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Anales de Psicología

On-line version ISSN 1695-2294Print version ISSN 0212-9728

Anal. Psicol. vol.31 n.3 Murcia Oct. 2015 



School performance and personal attitudes and social responsibility in preadolescent students

Rendimiento escolar y actitudes personales y de responsabilidad social en el alumnado preadolescente



Miguel A. Carbonero1, Luis J. Martín-Antón1, Eugenio Monsalvo2 and Juan A. Valdivieso1

1 Department of Psychology. University of Valladolid (Spain).
2 IES Delicias (Valladolid) (Spain).





This study focuses on the analysis of the differences observed between students with different levels of academic performance in their social attitudes and personal responsibility towards study, according to various theories and models. Participants were 235 students from the third cycle of Primary Education (10-12 years old). They completed two attitude rating scales: (a) Assessment Scale of Social Responsibility Attitudes of Primary School Pupils (EARSA-P, Monsalvo, 2012b), consisting of 23 items grouped into six factors (obedience in the family, polite and accepting their mistakes, trust in their parents, responsible in school setting, friendly and willing to help and careful of their environment); and (b) Assessment Scale of General Attitudes towards Study E-1 (Morales, 2006), which consists of 15 items grouped into five dimensions (high aspirations, enjoyment of study, study organization, efforts to understand and desire to continue learning). We compared the levels of social responsibility and attitudes toward study according to the level of academic achievement, finding significant group differences in attitudes toward study and responsibility in terms of academic achievement.

Key words: Academic achievement, social responsibility attitudes, personal attitudes toward study, assessment, teaching, preteen students.


Este trabajo se centra en el análisis de las diferencias observadas entre alumnos de diferente nivel de rendimiento, en las actitudes de responsabilidad social y personales hacia el estudio, según diversas teorías y modelos. Han participado 235 alumnos de tercer ciclo de Educación Primaria, a los que se aplicaron dos escalas de evaluación de actitudes: (a) la Escala de Evaluación de las Actitudes de Responsabilidad Social del Alumnado de Educación Primaria (EARSA-P, Monsalvo, 2012b), formada por 23 ítems agrupados en seis factores (obediencia en el entorno familiar, educado y aceptación de sus errores, confianza en sus padres, responsable en el entorno escolar, amigable y dispuesto a la ayuda y cuidadoso con su medio ambiente); y (b) la Escala de Evaluación de Actitudes generales hacia el Estudio E-1 (Morales, 2006), formada por 15 ítems agrupados en cinco dimensiones (nivel alto de aspiraciones, gusto por el estudio, organización del estudio, esfuerzo por comprender y deseo de seguir aprendiendo). Se compararon los niveles de responsabilidad social y las actitudes hacia el estudio en función del grado de rendimiento académico, encontrando diferencias significativas en las actitudes hacia el estudio y en la responsabilidad entre los grupos en función del rendimiento académico.

Palabras clave: Rendimiento académico; actitudes de responsabilidad social; actitudes personales hacia el estudio; evaluación; enseñanza; alumnos preadolescentes.



Various studies have established the direct influence of the attribution of high academic performance to effort on goals of personal (Cabanach et al., 2009, Valle, Cabanach et al., 2009; Valle, Nunez et al., 2009) and social self-improvement, as well as on prosociability (Redondo, Inglés & Garcia-Fernandez, 2014). This leads us to affirm the direct relationship between the attribution of poor academic performance and average grades, in a negative sense, to low capacity. These results were corroborated by Navas, Castejon, and Sampascual (2000). According to the studies of Castejon and Minano (2008), McCormick and McPherson (2003), McPherson and McCormick (2006), Minano and Castejon (2008), Minano, Castejon, and Gilar (2012), and Nielsen (2004), there is a positive relation between attitudes towards study and school grades, caused by a direct influence of such attitudes, as well as of social involvement and of academic performance. Attitudes towards study are associated with academic self-concept, which directly affects goals of personal self-improvement (Minano & Castejon, 2011), confirming that students with a positive self-concept are efficiently oriented towards learning (Holgado, Navas & Marco, 2013), while also considering that the family influences this process (González-Pienda et al., 2002). Various investigations show that students who are actively involved in the academic learning process, increase their performance, develop high expectations of self-efficacy, value the tasks, and feel responsible for their learning goals (Cabrera & Galán, 2002). Thus, students' personal attitudes towards study could be a good predictor of academic performance.

Preadolescent students' attitudes of social responsibility are the core element in the process of social intergroup mediation (Michelsen, Zaff & Hair, 2002; Schulz, Ainley, Fraillon, Kerr & Losito, 2010; Skelton, Boyte & Leonard, 2002) and a modulating aspect in the teaching-learning processes (Fernández-Río, Méndez-Giménez, Cecchini, & González, 2012; García & López, 2007; Wentzel, 1991), although their development is mediated by culture (Lee & Martinek, 2009). Hence, in view of the relation between attitude and social behavior (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1974, 1980), the most responsible students could be considered to have better attitudes towards study and, therefore, better academic results. Consequently, we confirm the relevance of designing and implementing actions within the curriculum to develop social responsibility as a key element for the improvement of teaching quality.

Likewise, academic performance has been explained by the partial relationships of a set of core variables, mostly cognitive-motivational (Martínez-Otero, 1997; Núñez & González-Pienda, 1994; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002). For example, Biggs (2003) explores the relationships between motivation, academic goals, and academic achievement, setting clear explanatory premises about how motivation for learning and achievement are established in the educational teacher-student relationship. However, personal, social, and mediational variables, both in the peer group and in the family setting, must be taken into account (Kaplan, Liu & Kaplan, 2001). Personal and social responsibility must be considered as an essential resource of academic performance (Escartí, Gutiérrez, Pascual, & Llopis, 2010; Escartí et al., 2006; Hellison, 2003) because they favor school involvement and increase levels of academic motivation (Ros, Goikoetxea, Gairín, & Lekue, 2012) and, ultimately, study skills (Barbero, Holgado, Vila, & Chacón, 2007; Richardson, 1993), making students more efficient in their learning processes (Benson, Scales, Halmilton, & Sesma, 2006; Lerner, Schwartz, & Phelps, 2009).

Various authors have focused their research on students' social involvement as a key factor for academic success (Goodenow, 1993; Leithwood, Jantzi, & Steinbach, 1998). Nevertheless, most of the works on the determinants of academic performance have focused on cognitive variables (García & Fernández, 2008; Martínez-Otero, 1997) related to learning strategies-acquisition, coding, and recovery (Carbonero & Román, 2008). Other authors have focused on the determinants of motivational processes (Castejón & Vera-Muñoz, 1996; Miñano & Castejón, 2008; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002; Steinmayr & Spinath, 2009), emotional and personal processes (Laidra, Pullmann, & Allik, 2007; Mestre, Pérez & Samper García, 1999; Poyrazli, Arbona, Nora, McPherson, & Pisecco, 2002), and social and interactive processes (Cecchini, Montero, & Peña, 2003; Fullarton, 2002; Gutiérrez, Escartí, & Pascual, 2011; Lister, 2008; Martinek, Schilling, & Hellison, 2006; Simons-Morton & Chen, 2008), but the relationships between attitudes of personal and social responsibility towards teaching-learning processes have been relegated to the background and considered from a multidimensional and ecological approach. This would lead to also considering the relationships and environment in students' families (Ochs & Izquierdo, 2009), their self-critical processes, affectivity or parental relation, their involvement and link with the school setting and environment, as well as the development of cooperative behaviors (Hellison, 2003; Hellison & Walsh, 2002).

Consequently, to obtain differential data in order to introduce intervention measures to improve students' performance in the third cycle of Primary Education, this work will attempt to verify the differences in students' attitudes of social responsibility and towards study as a function of their level of academic performance.




Participants in this research were 235 students (117 male and 118 female) who were enrolled in the third cycle of Primary Education (fifth and sixth grade), aged between 10 and 13 years (mean age = 11 years), from public schools of the city of Valladolid, and with a low socioeconomic and cultural setting. Most of them belong to bi-parent nuclear families (88%), with one or two children (92%), and with a similar distribution between families in which one parent is working or both parents are working (44 and 46%, respectively). The remaining 10% are unemployed.

The participants are distributed as a function of their grades in the instrumental areas: (a) 28.9% (n = 68) low academic performance, characterized by the presence of various failed subjects; (b) 44.7% (n = 112) medium performance with grades ranging from some failed subject to an excellent grade in some subject; (c) 23.4% (n = 55) high performance with excellent grades in various subjects.


"Escala de Evaluación de las Actitudes de Responsabilidad Social en Alumnos de Educación Primaria" (EARSA-P; Assessment Scale of Social Responsibility Attitudes in Primary Education Pupils). This scale, designed by Monsalvo (2012b), measures diverse aspects related to the social responsibility of Primary Education students (see Annex). To validate the scale, it was applied to a sample of 498 students from this educational stage, providing a structure of six statistically independent factors, explaining a total of 52.22% of the variance, and made up of items with statistically significant factor loadings (p < .001). These factors are: (a) obedience in the family setting, with a total of 5 items (with factor loadings ranging between .688 and .598) that explains 27.40% of the variance, with a reliability index of α = .748; (b) polite and acce  pting their mistakes, with 4 items (with factor loadings between .663 and .504) explaining 7.13% of the variance and α = .668; (c) trust in their parents, with 4 items (with factor loadings between .785 and .483) that explains 5.15% of the variance and α = .760; (d) responsible in the school setting , with 5 items (with factor loadings between .727 and .372) that explains 4.34% of the variance and α = .712; (e) friendly and willing to help, with 3 items (with factor loadings between .660 and .462) that explains 4.14% of the variance and α = .519; and (f) careful of the environment, with 2 items (with factor loadings between .639 and .638) that explains 4.06% of the variance and α = .500. Consequently, the reliability of each one of the six factors varies. According to the indications of Celina and Campo-Arias (2005), values near .70 should be accepted and recommended as values of internal consistency. In this case, the last two factors are improvable.

"Escala de Evaluación de Actitudes Generales hacia el Estudio" (E-1; Assessment Scale of General Attitudes towards Study E-1). This scale, designed and validated by Morales (2006), presents high and contrasted reliability rates: (a) α = .850 in a sample of 174 boys and girls from Primary and Secondary Education, (b) α = .810 in a sample of 276 girls from Primary Education, and (c) α = .844 in our study. It is structured in five dimensions, all of them with three items: (a) high aspirations, with a reliability index of α = .740; (b) enjoyment of study, α = .713; (c) study organization, α = .710; (d) effort to understand, α = .705; and (e) desire to continue learning, α = .791.


In order to determine the necessary sample size, an analysis of statistical power was performed using the G*Power3 statistical software developed by Frank Faul (Faul, Erdfelder, Lang, & Buchner, 2007). For this purpose, with the power criterion of .95 (α = .05, 1 - β = .95), and a moderate effect size (Rosenthal & Rosnow, 1991) of f = 0.25, estimated with the ANOVAs for the univariate F test among the three categories of academic performance, the optimal number of cases was 252.

We then contacted three schools of Valladolid and province, administered both instruments, and collected the data corresponding to the academic performance of a total of 12 classrooms from the third cycle of Primary Education, with a total of 242 students of both sexes. However, due to experimental mortality (for not completing one or both questionnaires, significant number of incomplete items or lack of reliability of responses), the final sample was made up of 235 participants. This quantity is considerably lower than the sample size established a priori, so we calculated the sample size a posteriori, finding that the expected effect size (f = 0.25) could be detected (N = 235, a = β = .05) with a statistical power similar to that established beforehand (1 - β = .94), which is acceptable.

Based on students' mean grades in the instrumental areas (mathematics, Spanish language and literature, and environmental knowledge), we classified the participants in three levels: (a) low academic performance, if they had failed two or more subjects; (b) medium academic performance, with grades ranging from one failed subject to one excellent grade; and (c) high academic performance, students with excellent grades in two or more of these subjects.

Statistical Analyses

With these data, after verifying the assumptions of normality and homoscedasticity, we performed descriptive and inferential analyses, firstly applying a multivariate factorial design (MANOVA) with two factors. The dependent variables were the six factors of social responsibility and the five of attitudes towards study, and the independent variables were academic performance in the instrumental areas (low, medium, high) and sex (male or female). We also wished to detect the interaction effects between these factors, and to calculate the effect size with f, using the following cutpoints (Rosenthal & Rosnow, 1991): (a) f = .10, small effect size; (b) f = .25, moderate effect size; (c) f = .40, large effect size. To examine differences in the main effects of academic performance in the instrumental areas, we also performed a post-hoc analysis with Scheffe's test because the number of cases in the three groups was not equivalent X2(2, N = 235) = 22.78, p < .001. Lastly, for the variable sex, we applied the nonparametric t-test of with two independent groups, also including the effect size calculated with Cohen's d, establishing as cut-points (Cohen, 1988, 1992): (a) d = .20, small effect size; (b) d = .50, medium effect size; and (c) d = .80, large effect. Data analysis was carried out with the SPSS, version 21, in addition to the above-mentioned G*Power3 to calculate statistical power.



Descriptive Analysis

As seen in Table 1, there is tendency toward increasing scores in all the variables of social responsibility as academic performance increases, which seems much more pronounced in the factors of responsibility in the school setting and polite and accepting their mistakes.

The same tendency in attitudes towards study was perceived (see Table 2), but even more pronounced, especially in the factors of enjoyment of study and effort to understand.

Preliminary multivariate analysis

By means of 3x2 multivariate factor analysis, we examined the effects of the interaction of academic performance (low, medium, high) and sex (male, female) on the target dependent variables. The results of the MANOVA (see Table 3) revealed no significant differences either in the main effects of the variable sex or in the interaction of the independent variables. However, there were statistically significant differences in the main effects of the independent variable academic performance, A = .575, F(22, 438.0) = 5.83, p < .001.

Main effects of the variable Academic Performance

With regard to social responsibility, as shown in Table 4, we found statistically significant differences, with moderate effect sizes, in the factors Polite and accepting their mistakes, F(2, 235) = 14.79, p < .001, f = .36, and Responsibility in the school setting, F(2, 235) = 16.87, p < .001, f = .38. In both cases, the differences occurred between the low performing group versus the groups with medium or high performance, with the former group obtaining low levels in both variables.

With regard to attitudes towards study (see Table 5), statistically significant differences were observed in all its factors, although they were not similar in the post-hoc contrast. With regard to study organization, F(2, 235) = 12.40, p < .001, f = .33, enjoyment of study, F(2, 235) = 20.15, p < .001, f = .42, and effort to understand, F(2, 235) = 50.80, p < .001, f = .66, the three groups differed from each other, with scores increasing as the performance level increased, and with moderate effect sizes in the first case, and high the latter two. However, with regard to the high level of aspirations, F(2, 235) = 14.47, p < .001, f = .36, differences were observed between the low performing group and students with medium to high performance, with the low performers also showing lower aspirations, and a moderate effect size. Lastly, in the dimension related to the desire to continue learning, F(2, 235) = 6.80, p < .01, f = .24, differences-with a low effect size-were found between the groups of low and medium performance and groups with higher performance, with lower levels in the first two cases.

Main effects of the variable Sex

Table 6 shows that there were no statistically significant differences in the factors of social responsibility, except for Obedience in the family setting, t(233) = -2.00, p < .05, with a low effect size d = -.26.

Regarding attitudes towards study (see Table 7), no statistically significant differences as a function of sex were found in any of the factors.



It has been confirmed that high academic performance is associated with high levels of attitudes of social and personal responsibility towards study. This is consistent with the theories of Castejon (1996), Castejon and Navas (1992), Castejon, Navas, and Sampascual (1996), Eccles and Wig-field (2002), Fredricks, Blumenfeld, and Paris (2004), Fullana (1996, 1998), and Nunez and Gonzalez-Pienda (1994), who confer more capacity on students' attitudinal variables to influence the learning process than on other variables. Thus, we could observe an increasing tendency in the scores of all the variables of social responsibility and attitudes towards study as students' academic performance increased. Specifically, with regard to social responsibility, statistically significant differences were found, with moderate effect sizes, in the factors Polite and accepting their mistakes and responsibility in the school setting between the low performance group and the groups with medium and high performance, in accordance with the results of many studies (Kirk, 1993; Fullana, 1998; Maliki, Asain, & Kebbi, 2010; Sharpe, Brown, & Crider, 1995; Walsh, Ozaeta, & Wright, 2010; Wentzel, 1991). Therefore, it is confirmed that acceptable levels of academic performance denote greater amplitude and depth in the development of attitudes of social responsibility, not only from a social or projective perspective, but also from an introjective or intrinsic dimension. However, no differences were found in the factors related to the family sphere or to prosociability-in contrast to the postulates of various authors (Such & Walker, 2004; Thomas, 2011; Wright & Li, 2009)-or to being careful of the environment (Rivera & Lissi, 2004), which was expected, as it is less closely related to the school setting.

When analyzing the dimensions related to attitudes towards study, we confirmed statistically significant differences in all of them. The most relevant were found in study organization, enjoyment of study, and the effort to understand, the scores of which increased with the level of performance, with moderate effect sizes in the first case, and high the latter two. This is consistent with the studies of Carbonero and Román (2008), Castejón and Vera-Muñoz (1996), García and Fernández (2008), Martínez-Otero (1997) and Miñano and Castejón (2008). Nevertheless, both in high level of aspirations and the desire to continue learning, the group differences had low and moderate effect sizes, respectively, indicating that aspirations were not significantly different as a function of academic performance.

With regard to sex, as expected at this educational stage, no statistically significant differences were found in the factors of social responsibility or in attitudes towards study, except for obedient in the family setting, but with a low effect size. These results coincide with the contributions of Gomes and Soares (2013).

The results of this investigation have important theoretical and practical consequences as they contribute to our comprehension of academic performance, not so much from the viewpoint of cognitive or motivational variables, but as a function of other personal and social attitudinal variables. This indicates the need to intervene to train attitudes of social responsibility, specifically related to frustration tolerance and accepting the formative value of errors, providing channels for commitment to activities carried out in the school setting, especially in low achieving students. We must not neglect students' expectations and academic goals, such as study organization and planning of the knowledge areas at this educational stage. These aspects are essential in view of the cognitive, socioemotional, and motivational demands involved in passing on to the stage of Compulsory Secondary Education.

However, we coincide with Gutiérrez, Escartí, and Pascual (2011) in that more studies are needed to confirm the variables that define the acquisition of social responsibility and that are considered within adolescents' positive development. It is important for future research to design and empirically contrast educational programs to help Primary Education teachers to teach attitudes of responsibility in the classroom in an interdisciplinary way and not directly associated with a specific knowledge area (Alonso, 2003; Barberá, 2001; Escámez, 2001; Monsalvo, 2012a; Monsalvo & Guaraná, 2008). This would convey to teachers the need for personal and social training, because they must cope with the behavior problems, attitudes, and relations that emerge in the schools and classrooms, and they are not always sufficiently prepared to solve them (Carbonero, Román, Martín-Antón, & Reoyo, 2009; Valdivieso, Carbonero, & Martín-Antón, 2013). It would also be appropriate to contrast these results with those of other cycles or educational stages, particularly with students from Compulsory Secondary Education, in whom differences may be expected, especially regarding sex (Costa & Tabernero, 2012; Inglés et al., 2012).



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Miguel A. Carbonero.
Universidad de Valladolid.
Departamento de Psicología.
Facultad de Educación y Trabajo Social.
Campus Miguel Delibes.
Paseo de Belén, 1.
47011 Valladolid (Spain).

Article received: 11-08-2013
Revised: 07-07-2014
Accepted: 04-09-2014

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