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Adolescents' Happiness and Academic Success; How It Is Affected by Divorce

Oct 27, 2008 882 Words
Adolescents’ happiness and academic success;
How it is affected by Divorce

The challenges faced when a family is going through divorce can have a large impact on a teenagers overall ability to succeed in every day activities such as school or extracurricular activities. This may be caused by feelings of overwhelming stress and pressure to take full responsibility of other siblings or distraught parents, therefore taking time away from school work. On page 362 in the sixth edition of Psychology themes and Variations, it shows the results of Holmes’ and Rahe’s theory of life-changing events and their connection with stress levels. On a scale of one to one-hundred, divorce rated a seventy-three. We decided to study how students at Mountain Crest are academically affected by divorced parents. We found that a slightly higher number of students with married parents participated in healthy extracurricular activities and obtained better grades than students with divorced or separated parents. But the results were not as drastic as we expected. Introduction

“Life changes are any noticeable alterations in one’s living circumstances that require readjustment.” (Pg 362, sixth edition of Psychology themes and variations). There are many different events that cause change in one’s life, a common alteration being divorce. We wanted to study how the performance of high school students is affected by family situations, such as divorced or married parents. We predicted that students who come from broken families (divorced and/or remarried parents, step-siblings, ect.) have a lower level of peace and a higher level of contention in their home. We hypothesized that this would affect their scholastic accomplishments and they will have lower grade point averages and less involvement in healthy extracurricular activities such as school sports and clubs.

We conducted our survey at Mountain Crest High School in Hyrum, Utah in April of 2008. First, we asked people if they would take a survey for us. In larger groups such as full classes, we asked for the teacher’s permission to conduct a survey in their class. We took our surveys in general/required classes such as computer technology and history creating a widespread mix of students. Before passing out the survey’s we instructed the sample to hold the survey in the air when they were completed, and ensured them that no one would know what they had marked. This was to attempt to eliminate distortions in self-report caused by peer pressure. When the sample group agreed to take our survey we passed them to the volunteers. When each person was finished with their survey we went around personally and collected their survey. We surveyed a total of sixty students, ranging in ages 15-18. We selected random classes with a variety of students of different races and gender. After collecting the surveys, we divided them according to their parents’ marital status. We then tallied the results of the students’ grades and involvement in extracurricular activities in each pile.


ResultsExtracurricular activitiesGrade Point Average
YesNo3.0 or higher2.9 or lower
Married 28173213

We found that 62.2% of adolescents with married parents were involved in healthy extracurricular activities, while 53.3% of students with divorced or separated parents were not. •71.1% of students with married parents maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or above. 46.6% of students with divorced or separated parents obtained a lesser GPA of 2.9 or lower. Discussion

Our data didn’t turn out to be as drastically contrasting as we expected, in fact some of our statistics argued against our hypothesis. This has a lot to do with the place that the experiment was performed. Because we are in Utah, we experienced a large sample bias considering Utah (especially Cache Valley) is a highly religious community. If we conducted the same experiment at a different high school or somewhere outside of Utah, our results would be dissimilar. This being because Mountain Crest is a predominantly high achieving school in the area of academics, and also because most students at MC come from LDS families with strong belief in family unity. This resulted in a low number of students from broken families to survey, and a high number of students from functional families to survey.

If we were to do this experiment again, we would survey an even number of students with divorced parents and students with married parents, so our results would be more accurate. We might also consider surveying students from other schools to get a broader variety of students.

We believe that the reason kids from broken families aren’t as successful in academic activities is because they don’t have the same amount of support from home that other students with happily married parents have. We assume that the students may have more stress from heightened contention at home. Students coming from functional families are more capable of maintaining a higher GPA because of higher support levels from family members. They also have less stress because they don’t have the worry of dealing with issue of balancing separated parents and siblings. Resources

Weiten, Wayne. Psychology; Themes and Variations. Canada: Thomas Learning Inc., 2005.

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