Academic Performance and Social/Emotional Competence in Adolescence
VI Table of Contents List of Tables x List of Appendices xi Chapter I Introduction 1 Chapter II Method 6 Participants 6 Procedure 6 Measures 8 Bar-On-EQ-i:YV 8 Academic Affect Scale 10 Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale 11 Academic Coping 13 Academic Performance 14
vii Demographic Questionnaire 15 Chapter III Literature Review 16 Overview 16 Children's and Adolescents' Affective Tendencies 16 What Are Affective Tendencies & How Do They Relate to Social Competence 17 Emotion Regulation 20 Self-Efficacy and Coping and Temperament and Coping 26 Religion and Coping 28 Gender Differences and Coping 29 Emotional Intelligence 29 How is Emotional Intelligence Addressed in the Literature 30 Emotional Intelligence, Academic Achievement, and Overall Coping Strategies 31 Emotional Intelligence and Empathy 33 Emotional Intelligence, Bullying, and Achievement 35 What is Mindfulness 36 The Relationship between Mindfulness and Emotions 40
viii Summary of Literature Review and Hypotheses 42 Chapter IV Results 45 Table 1 '. 46 Correlation Analyses 47 GPA and other Variables 47 Mindfulness, EQ, and other Variables 47 Table 2 48 Remaining Associations 49 School Related Activities 49 Table 3 50 Table 4 51 Table 5 52 Correlation of Students' Activities with other major study variables 53 Regression Analysis 53 Table 6 55 Table 7 57
ix Table 8 60 Chapter V Discussion 61 Summary and Interpretation of the Results 62 Summary of Additional Analysis 65 Relation of Study Findings to Existing Literature 65 Limitations 70 Future Research 71 References 73 Appendices 90
X List of Tables Table 1: Descriptive Data for all Measures 46 Table 2: Correlations among Major Study Variables 48 Table 3: Principal Component Analysis of Adolescents' Self-Rated Activities 50 Table 4: The Association of Religious Importance with Other Student Activities 51 Table 5: Correlations of Students' Activities with Other Major Study Variables 52 Table 6: Heretical Regression Predicting Adolescents' Grade Point Average (GPA) 55 Table 7: Hierarchical Regression Predicting Adolescents' Rule Breaking Behavior 57 Table 8: Hierarchical Regression Predicting Adolescents' Negative Academic Affect 60
xi List of Appendices Demographic - Additional General Information 90 The Academic Affect Scale (AAS) 93 Response to Stress Questionnaire (RSQ) - Academic Contexts 96 Day to Day Experiences -Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) 99 Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory - Short Version (EQ-i:S) 101
1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION The basic goal of this dissertation project is to examine how self-reported emotional and attentional factors are related to academic coping and school performance in a sample of High School students. More specifically, the present study was designed to extend results from two previous studies on the connections among students' mood states, academic coping, and school performance (Arsenio&Gumora, 2002, Arsenio, Loria, &Gumora, 2011) by assessing how adolescents' emotional intelligence and mindfulness relate to school performance, moods, and academic coping. In addition, there is some examination of how students' other activities (clubs, hobbies, etc.) relate to other study variables. In their initial research, Arsenio and Gumora (2002) developed an instrument to assess young adolescents' negative feelings about school tasks (e.g., homework, papers, and class reports), and then examined whether these academic moods could be distinguished from more general mood states. The authors found that young adolescents' negative school-related emotions were connected with poorer school performance even after accounting for the influence of cognitive abilities and general mood states. Overall, students who had greater difficulty managing negative academic affect had a lower GPA, scored lower on achievement tests, perceived themselves as less academically competent,
2 had less task persistence, and had more negative general moods (Arsenio&Gumora, 2002). In a subsequent study (Arsenio, Loria, &Gumora, 2011), these authors were interested in assessing how adolescents' academic coping abilities (i.e., how they manage their feelings of academic stress) are related to moods and academic performance. Although there is extensive literature on how adolescents cope with challenging social situations (see Compas, Connor-Smith, Saltzman, Thomsen, & Wadsworth, 2001 for a review), almost nothing is known about how teens cope with challenging academic situations (e.g., a big test, class paper, or oral report). Previous work on social coping, however, has shown that some people are more likely to try to solve their problems or seek help from friends, while other people are more likely to vent or engage in distracting activities. Consequently, Arsenio et al. adapted the well-validated coping instrument, the Response to Stress Questionnaire (RSQ), to examine how older adolescents expected to cope with uniquely academic stress. The authors found that adolescents who preferred disengaged coping (refusing to acknowledge problems, including denial and ignoring) had lower grade point averages (GPAs) than their peers who use more constructive coping techniques, such as problem solving and seeking emotional support from friends. In addition, there was evidence that disengaged coping mediated the connection between negative feelings about school and lower GPAs. In other words, adolescents who had really negative feeling about school were much more likely to disengage from rather than attempt to resolve their feelings about academic stress, and in turn it was this disengagement that led to lower academic performance.
3 The present study was designed to extend these two previous studies by examining whether adolescents with greater self-reported mindfulness capacities (the ability to keep focused on the task at hand, without ruminating about the past or having anxieties over the future; seeing the possibilities in the world and being open to considering those possibilities) would also: a) have lower levels of negative moods in relation to school tasks; b) would be more likely to endorse positive coping styles (i.e., using information seeking techniques rather than being in denial when faced with environmental and situational demands); and c) would have higher grades in schools compared to their peers. This focus on mindfulness stems from a review by Brown and Deci (2003) which revealed that, compared to their peers, individuals with greater mindfulness in various situations reported lower levels of mood disturbances and stress, increased self-awareness and self-regulation capabilities, as well as more positive emotional states. In a related vein, some studies have shown that students who have more pro-social or socially responsible non-academic interests and goals, and who are consciously rather than just reflexively aware and attentive to their own thoughts and actions perform better than their peers in academic contexts. For example, Baer, Smith, and Allen (2004), found that mindfulness skills in student samples were related to greater emotional intelligence abilities (attention to feelings, clarity of feelings, mood repair, openness, receptivity to ideas, and agreeableness). A second major focus of this study was on the potential influence of adolescents' emotional intelligence on their general mood, school-related coping, and school performance. Mayer and Salovey (1997) described that emotional intelligence is related
4 to accurately perceiving emotions in oneself and others, the ability to use emotions to facilitate thinking, accurate perceived intelligibility of one's own emotional states, as well as the openness to experience dimension of personality. Subsequently, Mayer (1998) described that emotional intelligence also plays a role in motivation to attain a given goal, increased cognitive focus (i.e., believing in and planning for how to meet a goal), and increased levels of self-control to continue towards a goal. In general, research has shown that emotional intelligence is related to multiple aspects of children's and adults' social functioning (Denham, 1997; Grewell, Brackett, &Salovey, 2006). By contrast much less is known about how adolescents' emotional intelligence is related to school-related functioning, and the present study sought to clarify this connection. In summary, the present study used a correlational design to examine the connections among the following constructs in a sample of high school students: (1) Emotional Intelligence (2) Coping with Academic Stress/Emotions (3) Affect - Academically Related (4) Mood - General (5) Mindfulness (6) GPA/School Performance The basic expectations underlying this project were as follows: (1) Extrapolating from previous research, it was expected that adolescents' mindfulness scores would be related to their emotional intelligence and dispositions, coping styles, academic affect, and overall grades in school.
5 (2) It is expected that, compared with their peers, adolescents who report a greater ability to be mindful, will also report using more constructive techniques for coping with stressful academic situations. (3) It is expected that, compared with their peers, adolescents who have higher levels of emotional intelligence will use more constructive techniques for coping with stressful academic situations. (4) It is also expected that adolescents who report lesser capacities to be mindful or regulate their emotions will report increased levels of negative general moods, and that these factors will be associated with more negative academic affect, less constructive coping techniques, lower grades, and more coping techniques for mean affect.
6 CHAPTER II METHODS Participants A total of 266 adolescents in the Bernard Township Public School system participated in this study; 164 females and 102 males, 16 to 19 years of age with a mean age of 17.28. Participants were included in this study if they fit the following profile: between 16-18 years old; fluent in reading and writing English; and had no obvious evidence of cognitive impairment or psychosis. These criteria were assessed based on the homeroom teachers' recommendation. The participants were an ethnically diverse group (77% Caucasian, 15% Asian American, 5% Hispanic, 0.01% African American, 0.04% Native American, and 2% Other), as well as being religiously diverse (32% Catholic, 35% Christian, 14% Atheist, 9% other/not specified, 5% Jewish, 3% Hindu, 2% Muslim, and 0.8% Buddhist). Moreover, the community ranked in the top 10% nationally for average family income by zip code. This particular age and SES group was selected because of evidence that adolescents in affluent communities are under particular stress to perform well academically (Luther &Latendresse, 2005). Procedure The data were collected during the month of January 2007 during the students' Physical Education classes (permission was granted by the physical education teachers
7 and the school principal at Ridge High School). During week 1, participants were asked to read a brief description of the study details and to review the consent forms. Minors were also instructed to take consent forms home for their parents to read and sign if they agreed to allow the student to participate in the study. During week 2, students who were interested in taking part in the study returned their signed consent forms to school and filled out a demographic questionnaire. During week 3, the participants were asked to complete the entire packet with the 4 assessments during their respective Physical Education class; all students completed the assessments within two, 40-minute classes. All data was collected in 1 -2 class periods in such a way that the study did not interfere with the goals/plans set by the athletic instructors of those classes. Students were asked not to write their names on any of the forms but instead a common ID number was randomly assigned to each student to keep track of all of the information collected. At the beginning of each session, the Physical Education teacher from each participating class introduced the researcher to the participants. The researcher then described the purpose of the study, and how completion of the entire packet with 4 assessments would take approximately 60 minutes. The informed consent was then read to the participants and time was given for the participants to ask any questions that they had about the study in general, the consents, and/or the assessments. The researcher informed the participants that every response of theirs was confidential and their identification would be by ID number only. The study and consent documents were previously approved by the Committee on Clinical Investigations (CCI) at AECOM. There were two consent letters, one for adult participants (age 18 and over) and the other for participants under the age of 18 (minors);
8 which also required a parent or guardian's signature. Interested participants returned signed consent forms and completed the demographic questionnaire during the previous week. The researcher then distributed the packets containing the assessments for the students to complete (Appendix 1). Finally, the participants were asked to hand back all assessments to the researchers once they had completed their responses. The students and staff were thanked for their time and effort. Measures The following group of instruments were distributed to and completed by the students: Bar-On-EQ-i: YV. The Bar-On-EQ-i (Bar-On, R., & Parker, J.D.A., 2000) is a self-report instrument that examines emotionally intelligent behaviors in order to understand how individuals use non-cognitive abilities to cope with environmental demands and pressures. Participants select from a 5-point Likert scale (l=not true of me; 2=seldom true of me; 3=sometimes true of me; 4=often true of me; 5=very often true) rating various items that represent varying degrees of emotionally intelligent behaviors. The Bar-On-EQ-i is based on the Bar-On's theoretical model, which views emotional intelligence as a cross-section of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills, and facilitators, that impact intelligent behavior. This model of emotional intelligence includes a theoretical component that describes general emotional- social intelligence and another aspect that is designed to measure specific aspects of emotional-social intelligence (Bar-On & Parker, 2000). The youth version of the Bar- On-EQ-i, which was used in this study, measures the level of emotional and social functioning in children and adolescents. The Bar-On-EQ-i:YV (Youth Version) can be
9 used by psychologists, school counselors, social workers, and psychiatrists to identify a child's strengths and weaknesses and help develop the skills needed for academic, personal, and social success (Bar-On, & Parker, 2000). The normative sample used for the standardization of this instrument consisted of a large number of children and teenagers from several different elementary, middle, and high schools across the United States and Canada. Norms are presented separately for males and females in four age intervals. Raw scores are plotted on Profile Sheets for conversion to standard scores. There are 51 statements on the test and students have up to 30 minutes to complete the test. Each statement provides participants an opportunity to describe themselves by indicating the degree to which each statement is true of the way they feel, think, or act, most of the time in the majority of situations. Statements include: "I am fun to be with;" "I'm good at understanding the way other people feel;" "I have strong impulses that are hard to control;" It's hard for me to understand the way I feel;" and, "I tend to explode with anger easily." The Bar-On-EQ-i: YV assesses 5 areas: general mood of participants (happy, optimistic, pessimistic, etc.), interpersonal skills (emotional self-assertiveness, self- awareness, self-regard, self-actualization, independence), intrapersonal skills (empathy, social responsibility, interpersonal relationships), stress management skills (problem solving, reality testing, flexibility), and adaptability (stress tolerance, impulse control). In addition the measure includes an overall composite score of emotional intelligence. Test- retest reliability is an index of the consistency of scores over time and when a test or
10 measure is administered more than once, strong reliability should yield little to no change in the subjects' performance from one administration to the next. The research demonstrates that "the Bar-On EQ-i: YV is a reliable and valid measure of trait Emotional Intelligence. It was found to have good internal structural properties among items and subscales. While the stability of the measure over time was found to be less than adequate, internal reliability was found to be strong" (Cosgrove, 2007). The normative database reported in the Bar-On EQ-i:YV manual consists of 9172 children and adolescents (Bar-On & Parker, 2000). Bar-on and Parker report satisfactory internal reliability for the both the long and short versions, ranging from 0.65 to 0.90 for the EQ-i: YV. Inter-item correlations for the measures are also satisfactory, ranging from 0.14 to 0.55 for the EQ-i: YV. The manual also reports adequate test-retest correlations (3 weeks) ranging from 0.77 for general mood to 0.89 for total EI (Stough, Saklofske, & Parker, 2009). Academic Affect Scale- AAS. The Academic Affect Scale is a 39-item scale created by Arsenio and Gumora (2002) to assess adolescents' perceptions of the negative emotions they experience in stressful academic contexts (i.e., tests, classroom presentations, term papers). Participants rate their responses on a 5-point Likert scale (l=never; 2=rarely; 3=sometimes; 4=often; and 5=always) to questions such as "I feel anxious if I have to talk to my teacher" and "I experience frustration when studying for a test." In order to measure how much negative emotion students experience when doing school related tasks, participants were asked to refer to the definitions of three emotional words used in the assessment when making their selections to each of the questions.
11 Each question contained either the word "anxiety," "frustration," or "anger." Anxiety was defined as "an uncomfortable feeling similar to worry and/or nervousness." Frustration was defined as "a general feeling that blocks thought or action." Anger was defined as "a more specific and intense negative feeling." The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) measure of sampling adequacy for the original factor analysis was .80, and an inspection of the scree plot of the eigen values revealed that the NAAS was unidimensional; a single eigen value with a value greater than 1 emerged (11.6), and most items loaded .40 or greater on this factor. Internal consistency was quite high (Cronbach's alpha = .93). Mindful Attention Awareness Scale - MAAS.The Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) was created by Brown and Ryan (2003) in order to measure both conscious awareness and attention. Awareness is the radar that continuously monitors the inner and outer environment, while attention "is the process of focusing conscious awareness thus providing heightened sensitivity to a limited range of experience. In actuality, awareness and attention are intertwined, such that attention continually pulls 'figures' out of the 'ground' of awareness, holding them focally for varying lengths of time" (Brown & Ryan, 2003).Mindfulness is an open or receptive awareness of and attention to what is taking place in the present. The MAAS measures this construct with a 15-item self-report based on a 6 point Likert scale (l=almost always; 2=very frequently; 3-somewhat frequently; 4=somewhat infrequently; 5=very infrequently; 6 = almost never). The self-report includes statements such as: "I find it difficult to stay focused on what's happening in the present;" "I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my
12 attention;" "I rush through activities without being really attentive to them;" and "I snack without being aware that I'm eating." The measure takes 10 or fewer minutes to complete (Brown & Ryan, 2003). The scale has been validated in college students and working adults, as well as in cancer populations. Our present study focuses on adolescents and in order to administer this test to adolescents, we contacted Dr. Brown to discuss any content and/or administrative revisions that may be necessary for our population. During this discussion, Dr. Brown determined that the statements on the MAAS were both practical and in line with the experiences of a typical 16 to 19 year old high school student, and that administering the MAAS to the participants in our study would be appropriate in conjunction with our other major study variables. The scale shows strong psychometric properties. Correlation, quasi-experimental, and laboratory studies have shown that the MAAS taps a unique quality of consciousness that is related to, and predictive of, a variety of self-regulation and well-being constructs (Kirk & Brown, 2003). "Inspection of the item-level statistics indicates that all but two items loaded above 0.30. Items 5 and 13 loaded above 0.25 and were retained because both added substantive breadth to the scale... several analyses were conducted to test the impact of these lower loading items on the psychometric properties of the scale. Deletion of the two items made only a tiny difference to the internal consistency of the scale and to the fit indices of the confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) reported below. In the cross- validation sample of adults, these two items loaded higher on the factor than in the student sample used for exploratory analysis. Thus, the decision to retain them in the scale was supported on both substantive and statistical grounds" (Kirk & Brown, 2003).
13 Academic Coping Instrument.This instrument was adapted from the Responses to Stress Questionnaire (RSQ),which assesses abroad range of adolescents' possible responses to stress. Development of the RSQ was guided by a literature review on coping in adolescents (e.g., Compas et al., 2001), and several confirmatory studies have demonstrated the connections of the RSQ with a variety of measures of adolescents' psychosocial functioning (Connor-Smith et al., 2000). The present study only included the 3 scales that assess more voluntary, controlled forms of coping as it was felt that these scales assessed types of coping that were subject to active volitional efforts on the part of the adolescent. The present focus on voluntary control, as well as changes in wording to focus on academic coping, per se, (rather than just social coping) were acknowledged as acceptable by the instrument creator (Compas, personal communication, February, 2006). Adolescents first read the following: "Even when things are going well for teenagers, almost everyone has tough times with some parts of their schoolwork. We want to find out how things have been going for you lately. Please put a check mark next to all the things on this list that have been a problem or have created stress for you in school in the last year or so." Students then checked off as many items as they wanted from a list of 10 items, such as: talking to teachers, doing oral reports in class, assignments not understood. The total number of boxes checked (from 0 to 10) was used as a measure of adolescents' perceived academic stress. Following this, adolescents were presented with 30 possible coping strategies "what people sometimes do, feel, or think when something stressful with school work happens," and rated how likely they were to use each strategy on a 4-point scale (1 = not
14 at all to 4 = a lot). Participants' responses were summed for each of 3 categories: primary control engagement coping (e.g., problem solving and emotional regulation), secondary control engagement coping (e.g., cognitive restructuring and positive thinking) and disengagement coping (e.g., denial and distraction). Each category score was the sum of responses for the items in that category. Previous studies (Compas et al., 2000) indicated that primary and secondary control engagement coping are related to psychologically adaptive functioning, whereas disengagement coping is related to maladaptive functioning. Based on previous coding instructions (Connor-Smith et al., 2000), participants' answers for individual items were categorized into 3 larger categories: primary control engagement coping, secondary control engagement coping, and disengagement coping. Each category score was the sum of responses for each item that fit into that category. Previous studies (reviewed in Compas et al., 2000) indicate that primary and secondary control engagement coping are considered adaptive and disengagement coping is considered maladaptive. Academic Performance.Students assessed their academic performance using a self-report measure of overall grade point average (mean GPA) across all academic subjects. Letter grades were transformed to a common 5 point-scale (A [excellent]= 4, B [good] = 3, C [fair] = 2, D [poor]= 1, & F [failing] = 0), and plus and minus grades were assigned relevant fractional values (e.g., B+ = 3.3). This 'mock report card" methodology was developed by Pierce, Hamm, and Vandell (1999) and refined by Valiente, Lemery- Chalfant, and Castro (2007). Students' self-reported grades have been found to correlate
15 .80 and higher with actual report card grades (Graham, Updegraff, Tomascik, & McHale, 1997). Demographic Questionnaire.Lastly, students were asked to complete a demographic questionnaire, and once again each student was instructed to only use their assigned ID number to identify him or herself. In the questionnaire, students reported: 1) age, gender, race, and religious affiliation; 2) how important faith/religion was to them in the past year (Likert Scale); 3) how structured of an eating plan they maintained (Likert Scale); 4) how preoccupied they were with their physical self-image (Likert Scale); 5) how often they participated in various extracurricular and free time activities; and 6) how likely were they to break school rules (Likert Scale). We included this questionnaire in the study because we were interested in examining whether adolescents who reported more structured eating habits, more active lifestyles, engaged in more constructive non-academic activities, and obeyed more school rules were more likely to be mindful and/or emotionally intelligent.
16 Chapter III LITERATURE REVIEW Overview In order to understand how socio-emotional factors, including adolescents' affective tendencies, emotion regulation/coping, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness relate to academic performance, it is necessary to first describe several literatures before returning to an overall summary. Consequently, the following chapter includes several sections. An early section focuses on describing what is meant by affective tendencies, both generally, and in academic contexts. This is followed by a section on coping as it relates to development, temperament, self-efficacy, and religion. Subsequent sections provide brief summaries of the literatures on mindfulness and emotional intelligence and why these two construct might be relevant for adolescents' academic performance. Finally, the research goals and objectives of the present study are examined. All of these sections are informed by results from a previous study by Gumora and Arsenio (2002), and a recently completed study by Arsenio, Loria, and Gumora (2011). Consequently, these two studies are described first, followed by sections that provide broader summaries of some of the constructs explored in the studies by Arsenio and colleagues. Children's and Adolescents' Affective Tendencies There has been a tremendous amount of interest in understanding the socio- emotional factors that contribute to the scholastic success of students (Wentzel, 1999). Previous research on social competence, for example, has shown that are strong
17 connections between children's emotions and moods (relative to their peers) and their tendencies to form friendships and be liked by peers and teachers (Oatley, Kaltner, & Jenkins, 2006). In fact, in their early review of this literature, Parker and Asher (1987) found that children who were rejected by their peers in elementary school were more twice as likely as non rejected to quit high school before graduating. Since then, researchers have noted the close connections between children's social and specifically emotional competence, including moods and the abilities to regulate those affective tendencies (Denham, 1998; Saarni, 1999). As a result, there has been a growing interest in how emotions and emotion regulation on their own may influence children's academic performance (Schutz&Pekrun, 2007). What Are Affective Tendencies & How Do They Relate to Social Competence? Affective tendencies refer to stable dispositional emotional tendencies; tendencies that are closely related to trait measures of moods. Affective behavior is acting in a way that will produce a desired outcome, such as understanding the needs of others and subsequently satisfying those needs. Academic interests and attitudesare defined as a student's relatively stable or enduring predisposition, positive affective orientation, and tendency to persevere when working on certain specific academic content or task domains (Corno 2002; Eccles&Wigfiled, 2002; Renninger et al., 2002). Guided by this literature linking children's emotional tendencies/dispositions with their social competence, Arsenio and his colleagues argued that emotional tendencies might also have an influence on children's school performance. The basic logic of this claim was as follows: a) affective tendencies are known to be related to children's social competence (e.g., Denham, 1998); b) social competence is a known predictor of