05 SES 06, Engagement, Resilience and Mental Health
Grounded in a resilience framework, this study examines the links between feeling pressured by schoolwork, academic buoyancy and school engagement among primary school children. The concept of school engagement has received attention in recent years because patterns of (dis)engagement already in the early grades are proven to have long-term effects on students’ behavior, academic achievement, and wellbeing in later years. School engagement correlates with higher achievement across various samples and ages, and it can reduce the likelihood of dropping out of school (Fredricks, Blumenfeld & Paris 2004). For example, teachers´ ratings of children´s behavioral engagement and academic adjustment in the first grade have been found related to the decision to drop out of high school and perceiving an emotional connection to the school or teachers as an important protective factor keeping at-risk children in school (ibid.).
All students encounter challenges and setbacks typical in the course of everyday school life. These range from difficult tasks to interpersonal conflicts (Behnsen et al. 2018; Martin & Marsh 2009; Sotardi, 2017). The high levels of schoolwork related stress have been reported among youth (OECD 2017). Everyday stress is of special interest to educational research because of its associations with academic performance (ibid.), somatic syndromes (e.g. Murberg & Bru 2007), manifestations of psychopathology, such as anxiety (Sontag & Graber 2010), as well as school engagement (Raufelder et al. 2014). According to Raufelder et al. (2014) students with higher levels of stress tend to be less engaged or affected in school. This association was mediated by students´ self-determination.
School stress is a concept less frequently associated with primary school children. Lack of research on younger students have led to a limited insight into elementary school children´s stress appraisals, their ability to cope with daily stress, and the effects stress has on school outcomes (Sotardi 2016; 2017). In the first years of primary school, children have to learn to take responsibility in terms of academic tasks (e.g. homework) as well as to cooperate with peers and adults across diverse settings (Sotardi 2016). The experiences of success or frustration in these new settings may have long-lasting positive or negative consequences (Eccles 1999).
This study seeks to extend the broader resilience line of research on the academic domain with a focus on academic buoyancy. Whereas support and academic adversity are well-established factors within the risk and resilience research, academic buoyancy is a relative new construct. Academic buoyancy refers to student´s capacity to overcome ongoing challenges that are typical of the ordinary course of everyday academic life, such as performance pressure, task difficulty or poor performance (Martin & Marsh 2008; 2009). Although closely related, academic buoyancy and resilience are demarcated on differences of degree (e.g. whereas academic resilience is relevant to chronic underachievement, academic buoyancy is relevant to the more typical experience of isolated poor performance) and differences of kind (e.g. clinical types of affects such as anxiety vs. low level stress and confidence).
The aim of the present study is twofold. Firstly, we test the measurement validity of the applied scales for primary school children. Secondly, following the protective factor model of resilience theory (cf. Luthar 2006), we examine the relationship between schoolwork pressure, academic buoyancy and school engagement. In detail, we hypothesize that the relations between schoolwork pressure and engagement and between pressure and academic buoyancy will be negatively correlated, whereas academic buoyancy and school engagement are assumed positively correlated. In addition we hypothesize that the relation between pressure and school engagement will be mediated by academic buoyancy.
The data has been collected within a longitudinal multidisciplinary project Steps to the Healthy Development and Well-Being of Children (The STEPS Study; for more detail see Lagström et al. 2013). The children completed the measurements administered by the parents at home between December 2017 and January 2018. Altogether 405 children, aged 8-10 participated a cross-sectional sub-survey on children´s subjective wellbeing. The applied questionnaire was constructed within an International Survey of Children's Well-Being (ISCWeB). Based on the research literature (Fredricks, Blumenfeld & Paris 2004), a distinction was made between emotional and cognitive school engagement. Both factors contained a three item scale. In order to assess student´s perceived schoolwork pressure, a three item measure used e.g. in the international Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC Study) was applied. In addition, a latent academic buoyancy factor including four modified items based on the work of Martin and Marsh (2008; 2009) was constructed. Bivariate correlations between study variables will be conducted with IBM SPSS Statistics 23. To test the construct validity of the each scale separately, confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) will be applied. Based on our hypotheses, we conduct a latent structural equation model (SEM) in order to assess the strength of direct and indirect effects between perceived schoolwork pressure, academic buoyancy and school engagement. We use Mplus 7.0 software with Maximum Likelihood estimator for estimation of the model fit. We consider five primary fit indices as recommended by Hu and Bentler (1999) to evaluate the fit of the models.
The completion of the data for the analyses of the above depicted theoretical framework is expected this spring. The results and the implications of the study results for practice and future research will be discussed.
Behnsen, P., Buil, M., Koot, S., Huizink, A., van Lier, P. (2018). Classroom social experiences in early elementary school relate to diurnal cortisol levels. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 87, 1-8. Eccles, J. (1999). The Development of Children Ages 6 to 14. The Future of Children, 9(1), 30-44. Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C. & Paris, A. H. (2004). School Engagement: Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59-109. Hu, L. T. & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structural analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modelling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6, 1-55. Lagström H, Rautava P, Kaljonen A, Räihä H, Pihlaja P, Korpilahti P, Peltola V, Rautakoski P, Österbacka E, Simell, O, & Niemi P. (2013). Cohort Profile: Steps to the Healthy Development and Well-being of Children (the STEPS Study). International Journal of Epidemiology, 42, 1273-1284. Luthar, S. S. (2006). Resilience in development: A synthesis of research across five decades. In D. Cicchetti & D. J. Cohen (Eds.), Developmental psychopathology (2nd ed.): Vol. 3. Risk, disorder, and adaptation (pp. 739-795). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Martin, A. J. & Marsh, H. W. (2009). Academic resilience and academic buoyancy: Multidimensional and hierarchical conceptual framing of causes, correlates, and cognate constructs. Oxford Review of Education, 35, 353-370. Martin, A. J. & Marsh, H. W. (2008). Academic buoyancy: Towards an understanding of students´ everyday academic resilience. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 53-83. Murberg, T. A. & Bru, E. (2007). The role of neuroticism and perceived school-related stress in somatic symptoms among students in Norwegian junior high schools. Journal of Adolescence, 30(2), 203-212. OECD (2017), PISA 2015 Results (Volume III): Students' Well-Being, OECD Publishing, Paris. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264273856-en. [18.01.2018] Raufelder, D., Kittler, F., Braun, S. R., Lätsch, A., Wilkinson, R. P. & Hoferichter, F. (2014). The interplay of perceived stress, self-determination and school engagement in adolescence. School Psychology International, 35(4), 405-420. Sontag, L. M. & Graber, J. A. (2010). Coping with perceived peer stress: Gender-specific and common pathways to symptoms of psychopathology. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1605-1620. Sotardi, V. A. (2017). Exploring school stress in middle childhood: interpretations, experiences, and coping. Pastoral Care in Education, 35(1), 13-27. Sotardi, V. A. (2016). Understanding student stress and coping in elementary school: a mixed-method, longitudinal study. Psychology in the Schools, 53(7), 705-721.
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