Date of Award

1993

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Janet Kulberg

Abstract

The relationship among stress, temperament, and academic achievement in middle-school children was explored. It was hypothesized that: (1) various types of stressors differ in their relationship with academic achievement, (2) temperamental variables differ in their relationship with children's perceived stress, and (3) temperament mediates the relationship between stress and academic achievement.

Subjects were 263 sixth graders from three public school systems in southeastern New England. Using a group format, the subjects were administered two self-report measures of stress and one self-rating temperament survey, the predictor variables. The criterion measure was the Metropolitan Achievement Test scores for the 1991-1992 academic year.

For the first hypothesis, the analyses showed three out of five categories of stress to be predictive of achievement. Additionally, the results revealed two distinct types of stress, event-based stress and affect-based stress. It was the affect-based stress categories, which view stress in terms of its potential for emotional impact, that emerged more frequently as predictors for achievement.

For the second hypothesis, analysis of the self-rating temperament measure revealed six temperament attributes. Four of the temperament attributes were predictive of different categories of stress. Irregular or unpredictable styles of daily habits (i.e., Rhythmicity) were associated with increases in perceptions of stress related to daily hassles and affective-anxiety. Also unstable daily habits and higher levels of motor activity (i.e., Activity-General) were related to increases in daily hassles type stress. The different predictive temperament attributes for the criterion stress categories were viewed as support not only for the second hypothesis, but also for an interactive relationship existing between temperament and stress.

The final hypothesis focused on the relationships among stress, temperament, and achievement. Four structural models were assessed using the EQS program. The results showed that Mood and Attention Span/Distractibility did not successfully mediate perceptions of stress. However, Rhythmicity was found to mediate the relationship between some affect-based type stressors and academic achievement. Finally, the analyses supported the use of a more parsimonious model when assessing the mediating relationship of temperament. The importance of Rhythmicity in children's perceptions of stress was one of the educational implications that emerged.

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