range in score from 13 to 65 with higher scores indicating greater severity of anxiety. The raw scores on the 13 items should be summed to obtain a total raw score. Next, the T-score table should be used to identify the T-score associated with the child’s total raw score and the information entered in the T-score row on the measure.

The T-scores are interpreted as follows: Less than 55 = None to slight; 55.0—59.9 = Mild; 60.0—69.9 = Moderate; 70 and over = Severe

  1. Depression

The Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI), first published by Maria Kovacs in 1992, assesses the severity of symptoms related to depressionand/ordysthymicdisorder. The CDI is a 27-item self-rated and symptom-oriented scale suitable for childrenandadolescents aged between 7 and 17. It asks respondents to choose the best sentences that describe their state during the last two weeks,on a 3-point scale ranging from zero to 2. Summing responses creates a total score that can range from zero to 54.

The cut-point of 19 is able to differentiate between normal and depressive children (Doerfler, 1998; جريج, 2001)

The PROMIS Depression scale (DS) is the 14-item Short Form that assesses the pure domain of depression in children and adolescents. The PROMIS Depression scale was developed for and can be used with children ages 8–17; however, it was tested only in children ages 11–17 in the DSM-5 Field Trials. Each item asks the child receiving care to rate the severity of his or her depression during the past 7 days, and is rated on a 5-point scale (1=never; 2=almost never; 3=sometimes; 4=often; and 5=almost always) with a range in score from 11 to 55 with higher scores indicating greater severity of depression. The raw scores on the 11 items should be summed to obtain a total raw score. Next, the T-score table should be used to identify the T-score associated with the total raw score and the information entered in the T-score row on the measure.

The T-scores are interpreted as follows: Less than 55 = None to slight; 55.0—59.9 = Mild; 60.0—69.9 = Moderate; 70 and over = Severe

  1. RESULTS

SPSS for Windows (Version 17) was used for all analyses. The One-Sample T-Test was used to compare our sample’s levels of anxiety and depression with the means of normal children and adolescents of their ages.

The Independent-Samples T-Test was used to understand whether anxiety and depression differed based on gender.

Overall, Table 1 illustrates a general view Means and standard deviations of our of the study’s participants for STAIC, Anxiety Scale, CDI and Depression Scale where we can notice high means in comparison with their cut-points. These findings are proved by the T-test (Table 2) where the One-Sample T-Test was run to determine whether our psychological variables scores in our participants were different to normal.

Defined as a Astate cut-point of 33.36, mean score (38.11± 3.06) (see Table 1) was higher than the normal cut-point; a statistically significant difference of 4.75 (99% CI, 4.16 to 5.33),t(186) = 21.21, p= .000.

As for the Atrait, mean score (42.08± 3.82) was higher than the normal cut-point (37.26); a statistically significant difference of 4.82 (99% CI, 4.09 to 5.55),t(186) = 17.24, p= .000.

The Anxiety Scale where the cut-point is 55, mean score (60.23± 2.46) was higher; a statistically significant difference of 5.23 (99% CI, 4.76 to 5.70),t(186) = 28.99, p= .000.

These result are also noticed in depression scales as the CDI cut-point is 33.36, while mean score (20.02± 2.23) was higher; a statistically significant difference of 1.02 (99% CI,0.59 to 1.44),t(186) = 6.24, p= .000.

Nevertheless, results on the Depression Scale revealed a mean score (58.79± 2.27) higher than the normal cut-point (55); a statistically significant difference of 3.79 (99% CI, 3.36 to 4.22),t(186) = 22.82, p= .000.

Table 1. Means and standard deviations for the participants on psychological variables

N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
Astate (33.36) 187 29 42 38.11 3.060
Atrait (37.26) 187 35 49 42.08 3.823
Anxiety Scale (55) 187 54.8 64.8 60.225 2.4647
CDI (19) 187 15 28 20.02 2.228
Depression Scale (55) 187 50.9 65.6 58.787 2.2689

Table 2. T-test for the participants on psychological variables

Test Value 99% Confidence Interval of the Difference
t df Sig.

(2-tailed)

Mean Difference Lower Upper
Astate 33.36 21.212 186 .000 4.747 4.16 5.33
Atrait 37.26 17.244 186 .000 4.820 4.09 5.55
Anxiety Scale 55 28.991 186 .000 5.2251 4.756 5.694
CDI 19 6.237 186 .000 1.016 .59 1.44
Depression Scale 55 22.822 186 .000 3.7866 3.355 4.218

On the other hand, this study found no statistically significant difference on the Astate Checklist between males (37.95 ± 2.98) and females (38.40 ± 3.22) (Table 3),t(185) = -0.956,p= 0.341 > 0.05 (Table 4).

Nevertheless, male participants had statistically significantly lower mean (41.61 ± 4.10) than females’ (42.95 ± 3.07),t(185) = -2.308,p= 0.022 < 0.05.

On the Anxiety Scale, both males (59.78 ± 2.73) and females (61.06 ± 1.58) differ significantly in their perception of anxiety, t(185) = -3.481,p= 0.001 < 0.01.

The main effect was also significant for the CDI, male participants had statistically significantly lower mean (19.71 ± 2.25) than females’ (20.58 ± 2.09),t(185) = -2.586,p= 0.01.

This result was also observed for the Depression Scale where males mean score was (58.43 ± 2.42) and females’ was (59.46 ± 1.79) , t(185) = -3.027,p= 0.003 < 0.01.

Table 3. Gender differences on psychological variables

Sex N Mean Std. Deviation
Astate Male 122 37.95 2.976
Female 65 38.40 3.215
Atrait Male 122 41.61 4.103
Female 65 42.95 3.074
Anxiety Scale Male 122 59.780 2.7291
Female 65 61.060 1.5774
CDI Male 122 19.71 2.247
Female 65 20.58 2.091
Depression Scale Male 122 58.428 2.4180
Female 65 59.460 1.7894

Table 4. Independant Sample T Test by gender on psychological variables

Levene’s Test for Equality of Variances t-test for Equality of Means
95% Confidence Interval of the Difference
F Sig. t df Sig. (2-tailed) Mean Difference Std. Error Difference Lower Upper
Astate Equal variances assumed .226 .635 -.956 185 .341 -.449 .470 -1.377 .478
Equal variances not assumed -.933 122.288 .353 -.449 .481 -1.402 .504
Atrait Equal variances assumed 4.448 .036 -2.308 185 .022 -1.339 .580 -2.484 -.194
Equal variances not assumed -2.516 164.669 .013 -1.339 .532 -2.390 -.288
Anxiety Scale Equal variances assumed 18.430 .000 -3.481 185 .001 -1.2797 .3677 -2.0050 -.5543
Equal variances not assumed -4.060 183.738 .000 -1.2797 .3152 -1.9015 -.6579
CDI Equal variances assumed .028 .868 -2.586 185 .010 -.872 .337 -1.536 -.207
Equal variances not assumed -2.644 139.135 .009 -.872 .330 -1.523 -.220
Depression Scale Equal variances assumed 4.645 .032 -3.027 185 .003 -1.0321 .3410 -1.7049 -.3593
Equal variances not assumed -3.311 166.000 .001 -1.0321 .3117 -1.6476 -.4166

DISCUSSION

CONCLUSION

The study calls for a fundamental change of attitudes in educational development and policy making and a redefinition of school failure as a consequence not so much of the child’s unwillingness to study, but of his inability to perform well. As a school dropout explained his decision to drop out:

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