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Self-concept and academic performance in gifted and academically weak students.

A number of studies have supported the contention that positive self-concept and academic achievement are closely interwoven (Beck, 1984; Purkey, 1970). Fitts (1972) has suggested that persons with optimal self-concept are apt to use their intellectual resources more efficiently. Educators and those involved in improving academic achievement should, therefore, strive to enhance students' self-concept.

The present study sought to extend these ideas by seeking additional correlates of academic achievement, including extracurricular activities, the family environment, and gender.


The 7th- and 8th-grade students studied included 33 academically gifted students (average percentile on academic tests = 93, SD = 5) and 33 academically weak students (average percentile = 12, SD = 10). Twenty students were black, 5 Hispanic, 1 native American, and 40 white.

Students were administered the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale (Fitts, 1965). They were also asked whether they lived with their natural parents or stepparents, and to indicate the extracurricular activities in which they participated.


The academically weak students were more often male (79% versus 42%; ||chi~.sup.2~ = 9.14, p |is less than~ .01), black (55% versus 6%; ||chi~.sup.2~ = 18.37, p |is less than~ .01), more often lived with a stepparent (33% versus 3%; ||chi~.sup.2~ = 10.20, p |is less than~ .01), and participated in fewer extracurricular activities (mean = 1.4, SD = 1.2, versus mean = 2.3, SD = 1.3; t = 2.89, p = .005) than did the gifted students. The academically weak students did not differ significantly in self-concept from the gifted students (mean = 321, SD = 30, versus mean = 335, SD = 31, respectively; t = 1.88).

Interestingly, for the academically weak students, self-concept was associated with extracurricular activities (Pearson's r = .29, |rho~ |is less than~ .05), but not with their academic percentile, their gender, or whether they came from a broken home (r = .16, .05, and .13, respectively). In contrast, for the gifted students, self-concept was associated with academic percentile, gender, and participation in extracurricular activities (r = .30, - .37, and .41, respectively; p |is less than~ .05), but not with whether they came from a broken home (r = .13).

For the academically weak students, academic achievement was related only to living with a stepparent (r = -.38, p |is less than~ .05), while for the gifted students, academic achievement was related only to self-concept (r = .30, p |is less than~ .05).


The results of the present study indicate that self-concept and academic achievement are associated only in academically strong students. No such association was identified in the present sample of academically weak students. In contrast, living with a stepparent was associated with poorer academic achievement in the academically weak students.

It is, therefore, important to replicate the results of research on such associations as academic achievement and self-concept in different status groups in order to ascertain which associations are relevant to the different groups, rather than assuming that a result found to hold for one group will necessarily hold for all groups.


Beck, J. (1984). Self-concept of high school seniors and its relationship to sex, ethnicity, academic achievement, absenteeism, and delinquency. Unpublished master's thesis, Texas Women's University, Denton, Texas.

Fitts, W. H. (1965). Tennessee Self-Concept Scale manual. Nashville, TN: State Department of Mental Health.

Fitts, W. H. (1972). The self-concept and performance. Nashville, TN: Dede Wallace Center.

Purkey, W. W. (1970). Self-concept and school achievement. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
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Author:Garzarelli, Pamela; Everhart, Barbara; Lester, David
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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