School Psychology Forum

Twenty Percent of the Variance Between Students in Academic Engagement Is Explained by Grade Level, Gender, Family Affluence, Anxiety, and Social Support

By Gabrielle Wilcox, Jocelyn McQuay, Anita Blackstaffe, Rosemary Perry& Penelope Hawe

General Issue, pp. 397–409

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ABSTRACT: Understanding what contributes to academic engagement is important to effectively support students. This study examines the relationship between sociodemographic factors, anxiety, social support, and academic engagement in elementary and junior high school students. Students in grades 5–9 (N 5 1,904) completed self-reports measuring academic engagement, anxiety, social support from family and friends, and social support at school. Results indicated that (a) 20% of the variance between students’ academic engagement is explained by grade level, gender, family affluence, social support and anxiety; (b) social support variables were predictors of academic achievement for both elementary and junior high school students; (c) elementary students reported higher levels of academic engagement; and (d) gender and anxiety levels were predictors of academic engagement for junior high students. This study emphasizes the ongoing importance of cultivating positive social supports for children. However, it is vital to identify the 80% of the variance between students in academic engagement that is currently not explained by the traditional factors under scrutiny. This will likely require a major rethink of models of research and intervention and more observational methods of investigation. Correction: Coauthor Penelope Hawe's affiliation is listed incorrectly on this article. Her full affiliation is O’Brien Institute of Public Health at the University of Calgary, and the Menzies Centre for Health Policy and the NHMRC Australian Prevention Partnership Centre at the University of Sydney.