Positive Values and Educational Stress: Structural Equation Modeling
Nihan Arslan 
Faculty of Education,
The aim of this study is to examine the relationship between positive values and educational stress with a structural equaation model. The research was conducted on 242 secondary school students. Positive Values and Educational Stress scale were used in the study. As a result of the correlation analysis, it was found that there was a negative correlation between positive values and educational stress. Findings obtained from the structural equation model; positive values were negatively predicted by educational stress. The fit index obtained from the structural equation model show that the model fits well. Findings are discussed depending on the literature.
The states improves as long as it cares the child development (Plato, 1992). According to the theory of Kohlberg, the knowledge of an individual increases as the ethical judgment of him/ her improves. School environment is a traditional institute in which many young children gain their first experience in the course of life (Dulli, 2006). School climate is a multifaceted structure that includes norm and values of the individuals inside it (Cohen et al., 2009; Huang and Cornell, 2016). The social interaction that affects learning process and dominates the school includes the physical and academic environment. There is more positive school climate and less bullying in schools which reflect a strong dependence on positive social values and good personality development (Domino, 2013; Huang and Cornell, 2016). In schools that have positive school climate, there are more academic achievement, less behavioral problems, more self- confident students, and less absenteeism rate (Arum, 2003; Bear, 2005; Durham, Bettencourt and Connoly, 2014).
As McEvoy and Welker (2000) states that in schools which have positive school climate, students represent less crime rate and aggression. Studies which include broader structures like school policies, teacher attitudes and school’s general value and belief system as potential predictors of students’ academic, social and psychological development, show that students (6- 16 ages) who study at schools in which there is teacher- teacher and teacher- student conflicts experience behavioral problems more than those who study at “well organized compatible schools” that focus on learning (Dulli, 2006). Students of high conflict rate schools, have more tendency to use alcohol after 6 years, and commit an illegal act (Kasen, Berenson, Cohen and Johnson, 2004). School environment is a significant factor on bullying/ victimization.
Socialization process begins at home, and continues at school (Gill, 1997). In this regard, as well as the family the school system plays a significant role on individuals’ values and dependence to the government (Haljasorg and Lilleoja, 2016). The aim of the schools is not only putting the violence away but also creates a school climate in which there is a positive relationship between students and teachers and that engrains in value judgment (Ashley, 2016).
The positive valence system focuses on social competence and ethical judgment (Catalano, Berglund, Ryan, Lonczak, & Hawkins, 2002). Roth and Brooks-Gunn (2003) evaluated a positive youth development program and they stated that even though the character is one of the most important aims of the program, making its definition is a difficult structure. Moral competence and a good character form a basis for healthy young development (Park & Peterson, 2006). Adolescents are not only shaped by their families but also by their peers and the school environment. Character and positive valence can be conceptualized both as personal characteristic and collective feature in the social environment that includes peers, teachers and parents (Espelage, Holt, & Henkel, 2003; Huang and Cornell, 2016).
Puberty is an important period for value enhancement (Walker, 2007). Supporting positive valence is evaluated as an indicator of positive school climate (Huang and Cornell, 2016). School climate reflects students’ interpersonal relationships, objectives, values, and the quality of their school life (Cohen et al., 2009). Positive school climate has two important benefits for students, namely a strong commitment to the school and positive peer interactions. Moreover researches show that positive school climate affects students’ cognitive and emotional development positively (Gregory & Cornell, 2009; Appleton, Christenson, & Furlong, 2008). Individual who has high ethical judgment ability improve positive mental health (Çitemel, 2008).
Stress is a situation which is characterized as tension and resistance to external stimuli and called as general adaptation syndrome (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984). Stress can result in both positive and negative consequences in work, school and family environments. Stress in school life is generally derived from high expectation of parents from their child, and teachers from their students (Weber, 2003). Thus students have to cope with academic, personal and social pressures (Gemmill and Peterson, 2006).
Educational stress is also called as academic stress, and defined as anxiousness and disturbance that is derived from different difficulties of academic learning process (Sun et al., 2011). Students’ possibility of making errors about academic topics and their efforts to avoid from this possibility can be qualified as mental disturbance that is derived from their sadness when they make a mistake (Gupta and Verma, 1990). When the stress level is low, it can be seen as a motivation resource in the class and accepted as encouraging. However, if it cannot be controlled, it would cause important, long lasting and even permanent consequences (Balamurugan and Kumaran, 2008). For example, if other people have expectations about students too much, the stress may become chronic (Conner et al., 2009; Copeland, 2008; Sedere, 2010). This expectation arises from pressure of parents, teachers and school administrators on students about getting high marks or attending extra-curricular activities. According to American Academy of Pediatrics (2010) each individuals experience stress in different ways and at different ratios based on developmental features, experiences, and characteristics.
Researches show that academic stress is derived from exam anxiety, heavy assignments, and attitudes of parents and teachers (Bhansali and Trivedi, 2008). Furthermore, academic stress may cause mental and behavioral problems like depression, anxiety and suicide (Ang & Huan, 2006; Bjorkman, 2007). In addition, high academic pressure may lead to physical violence and some developmental problems (Lin & Chen, 1995). A national study that was conducted with 5040 children and adolescents indicates that the most important stress of 66.7% of the participants in their lives is academic pressure (Sun et al., 2011). Moreover studies show that girls experience more educational stress than boys (Bhansali and Trivedi, 2008; Byrne et al., 2007; Margot, 2007; Dorland, 2005). This may be due to the fact that girls are more worried about academic failure than boys (Jones and Hattie, 1991; Arslan, 2015).
In this regard, students who study at positive school climate are expected to develop positive mental health. Thus if value education is applied exactly, and the school has positive value judgement, the academic achievement will be high and students will experience less educational stress. With this purpose it was thought in the present study that there would be a correlation between positive values and educational stress.
Convenience sampling was used in the selection of participants. This research was conducted on 242 students in secondary school. Participants of the study were 242 students (117 (48%) were female and 125 (52%) were male. The average age of the students is 12.8.
Education Stress Scale (Akın, et al.,2012).
Education stress scale was developed by Sun et al. (2011). To measure the reliability and validity of the educational stress scale adapted to Turkish by Akın, Arslan, Gediksiz and Akın (2012). Turkish version of the scales’ fit index obtained from the structural equation model show that the model fits well (x²=123.49, df=88, p=0.00001; RMSEA=.037, NFI=.97, NNFI=.99, CFI=.99, IFI=.99, RFI=.96, GFI=.95, AGFI=.92 ; SRMR=.041). Internal consistency reliability coefficient of Education Stress Scale emerged as .87. According to the results of analysis, items of the scale corrected total correlation coefficient were ranged between .40 and .60.
Positive Values Scale (Huang & Cornell, 2016).
Positive Values Scale was developed by Huang and Cornell (2016). Results of confirmatory factor analysis have demonstrated that the items loaded on two factors. Results of the Turkish version of the confirmatory factor analysis demonstrated that the two-dimensional model was well fit. Internal consistency reliability coefficient of Positive Values Scale emerged as .84. According to the results of analysis, items of the scale corrected total correlation coefficient were ranged between .44 and .70.
Participants are reached via convenience sampling. Convenience sampling is one of the nonprobability sampling methods, and the researcher select participants who are easy to come by him/her. Students fill the scales anonymously. Data was analyzed by correlation and path analysis.
Descriptive Data and Inter-correlations
Table 1 shows the means, descriptive statistics, inter-correlations, and internal consistency coefficients of the variables used.
Descriptive statistics and inter-correlations of the variables
Concern for Others
Table 1 show that there are significant correlations between the positive values and educational stress. Subscales of the positive values; Personal Conviction (r=-.25) and Concern for Others (-.23) correlated negatively with educational stress.
Before the structural equation model (SEM) was conducted the assumptions had been considered. Multivariate normality tests that analyze whether or not the data set is convenient to normal distribution, were carried out by LISREL and results represent normal distribution. Figure 2 shows the results of SEM findings.
P1: Personal Conviction; P2: Concern for Others; F1,F2,F3,F4,F5: Subdimensions of Educational Stress
Figure 1. Path analysis between Positive Values and Educational Stress
Fit index of SEM which were carried out in order to determine whether the positive values predict educational stress or not, show good fit (χ2=457.93, df =264, p=0.00, NNFI=.92, CFI= .93, IFI= .93, RMSEA = 0.055). It can be seen that Personal Conviction and Concern for Others have significant effects on educational stress.
Findings of the current study show that there is a negative relationship between educational stress and positive values. In fact as long as students’ total point increases on positive values scale, their educational stress level decrease. Literature review reveals that positive values reflect positive school climate. In other words, according to studies in this topic, in schools that have positive school climate, students’ academic achievement, social relationships and well-beings are higher as compared to others (Cohen, 2010; Dynarski, Clarke, Cobb, Finn, Rumberger, & Smink, 2008). Another study indicates that parent- child relationships affect positive values of individuals. Parents’ behaviors affect behaviors, emotions and value judgements of the adolescents (Walker, 2007). In a study which investigated ethical judgement and personality structure of adolescents, an inventory about improving values is developed. Value judgements as being fair and honesty are positively related to academic achievement, life satisfaction, happiness and social skills. Moreover, these value judgements are negatively correlated with mental health symptoms like anxiety and stress (Park and Peterson, 2006). These findings seem to support the results of the current study. Furthermore, another study, carried out by Park and Peterson states that there is a positive relationship between moral character and positive psychology concepts (self- devotion, love, gratitude etc.). Similarly, as Toner and colleagues (2012) indicate that there is a positive relationship between virtuous behaviors of the adolescents and their well-being. Adolescents’ having a positive personality structure increases their happiness level and this situation affects their whole life. These findings also support the present study because as long as the level of well-being increases, the stress level decreases.
It is indicated that when students are expected too much things, their perceived stress becomes chronic (Conner et al., 2009; Copeland, 2008; Sedere, 2010). This situation may make students feel weak and insufficient. On the other hand, according to Wilks (2008), positive communication causes higher motivation to study for students. Students, studying at classes that have positive class climate experience less educational stress (Pope, 2010). School seem as the primary resource of students’ educational stress, so that it is thought that it is the best place for seeking a solution (Fallin et al., 2001; de Anda, 1997). First and foremost, school should create awareness on students, families, and its employees about negative consequences of academic pressure (Delisio, 2006). If suggestions about this topic are listed, learning and comprehension should be given priority rather than grades, students’ communication skills should be improved, and their moral development should be supported.
The present study shows that educational stress is directly related to positive values. Indeed, as long as students’ positive and exemplary behaviors (positive values) increase, educational stress levels decrease. Schools play an important role on conveying positive values to students. In this regard schools should support students’ moral development within the scope of values education. Values education trainings should be performed regularly and exactly. Hence it can be possible to make students develop positive and healthy personality structure. Psychological counsellors in schools should do activities that support students’ moral development, and organize group guidance activities in order to make students less selfish.
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