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Self-concept, attributional style and self-efficacy beliefs of students with learning disabilities with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Abstract. A considerable comorbidity, ranging from 40% to 80%, has been reported in the literature between learning disabilities (LD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This study examined how students with LD and students with comorbid ADHD (LD/ADHD) differ from typically achieving peers in self-concept, self-efficacy beliefs and attributional style. The study also explored the relationship between academic self-concept, academic self-efficacy beliefs and academic-attributional style. Both students with LD and students with LD/ADHD reported significantly lower scores on academic self-concept, academic attributional style and academic self-efficacy beliefs than typically achieving peers. No significant differences were found between students with LD and with LD/ADHD on these variables. However, the LD/ADHD group reported significantly lower scores on peer-relation self-concept than the other two groups. Results revealed that the academic self-perceptions of students with learning disabilities were not significantly influenced by their comorbidity with ADHD. The correlational analysis demonstrated a close relationship between self-concept, self-efficacy beliefs and attributional style. The need for further research and implications for self-concept enhancement of students with LD and with LD/ADHD are discussed.

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The self-perception of students with learning disabilities (LD) has been a focus of research during the last three decades. A number of studies have reported that students with LD differ from typically achieving students in terms of self-concept (Bender & Wall, 1994; Chapman, 1988; Chapman & Boersma, 1979; Kistner, Haskett, White & Robin, 1987); attributions for success and failure (Jacobson, Lowery, & DuCette, 1986; Pearl, 1992; Rogers & Saklofske, 1985); and self-efficacy beliefs (Schunk, 1985, 1990). Research over the last decade has clearly shown that most students with learning disabilities hold a lower self-concept regarding their academic skills, whereas their nonacademic self-concept is almost equivalent to that of typically achieving peers (Chapman, 1988; Harter, Whitesell, & Junkin, 1998; Kloomok & Cosden, 1994). Bender and Wall (1994), after reviewing 27 studies on self-concept, reported that students with LD exhibited lower academic self-concept and lower perceived academic competence than their peers without disabilities.

Studies have also reported that students with LD generally attribute their failure to internal causes (ability and efforts) and their success to external causes (luck and chance) (Bryan, 1986; Cooley & Ayres, 1988; Pearl, 1982, 1992; McInerney, 1999; Rogers & Saklofske, 1985). Attributional style, or explanatory style, refers to the way people explain the causes of bad or good events involving themselves. Peterson, Buchanan, and Seligman (1995) identified three dimensions of explanatory style: internal/external, stable/unstable and global/specific. Individuals who explain or attribute their successes to causes that are internal (ability and efforts), stable ("it will last forever") and global ("it will influence everything that happens to me") demonstrate a positive attributional style. In contrast, individuals who attribute their success to causes that are external (luck), unstable ("it is short-lived") and specific ("it is going to influence only this situation") demonstrate a negative attributional style.

McInerney (1999) suggested that children with high academic self-concept attribute their success to internal and stable factors that may then contribute to further satisfaction with their performance and therefore lead to higher academic self-concept and further striving for achievement. In contrast, children with poor academic self-concept usually attribute their success to external and unstable factors and they do not feel the pride associated with their success. Cooley and Ayres (1988) demonstrated a positive correlation between self-concept scores and ability/effort attributions of preadolescents with learning disabilities. Specifically they reported that the lower the self-concept of students with LD, the more likely they were to attribute their failure to lack of ability.

Other researchers have also demonstrated a close relationship between academic self-concept and attributions for academic success and failure (e.g., Craven, Marsh, & Debus, 1991; Marsh, 1988, 1984). Marsh (1988) demonstrated a consistent pattern of relationship between multidimensional self-concept and multidimensional attributions for the causes of success and failures. However, these studies do not assume that lower academic self-concept leads to negative attributions or vice versa. Thus, as suggested by Mercer (1997), it is better to assume that causality operates in both directions.

Attributions are also related to self-efficacy beliefs. Perceived self-efficacy or efficacy beliefs play an influential mediational role in academic attainment. For example, Bandura (1997) reported that regardless of ability levels, students with higher self-efficacy beliefs perform well in all situations. Schunk (1984, 1990) and Schunk and Cox (1986) have shown in a series of experiments that a student's self-efficacy about a particular task is influenced by the type of attributions used to explain success and failure. Recent comparisons of self-concept and self-efficacy beliefs in academic contexts suggest that perception of one's academic self-concept is strongly influenced by one's efficacy beliefs (Bong & Clark, 1999; Pajares, 1996). Self-perception of personal efficacy is a core aspect of self-concept (Brandtstadter, 1999). Individuals with enhanced self-efficacy also exhibit increased intrinsic motivation, more favorable self-perceptions and more adaptive attributional patterns (Bong & Clark, 1999).

From these findings it can be predicted that students with LD, who usually hold lower academic self-concept, would also demonstrate poor self-efficacy beliefs and a negative attributional style for academic success and failure. Self-concept, self-efficacy beliefs and self-attribution are closely related. Therefore, in order to get a complete picture of the self-perceptions of students with learning disabilities it is important to pull all these variables together. This study was an attempt to verify the suggested link between self-concept, attributional style and self-efficacy beliefs. By focusing on all constructs we have tried to present a comprehensive picture of the self-perceptions of students with LD.

Learning disabilities involve a number of components including cognitive, attentional and behavioral deficits (Coplin & Morgan, 1988; Kavale & Nye, 1985). Many studies have reported considerable comorbidity between learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Cantwell & Baker, 1991; Reason, 1999; Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 1991). Thus, almost one third of students with LD are thought to have ADHD (Hallahan, 1989; Robins, 1992). The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Report (Carmichael et al., 1997) reviewed studies in which coexisting learning disabilities were reported in 10-90% of students diagnosed with ADHD, whereas coexisting ADHD was reported in 41-80% of students diagnosed with LD. Perhaps the most reliable data emerged from the review by McKinney, Montague, and Hocutt (1993). When stringent identification criteria were applied for both ADHD and LD, McKinney et al. found that comorbidity occurred in at least 10-20% of cases, although the prevalence of co-occurrence varied from 9-63% across the studies reviewed. If even the most conservative of these figures is accepted, clearly many students with LD are also experiencing ADHD.

Many social, emotional and educational difficulties are associated with ADHD (Hoza, Pelham, Milich, Pillow, & McBride, 1993). For example, research indicates that ADHD children, due to their inattention and impulsive activities, experience frequent failure (Bender, 1997; Milich, Loney, & Landau, 1982). They may receive negative feedback from parents, teachers and peers (Cunningham, Siegal, & Offord, 1985) and have been found to encounter significant problems with peer rejection and lack of popularity (Cantwell & Baker, 1991; Hinshaw & Melnick, 1995; Mercer, 1997). Studies have also reported that students with LD and students with ADHD hold negative attributional patterns (Hoza et al., 1993; Hoza, Waschbusch, Pelham, Molina, & Milich, 2000; Huntington & Bender, 1993); however, the attributional patterns of students with LD and comorbid ADHD (LD/ADHD) have not been studied extensively. It seems possible that the social, emotional and academic problems would be intensified for students who have both LD and ADHD rather than just LD. The risk factors associated with LD may increase markedly when there is co-occurrence of ADHD. The interaction between learning disability and ADHD may consequently cause further decrements in the self-perceptions of these children.

Although a significant number of children with learning disabilities have an associated ADHD diagnosis, little research has been undertaken to explore the self-concept and related constructs such as attributional style and self-efficacy beliefs of students with LD/ADHD. Further, most of the studies on the self-perceptions of students with LD have not specifically identified or broken down their samples into subgroups such as learning disabilities with ADHD and learning disabilities without ADHD. Thus it is possible that most of the previous studies on the self-perceptions of students with LD are confounded by the use of unspecified LD and LD/ADHD subject samples. Although the self-perceptions of students with LD and students with ADHD have been examined in isolation, the literature is lacking a comparative profile concerning the self-perception of students with LD and students with a comorbid LD/ADHD.

This study examined how students with LD/ADHD differ from students with LD and typically achieving peers in self-concept, self-efficacy beliefs and attributional style. The study also explored the relationship between academic self-concept, academic self-efficacy and academic-attributional style for students with LD and LD/ADHD. Consistent with the findings of previous studies (Harter et al., 1998; Kloomok & Cosden, 1994), it was expected (a) that students in both LD and LD/ADHD groups would report significantly lower scores on all dimensions of academic self-concept, academic attributional style and academic self-efficacy beliefs than the typically achieving group; and (b) that the nonacademic self-concept of students with LD would not be significantly different from that of typically achieving peers. The risk factors associated either with LD or ADHD may increase markedly when there is co-occurrence of LD and ADHD. It was, therefore, also expected (c) that the LD/ADHD group would report the lowest scores on self-concept, attributional style and self-efficacy beliefs in academic as well as in nonacademic areas compared to the other two groups.

The research literature suggests a close relationship between self-concept, self-attributions and self-efficacy beliefs (Marsh, 1984, 1988; Marsh & Craven, 1997; Schunk, 1984). It was, therefore, expected (d) that students with a poor academic self-concept would also demonstrate poor self-efficacy beliefs and negative attributional style in academic contexts. A positive correlation, therefore, was expected between the scores of academic self-concept, academic self-efficacy beliefs and academic attributional style.

METHOD

Participants

Participants were 172 elementary school students: 44 students with LD, 42 students with LD/ADHD and 86 matched typically achieving (NA) students, in grade 3 to 6, drawn from nine public schools in Sydney, Australia. The participants with LD and with LD/ADHD were students of regular classes and had been placed in a special education pullout class for reading and mathematics at their schools. They spent 1-2 hours a day in a resource room program receiving academic assistance from an educational specialist. For the remainder of the day they attended regular education classes. An equal number of NA students, free from any identified behavioral or learning disorder, were selected from the same schools and the same classes from which the LD and LD/ADHD groups were drawn. Based on same gender and grade placement, the students with LD and with LD/ADHD were matched one to one to randomly selected typically achieving classmates.

Selection Criteria of Students with LD and with LD/ADHD

The students with LD and with LD/ADHD were previously diagnosed (by their schools) for reading and mathematics learning disabilities as determined by the Department of Education, New South Wales, Australia, generally using a criterion of a significant discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement level. Academic achievement level was assessed with the Wide Range Achievement Test-Revised (WRAT-R; Jastak & Wilkinson, 1984). Each student in the LD and LD/ADHD groups achieved a full-scale intelligence score greater than 79 on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-111, 1991). Students with LD and with LD/ADHD in the study sample were performing almost two years behind their chronological age and expected ability levels. Additional inclusion criteria for the students with LD/ADHD consisted of a score of 70 or more on the Conners Teacher Rating Scale-Revised (CTRS-R) and the Conners Parent Rating Scale-Revised (CPRS-R; Conners, 1985), and a score greater than 1.5 standard deviation above the mean for age and gender on the ADHD-Teacher Rating Scale (DuPaul, 1990). Students with a learning disability due to a physical or sensory disability were not included in the sample.

The Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices (RCPM; Raven & Raven, 1995) was also administered to all participants in the three groups. The range of RCPM scores for "intellectually average" group is between the 25th and 75th percentiles (Raven & Raven, 1995). A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), 3 (groups) by 2 (gender), for age (in months) and RCPM percentile scores was computed. No significant differences between the three groups were found for RCPM scores, F(2, 166) = 2.27, p > .05, or for age in months F(2, 65) = 0.06, p > .05. Means and standard deviations for age and RCPM percentile scores for girls and boys in the three groups are presented in Table 1.

In order to determine the subjects' social status a questionnaire asking about the occupational and educational levels of the father and mother was sent to the participants' parents. The score for the educational factor was calculated according to the number of years of school completed and was ranked on a 7-point scale. The score for the occupational factor was obtained by ranking the parent's occupation from 1 to 9 (administrator to laborer) according to the occupational titles and the codes given in the Australian Standard Classification of Occupation (The Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1996). All subjects were from lower-middle, to middle-class background. No significant group differences for the father's educational level, F(2, 131) = 1.38, p > .05, mother's educational level, F(2, 131) = 0.95, p > .05, father's occupation, F(2, 131) = 1.37, p > .05, and mother's occupation F(2, 131) = 2.23, p > .05, were found. Of the NA group 18.42%, of the LD group 12.34% and of the LD/ADHD group 15.65% came from single parent-families. All subjects spoke English as their main language.

Measures

Three measures were used. The Self-Description Questionnaire (SDQ-1; Marsh, 1990) was utilized to assess participants' self-concept. The SDQ-1 is a 76-item multidimensional measure of self-concept for children from grades 2 to 6. The SDQ-1 has eight different scales that assess three areas of academic self-concept (reading, mathematics and school self-concept); four areas of nonacademic self-concept (physical ability, physical appearance, peer relations, and parent relations); and a general self-concept. The general self-concept reflects the child's self-esteem or perception of himself or herself as an effective capable individual, proud of and satisfied with the way he or she is (Marsh, 1990). An item from the general-self scale, for example, is "I'm as good as most other people." Children are asked to respond to simple declarative sentences (e.g., "I am good at mathematics"), and responses are scored from false (1) to true (5).

The SDQ-1 has been used in many studies (e.g., Craven et al., 1991; Marsh & Peart, 1988; Marsh & Richards, 1988) and has shown strong psychometric properties. It has been standardized for Australian populations with norms based on the responses of 3,562 students between grades 2 and 6. Internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha) for the eight scales varied from .80 to .90, and for the combined scores from .91 to .94 (SDQ-1, 1990). Test-retest reliability over a six-month interval for individual scales varied from .74 to .87 (Marsh, 1990).

In order to assess participants' academic attributional style and academic self-efficacy beliefs, two measures, the Academic Attributional Style Questionnaire (AASQ) and the Academic Self-Efficacy Beliefs Scale (ASES), were developed. The psychometric properties of these measures were established by administering them to a group of 107 students (sample included 7% students with LD, 5% with LD/ADHD and 88% NA) in grade 3 to 6.

The AASQ was patterned after the Children's Attributional Styles Questionnaire (CASQ; Kaslow, Tannenbaum, & Seligman, 1978), mainly because the simple format of the CASQ was deemed suitable for the students with LD. However, in contrast to the CASQ (which mostly addresses a child's attributions for social situations), the AASQ was designed to assess a child's attributional style for academic situations. The AASQ is comprised of 20 items: 10 describing success events and 10 describing failure events. Each item is followed by two alternative causes (A and B) of the event. These causes (A and B) assess internal/external, stable/unstable or global/specific attributions. One item indicating internal vs. external attribution for a success event in reading, for example, is "Suppose you read a story well in front of your class, it would be because

A) ... You are good at reading.

B) ... That story was easy to read."

For each event, subjects were asked to vividly imagine the situation actually happening to them and then decide what they believed would be the major cause (A or B) of their success or failure. Items were scored separately for success events and failure events. A score of 1 is assigned to each internal, stable or global response and a 0 is assigned to each external, unstable and specific response. The sum of the scores on internal, stable and global responses for success events indicates composite positive attributional style (CPA), whereas the sum of the scores on internal, stable and global responses for failure events provides a score for composite negative attributional style (CNA). An overall academic attributional style is a difference of scores for the composite positive attributional style and the composite negative attributional style. Cronbach's alpha coefficient for the 10-item positive attribution scale was recorded at .71, for the 10-item negative attribution scale it was .63, and for the total 20-item scale it was .79.

The Academic Self-Efficacy Scale (ASES) is a 14-item scale designed to assess a student's efficacy beliefs for achieving success in reading and mathematics. The ASES is comprised of two scales: a reading efficacy scale and a mathematics efficacy scale with seven items each. The items seek to examine students' efficacy beliefs in completing a given task (in reading and mathematics), getting good marks in the subject, ability to learn new tasks in the subject, and so on (an item for math efficacy, for example, is "I can get good marks in a math test"). Responses are scored on 5-point scale ranging from "never" (1) to "always" (5). A high score is indicative of a higher level of self-efficacy. Reading efficacy and math efficacy as well as a composite efficacy score may be obtained separately. Cronbach's alpha for the instrument was .87 for the math self-efficacy scale, .85 for the reading self-efficacy scale and .83 for the total 14-item scale.

Procedure

Participants in the three groups (LD, LD/ADHD and NA) were administered the SDQ-1 (Marsh, 1990), the AASQ and the ASES in small groups (3 to 4 students at a time). The researcher read each of the items from the test booklets twice, while each child marked the answer in the given booklet. There was no time test, and students were encouraged to ask about anything that they could not understand. The same method was used for each of the three groups and the testing was carried out at the schools' premises.

RESULTS

In order to assess the differences between the three groups, separate multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA) were computed for the dimensions of self-concept, self-efficacy beliefs and attributional style. These analyses were followed by group, gender and grade contrasts within each variable to determine if specific group, gender and grade differences were significant. An initial MANOVA, Group (3) by Gender (2) by Grade (4) for the three composite scores of self-concept (academic self-concept, nonacademic self-concept and general self-concept), was computed.

Results revealed a significant group effect: multivariate (Wilk's lambda), F(2, 148) = 8.1, p < .001, whereas grade effect, gender effect and interactions (Group by Grade and Group by Gender) were not significant. As predicted, the univariate results revealed that both the LD and LD/ADHD groups obtained significantly lower scores on academic self-concept and general self-concept than the typically achieving students. The nonacademic self-concept of the LD and LD/ADHD groups was not significantly different, however, from that of the typically achieving students. Table 2 presents the means, standard deviations and univariate F-ratio for the academic, nonacademic and general self-concept of three groups.

Further analyses were carried out to determine the group differences for various dimensions of academic and nonacademic self-concept. Another MANOVA examining groups (3) by gender (2) for the seven dimensions of self-concept (three dimensions of academic self-concept and four dimensions of nonacademic self-concept) revealed a significant group effect, F(16, 284) = 5.03, p < .001, but no significant differences in relation to gender. Univariate results (see Table 3) revealed that both the LD and LD/ADHD groups obtained significantly lower scores on all dimensions of academic self-concept (reading self-concept, mathematics self-concept and school self concept) and two (peer relation and parent relation self-concept) of the four dimensions of nonacademic self-concept than the typically achieving group. No significant group differences were found on physical ability and physical appearance self-concepts.

Table 3 identifies the means, standard deviations and univariate F-values for the dimensions of academic and nonacademic self-concept for the three groups. Multiple comparisons of the three groups revealed no significant differences between LD and LD/ADHD groups on academic, nonacademic and general self-concept. The only significant difference between the LD and LD/ADHD group was found on peer relation self-concept. That is, students with LD/ADHD reported significantly poorer peer-relations self-concept scores than students with LD and typically achieving peers.

Academic Attributional Style and Academic Self-Efficacy Beliefs

A MANOVA, Group (3) by Gender (2) by Grade (4), for overall attributional style and composite self-efficacy beliefs scores revealed a significant group effect, F(4, 296) = 34.45, p < .001, whereas grade effect, gender effect and interactions (Group by Grade and Group by Gender effects) were not significant.

Two separate MANOVAs were conducted: one for the two dimensions of academic attributional style (CPA and CNA) and another for the two dimensions of self-efficacy beliefs (reading efficacy and math efficacy). Results for CPA and CNA revealed a significant group effect, F(2, 166) = 29.45, p < .001, but gender effect and grade effect were not significant. Multiple comparisons revealed no significant difference between the students with LD and with LD/ADHD on any of the dimensions of the academic attributional style. Mean scores for overall attributional style (see Table 4) indicated that in contrast to the typically achieving peers, both the students with LD and with LD/ADHD reported low positive and high negative attributional styles.

For the two domains of academic self-efficacy, results revealed a significant group effect, F(2, 166) = 18.43, p < .001, whereas the gender effect and the grade effect were not significant. Multiple comparisons of the three groups revealed no significant difference between the students with LD and students with LD/ADHD on any dimension of the academic self-efficacy beliefs. However, both the LD and LD/ADHD groups reported significantly lower scores for reading efficacy, mathematics efficacy and composite self-efficacy beliefs than did the typically achieving group. Means, standard deviations and univariate F-values for the academic self-efficacy beliefs for the three groups are presented in Table 5.

Relationship Between Academic Self-Concept, Academic Attributional Style and Academic Self-Efficacy Beliefs

In order to examine the relationship between academic self-concept, academic attributional style and academic self-efficacy beliefs, Pearson's correlation coefficients were computed between the scores of these three variables. Results presented in Table 6 indicate that positive attributions were significantly correlated with academic self-concept (.46), reading self-concept (.40), mathematics self-concept (.39) and school self-concept (.38), whereas positive attributions were not significantly correlated with nonacademic self-concept (.18) and general self-concept (.18). Negative attributions were negatively correlated with academic self-concept (-.27), reading self-concept (-.29), mathematics self-concept (-.22), school self-concept (-.16), and general self-concept (-.26). The self-efficacy beliefs score for reading was significantly correlated with reading self-concept (.65), academic self-concept (.63), and school self-concept (.54). The self-efficacy beliefs score for mathematics was significantly correlated with mathematics self-concept (.66), academic self-concept (.63) and school self-concept (.59). The composite self-efficacy score was significantly correlated with academic self-concept (.64), reading self-concept (.64), mathematics self-concept (.53), and school self-concept (.55). These results revealed that, as predicted, the students with poor academic self-concept also demonstrated lowered academic self-efficacy beliefs and negative attributional style in academic areas.

DISCUSSION

This study was an attempt to characterize the extent to which students with LD with and without ADHD and their typically achieving peers differed on academic self-perceptions and related constructs like academic attributional style and academic self-efficacy beliefs. As predicted, both the LD and LD/ADHD groups reported significantly lower scores on academic self-concept, academic self-efficacy beliefs and academic attributional style than typically achieving peers. The nonacademic self-concept of students with LD and with LD/ADHD was not significantly different from that of typically achieving students. These results are consistent with the findings of previous studies (Kloomok & Cosden, 1994; Smith & Nagal, 1995), which concluded that students with learning disabilities usually hold lower academic self-concept while their nonacademic self-concept is almost equivalent to that of their peers without disabilities.

Chapman (1988), in a review of the research on the self-concept of students with LD, reported that 81% of students with LD had lower academic self-concept than the average typically achieving student and that the average LD student had an academic self-concept score around the 19th percentile. The results from the present study support Chapman's findings as the average academic self-concept score of students with LD fell at the 27th percentile and that of students with LD/ADHD at the 23rd percentile, compared to the 50th percentile for typically achieving peers. The average general self-concept of students with LD fell at the 31st percentile and that of LD/ADHD at the 25th percentile, compared to the 50th percentile for typically achieving group. These results indicate that, in comparison to nonacademic and general self-concepts, greater decrements occur in the academic self-concept of students with LD and students with LD/ADHD.

Consistent with the previous studies on attributions of students with LD (McInerney, 1999; Pearl, 1992), the present study revealed that both the students with LD and with LD/ADHD demonstrated an overall negative attributional style whereas typically achieving students reported an overall positive attributional style for academic success and failure. Both the students with LD and with LD/ADHD also reported significantly lower academic self-efficacy beliefs than the typically achieving group. However, in contrast to our assumptions, no significant differences were found between students with LD and with LD/ADHD on academic self-concept, academic attributional style and academic self-efficacy beliefs.

Other researchers have also reported that students with LD and students with LD/ADHD did not differ significantly on academic self-perceptions. For example, Tirosh, Berger, Cohen-Ophir, Davidovitch, and Cohen (1998) compared the academic, behavioral and emotional aspects of students diagnosed with LD and with LD/ADHD. No significant differences in the academic self-perceptions of students with LD and with LD/ADHD were reported. The researchers concluded that the scholastic self-perception of students with LD/ADHD was not significantly influenced by their ADHD comorbidity. Although students with LD/ADHD in the present study reported lower scores for academic self-concept than the other two groups, the differences between the two groups were not statistically significant. Perhaps a larger sample would have led to more conclusive results concerning the additional impact of ADHD on the academic self-perceptions of children with LD/ADHD.

However, the students with LD/ADHD in the present study reported significantly lower peer-relation self-concept scores than either of the other two groups. This finding indicates that ADHD comorbidity may affect nonacademic areas like social relations or peer relations. Studies have already reported that students with LD and students with ADHD usually have poor peer relationships. For instance, Hinshaw and Melnick (1995) noted that children with ADHD display a number of annoying and intrusive interpersonal behaviors with peers and "the peer domain is decidedly problematic for this population" (p. 629). However, considering that in the present study the only significant difference between the two groups (LD and LD/ADHD) existed in relation to peer-relation self-concept, it would not appear that the main features of their overall self-concept are significantly affected by the presence of ADHD.

On the basis of these results, it can be concluded that the academic self-concept, academic attributions and academic self-efficacy beliefs of students with LD/ADHD were not significantly influenced by their ADHD comorbidity. Although the study includes comparative data on the self-perceptions of all three groups of students (LD, LD/ADHD and NA), the results are limited, as the investigation did not include a group of children who have ADHD without LD. An addition of a group of students with ADHD with no LD might be needed to further clarify the role of ADHD comorbidity in the self-perception of students with LD.

The study also explored the relationship between academic self-concept, academic attributional style and academic self-efficacy beliefs. As predicted, the students who exhibited poor academic self-concept (both the students with LD and with LD/ADHD) also reported a negative academic attributional style and poor academic self-efficacy beliefs. These results support the assumption that academic self-concept, academic self-efficacy beliefs and academic self-attributions are closely linked. Other researchers (Bandura, 1997; Bong & Clark, 1999; Pajares, 1996) have also reported a positive relationship between self-efficacy beliefs and self-concept. McInerney (1999) suggested a positive relationship between high academic self-concept and positive attributions. The results of the present study revealed that both the self-attributions and the self-efficacy beliefs are closely related to each other and to self-concept. It is, therefore, possible that more promising avenues to improving the self-perception of students with LD would include improving their self-efficacy beliefs and/or changing their maladaptive attributional patterns.

Some studies on self-concept enhancement (Craven, 1996; Craven, Marsh, & Debus, 1991) have been successful in enhancing the academic self-concept of students through attributional retraining techniques. These studies assumed the relationship between self-concept and self-attributions was reciprocal. Therefore, a change in attributions would be associated with changes in academic self-concept. The attributional retraining has also been found successful in improving the learning behaviors of students with LD (Borkowski, Weyhing, & Turner, 1986; Borkowski, Weyhing, & Carr, 1988; Reid & Borkowski, 1987). The present investigation, however, has clearly shown that self-concept is closely related to self-attributions and self-efficacy beliefs. Thus, the lowered academic self-perceptions of students with LD and with LD/ADHD could be improved by changing their maladaptive attributional style and/or enhancing their self-efficacy beliefs. Future studies should consider examining all these related variables together when designing intervention programs to enhance the self-perceptions of students with LD and LD/ADHD.
Table 1
Characteristics of Students in Typically Achieving, LD,
and LD/ADHD Groups

Groups N Age in months Percentiles on RPCM (c)
 Mean (SD) Mean (SD)

Typically achieving
Boys 63 119.24 (13.44) 69.44 (15.97)
Girls 23 120.25 (13.77) 72.61 (16.57)
Total 86 119.58 (13.45) 70.29 (10.09)

LD (a)
Boys 33 122.55 (12.28) 64.39 (17.04)
Girls 11 121.09 (12.53) 68.18 (26.20)
Total 44 122.18 (13.45) 65.34 (19.45)

LD/ADHD (b)
Boys 30 124.40 (12.40) 64.17 (17.47)
Girls 12 127.00 (13.00) 60.00 (23.55)
Total 42 125.14 (12.47) 62.98 (19.19)

(a) LD = Students with learning disabilities.

(b) LD/ADHD = Students with LD and comorbid attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder.

(c) RPCM = The Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices.
Table 2
Means and Standard Deviations for the Dimensions of Self-Concept
for the Typically Achieving, LD, and LD/ADHD Groups

Self-concept domains Typically achieving LD
 N = 86 N = 44
 Mean (SD) Mean (SD)

Academic self-concept 30.97 (4.09) 25.95 (6.84)
Nonacademic self-concept 31.77 (4.03) 31.12 (3.86)
General self-concept 33.92 (4.96) 30.89 (6.15)

Self-concept domains LD/ADHD
 N = 42
 Mean (SD) F-ratio

Academic self-concept 25.02 (7.36) 14.81 **
Nonacademic self-concept 31.32 (4.68) 0.50
General self-concept 30.10 (6.39) 6.90 **

** p < .001.
Table 3
Means and Standard Deviations for Academic and Nonacademic
Self-Concept Dimensions for the Typically Achieving, LD,
and LD/ADHD Groups

Self-concept dimensions Typically achieving LD
 on SDQ-1 N = 86 N = 44
 Mean (SD) Mean (SD)

Academic self-concept
 Reading 33.46 (5.91) 26.61 (8.24)
 Math 29.23 (7.00) 24.61 (7.55)
 General school 30.20 (5.07) 26.63 (6.92)

Nonacademic self-concept
 Parent relation 36.19 (4.31) 33.77 (5.44)
 Peer relation 32.56 (5.34) 29.89 (5.19)
 Physical ability 31.62 (6.14) 32.18 (5.18)
 Physical appearance 26.68 (6.94) 28.36 (6.20)

Self-concept dimensions LD/ADHD
 on SDQ-1 N = 42
 Mean (SD) F-ratio

Academic self-concept
 Reading 26.23 (9.11) 13.69 **
 Math 23.61 (7.99) 8.55 **
 General school 25.19 (7.70) 8.05 **

Nonacademic self-concept
 Parent relation 33.88 (5.19) 5.49 **
 Peer relation 27.00 (5.90) 14.55 **
 Physical ability 33.64 (5.04) 1.97
 Physical appearance 29.26 (7.75) 2.09

** p < .001.
Table 4
Means and Standard Deviations for the Typically Achieving, LD,
and LD/ADHD Groups on Positive and Negative Academic Attributions

Dimensions of attributional Typically achieving LD
 style N = 86 N = 44
 Mean (SD) Mean (SD)

Composite positive attributions 7.42 (1.80) 4.91 (1.88)
Composite negative attributions 3.41 (1.59) 6.39 (1.79)
Overall attributional style 4.01 (2.13) -1.48 (2.14)

Dimensions of attributional LD/ADHD
 style N = 42
 Mean (SD) F-ratio

Composite positive attributions 5.19 (1.90) 31.90 **
Composite negative attributions 5.98 (1.94) 41.06 **
Overall attributional style -0.79 (2.55) 97.26 **

** p < .001.
Table 5
Means and Standard Deviations for the Dimension of Academic
Self-Efficacy Beliefs for the Typically Achieving, LD and
LD/ADHD Groups

Academic self-efficacy Typically achieving LD
 N = 86 N = 44
 Mean (SD) Mean (SD)

Self-efficacy--reading 29.53 (4.33) 22.20 (4.03)
Self-efficacy--mathematics 27.41 (5.03) 21.66 (3.77)
Composite--self-efficacy
 beliefs 28.47 (3.54) 21.93 (3.42)

Academic self-efficacy LD/ADHD
 N = 42
 Mean (SD) F-ratio

Self-efficacy--reading 22.24 (5.19) 37.12 **
Self-efficacy--mathematics 20.98 (4.66) 24.11 **
Composite--self-efficacy
 beliefs 21.61 (4.51) 47.22 **

** p < .001.
Table 6
Correlation Coefficients Between the Dimensions of Self-Concept,
Academic Attributions and Academic Self-Efficacy Beliefs

Academic attributions Academic Nonacad.
and academic self-efficacy self-concept self-concept

Positive attributions 0.46 ** 0.18
Negative attributions -0.27 ** -0.07
Overall attributional style 0.47 ** 0.16
Self-efficacy--math 0.63 ** 0.37 **
Self-efficacy--reading 0.63 ** 0.37 **
Composite--self-efficacy 0.64 ** 0.34 **

Academic attributions Reading Mathematics
and academic self-efficacy self-concept self-concept

Positive attributions 0.40 ** 0.39 **
Negative attributions -0.29 ** -0.22
Overall attributional style 0.45 ** 0.39 **
Self-efficacy--math 0.38 ** 0.66 **
Self-efficacy--reading 0.65 ** 0.30 **
Composite--self-efficacy 0.64 ** 0.53 **

Academic attributions School General
and academic self-efficacy self-concept self-concept

Positive attributions 0.38 ** 0.18
Negative attributions -0.16 -0.26 *
Overall attributional style 0.35 ** 0.28 **
Self-efficacy--math 0.59 ** 0.46 **
Self-efficacy--reading 0.54 ** 0.44 **
Composite--self-efficacy 0.55 ** 0.51 **

* p < .01.

** p < .001.


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Requests for reprints should be addressed to: Waheeda Tabassam, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.

WAHEEDA TABASSAM, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.

JESSICA GRAINGER, Ph.D., is senior lecturer in psychology, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.
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