The Correlation Between Grade Point Average and Coping Strategies
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FISCHER, C. A. (2003). The Correlation Between Grade Point Average and Coping Strategies. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 6. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

The Correlation Between Grade Point Average and Coping Strategies

Sponsored by: ELIZABETH HAMMER (
AbstractData was collected from a sample of 79 undergraduate students, age 18 to 21 to investigate the association between GPA and types of coping strategies used by students. In the survey administered, 45 questions were asked regarding GPA and coping strategies. Coping strategies were categorized as negative, referring to destructive behavior, or positive, referring to constructive behavior. It was hypothesized that college students who use more positive coping strategies to deal with life stresses would to have higher GPA. It is further hypothesized that students who use more negative coping strategies would have lower GPAs. Support for the hypothesis was found in some of the results. For example, students who were involved in activities such as clubs and community service (positive coping strategies) had higher GPAs than those students who were not involved. On the other hand, the use of some negative coping strategies such as drinking were not associated with lower GPA. Altogether the data collected showed that the overall use of negative and positive coping strategies is not significantly associated with GPA.

The Correlation Between Grade Point Average and Coping StrategiesCollege is recognized by scholars as an institution of higher learning. A place of growth not solely meant for satisfying the hungers of intellect, but a place of growth for the individual’s development as an independent person. For some college experiences can spark inspiration for the growth of their well-being. While for most college students the transition from home life to college life may leave them anything but inspired. Students must now cope with new problems such as; new environment, more competitive academic challenges, social pressure, loss of family, exposure to (or more exposure to) illegal drugs and alcohol, and development. Life changes, such as going away to college present many of these sources of stress. For example, Haan, Millsap, and Hartka (1986) found that the growth from adolescence to young adulthood is hallmarked by instability in their dependability (cited by Levey-Thors, Schiaffino, & Zaleski, 1998). Kuribayashi, Whitney, & McCluskey-Fawcett (1997) argue the transition to college has also been connected with elevated anxiety, depression, and family problems. College is a time when students are forced to develop new coping strategies in order to deal with the adjustments. Failure to develop positive coping strategies has shown to result in negative outcomes such as drug use, sexual activity, and alcohol abuse (cited by Levey-Thors, Schiaffino, & Zaleski, 1998). Coping strategies can be separated into two categories. The first category is positive coping skills or functional coping strategies. For example, family support, social support, religion, exercise, clubs, and creative outlets such as hobbies or journal writing are all considered to be positive coping strategies. The second type coping strategy is negative coping skills or dysfunctional coping strategies. For example, illegal drug use, alcohol abuse, and promiscuous sexual behavior. The type of strategies that a student uses to cope with their problems will affect their well-being as well as influence their academic performance. Research findings have revealed that adolescents who have failed to develop proper coping mechanisms have greater difficulty dealing with the loss of their family support. The students who experience separation anxiety after leaving home due to strong attachment during high school have a greater amount of difficulty adjusting to their new lifestyle. These students showed higher failure rates as a result of their dependency and lack of effective coping strategies. On the other hand research has also shown that students who have not received enough or too little social support from their families took part in more risk taking behaviors and reported more stress than those students with adequate family support during college (Levey-Thors, Schiaffino, & Zaleski, 1998). Social support is a critical coping strategy in late adolescence. Peer relationships are an essential part of growth and development especially during a transitional phase. A positive correlation between moderate social drinking and healthy college students was found. Alcohol in moderation in a social scene has shown to relieve stress and create opportunities for students to socialize in a healthy and normal manner. These opportunities allow the students to adapt to their new settings and form a social support with their peers (Margolis, 1989; Schulenberg et al., 1997). For example, alcohol use in moderation during college may be looked at as a positive and healthy coping strategy while binge drinking would be considered a negative coping strategy and would hinder the individual’s academic performance and well being (Maggs, 1997; Schlenberg et al., 1997). Alcohol can be considered a positive or negative coping strategy depending on the amount of use and the motivations causing the use. In a study done by Bromley and Musgrave drinking and driving, 6% to 7% related to destruction of property, 7% to 8% related to loss of friends, and 17% to 23% related to academic problems (cited by Prendergast, 1994). The percentages listed above show the danger behind the development of dysfunctional coping strategies and their negatives outcomes. Research conducted by Roth (1986) in another study reported that heavy drinking does in fact negatively influence academic performance. Roth’s study found that one third of those surveyed indicated that heavy drinking had caused them to skip classes. Another survey in 1985 pointed out 29% of academic problems and 21% of college drop out named alcohol as a factor (cited by Prendergast, 1994). In another related study Meilmann and Presley (1991) conducted surveys on the negative effects of alcohol or drug use, 33% missed class, 29% experienced memory loss, and 28% performed poorly on a test. Their percentages point to a positive relationship between the amount of alcohol consumed and GPA: D and F students reported drinking three times as many alcoholic drinks than the A students (cited by Prendergast, 1994). One college student admitted when questioned by Gilksman (1988) that, “I have received a lower grade as a consequence of drinking too much” (cited by Prendergast 1994). The previous research findings relate excessive drinking as a form of coping to many factors. Results found by Maney (1990) identify a low GPA with heavy drinkers who report a low sense of all around well-being, low self-esteem, and more negative attitudes about responsible drinking habits (cited by Prendergast, 1994). Negative or dysfunctional coping skills used by students in the above mentioned studies show a positive correlation to low GPA.Prendergast suggests that, the motivations for drinking can be divide into either personal (i.e. to escape, to forget, to produce mood changes) or social (i.e. to be social, to along with others, to facilitate social interaction) categories. Furthermore, those who drink for social reasons drink less than those who drink for personal reasons. In Edmundson and Haden (1991) study results indicated that those students who use illegal drugs do so for personal reasons (cited by Prendergast, 1994). Deykin, Levy, and Wells (1987) conducted studies on substance abuse. Their finding indicated substance use as a means to regulate pain caused by depression or emotional disturbances (cited by Prendergast, 1994). These findings indicate the use of illegal drugs as a means of dysfunctional coping.Coping skills have also been referred to as learned resourcefulness by Rosenbaum (1983). Learned resourcefulness is defined as, “a basic behavioral repertoire for the self-regulation of internal events” (cited by Carey, Carey, Carnrike, & Meisler, 1990). Those who have failed to develop strong learned resourcefulness tend to be more vulnerable and are more likely to develop unhealthy addictions as means to cope. For example, it has been reported that people who have higher levels of alcohol consumption tested lower levels of learned resourcefulness (cited by Carey, Carey, Carnrike, & Meisler, 1990). Therefore, one can predict that those individuals who have a higher level of learned resourcefulness or use positive coping strategies will resist negative influences. During a time of instability, the way in which one copes with life’s difficulties will determine their well being. Shiffman and Wills (1985) divide life stressors into three categories; life strain (chronic life strain), major life events (major happenings i.e. death of a loved one), and everyday problems (daily hassles) (cited by Adlaf, Allison, & Mates, 1997). Pearlin and Schooler (1978) state, “coping consists of the things that people do to avoid being harmed by life’s strains” (cited by Adlaf, Allison, & Mates, 1997). College students are hit with a barrage of different life strains which will inevitably cause them to develop coping skills designed to manage their new circumstances. The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between the following variables: positive and negative coping strategies and grade point average. Positive coping strategies are considered to social support, family support, counselors, religion, exercise, clubs, and creative outlets such as hobbies. Negative coping strategies are considered to be the use of abuse of alcohol, illegal drug use, and promiscuous sexual behavior. The following questions will be explored in this non-experimental research study: Are there differences in grade point average in students who use positive strategies versus negative? Do these types of strategies play a role in the difference of grade point average in college students?It is hypothesized that college students who use positive coping strategies to deal with life stresses are more likely to have high grade point average. It is further hypothesized that students who use negative coping strategies to deal with life stressors will more likely have a low grade point average. The participants are expected to show evidence that coping strategies do in fact influence grade point average.

MethodParticipants The sample will consist 150 participants of undergraduate students sophomore level and up who range from age 18 years and up were recruited using convenience sampling from Loyola University New Orleans. Participants will be male and female, of all race, and religious affiliation. The participants are volunteers some of whom are receiving course credit for their involvement in the study. The sampling strategy used required researchers to acquire student participants through class recruitment. Researchers visited classes and student groups around campus. Students were recruited by introducing the study during meeting times were the researchers passed out a sign up sheet with information about the study and times of availability for the students who participated. The psychology department human participants pool was also used to recruit volunteers. A sign up sheet with information about the study was posted and interested students were able to sign up for the times in which the study was administered. An e-mail was sent through campus e-mail and posted on the list serve. The participants selected are to the best of the investigators’ knowledge a representative all racial/ethnic groups.Materials Participants filled out surveys which were administered to them from the researchers. The surveys were filled out by the participants with either pen or pencil (dependent on the participant). A 45 question survey was constructed considering a range of items concerning: use of alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, sexual behavior, exercise, journal writing, counselors, hobbies, school year, age, grade point average, Greek involvement, sports teams, honors societies, community service, relationship, family, friendship, sleep habits, music, TV, fighting, religious activity, criminal behavior, crying habits, study habits, and major in college. Some of the questions were discrete (multiple choice) while others were continuous (fill in the blank).Design and Procedure The variables measured in the non- experimental study are positive coping strategies, negative coping strategies, and grade point average. The study is correctional therefore there are no dependent or independent variables. The control of the non-experimental study is the fact that all of the participants are Loyola University undergraduates of sophomore status or above. Participants were asked to come to a room in the psychology department on the campus of Loyola University, where they were administered the surveys in groups. The Study took place at times convenient to the researchers and the participants during the fall, 2003. When the participants arrived at the designated study location, they were seated and were provided a basic introduction to the study and its general purpose. They were then handed two copies of the consent form, both of which were signed, the participants kept one signed copy for their records and turned in the other to the researchers. The participants were then handed the survey packet, which included the scales as well as a demographic questionnaire. They were given as much time as they needed to fill out the survey (expected to take more than 15 minutes). The participants were asked not to put their names anywhere on the survey. Once the survey was completed or the participant decided not to complete the survey, the participant was debriefed and was encouraged to ask questions. During the debriefing the participants were told that the true purpose of the survey which was to gain the understanding of how positive and negative coping strategies influence G.P.A of college students. Any questions raised were addressed. The participants were then thanked and allowed to leave.

ResultsIt was hypothesized that college students who use positive coping strategies to deal with life stresses would have high grade point average. It was further hypothesized that students who use negative coping strategies to deal with life stressors would have a low grade point average. The participants were expected to show evidence that coping strategies do in fact influence grade point average. The positive coping strategies were divided into subscales including involvement with a range of 0-17, exercise with a range of 0-10, social support with a range of 0-17, and artistic expression with a range from 0-8. Negative coping strategies were divided into subscales including sex with a range of 0-4, drugs and alcohol with a range of 0-27, and acting out with a range of 0-12. Refer to table 1 for descriptive statistics. Some significant results supporting the hypothesis were found. The following results show support for the hypothesis. There was a significant positive association between studying more often and high GPA (r = .292, p< .05). A significant negative association was found between having sex outside of a relationship and GPA (r = -.523, p< .05). There was a significant positive association found between involvement and GPA (r = .348, p< .05). However, the following results do not show support for the hypothesis stated. There was no significant association found between drug and alcohol use and GPA (r = - .093, ns). There was no significant association found between social support and GPA (r = -.021, ns). There was no significant association found between artistic outlets and GPA (r = .07, ns). There was no significant association found between acting out and GPA (r = -.142, ns).Discussion The findings did not give as much support for our hypothesis as we had anticipated. Results were expected to show how the use of negative coping strategies would be associated with a low GPA. The use of positive coping strategies was associated with a high GPA. Results revealed that students who were involvement in clubs, community service, and religious activities (positive coping strategies) have a higher GPA than those who did not. Also in support of the stated hypothesis, results revealed that students who engaged in sex outside of a relationship (negative coping strategy) had a low GPA. On the other hand results did not indicate that students who use drugs and alcohol (negative coping strategy) would be more likely to have low GPA. Also students who used social support and artistic outlets (positive coping strategies) to relieve stress showed both high and low GPAs. Therefore, no association was found between GPA and social support or GPA and artistic outlets. Furthermore, the questionnaire revealed that students who acted out in a destructive manner as a means of dealing with stress, such as vandalism, stealing, and fighting, did not have a lower grade point average than students who did not react in a destructive manner. In other findings students who were involved in clubs, community service, and religious activities typically abstained from sex outside of a relationship. While students who had a high level of drug and alcohol use were generally more sexually active outside of a relationship. Results also showed that students who were not involved in clubs, community service, and religious activities were more likely to use drugs and alcohol. While students who were involved in clubs, community service, and religious activities were found to have a strong social support. Those students who had a strong social support showed crying as a popular means of dealing with stress.In opposition to this survey’s findings, Predergast 1994, reported that students who were moderate drinkers had a higher GPA than students who were not heavy drinkers. Another study found that alcohol use was a correlate of poor academic performance (Bromley & Musgave, 1997). The results from this study do not mirror those of other studies found. This could be a result of problems with the study and or effect on validity. Some answers to survey questions may have been incorrectly answered or deviated from truth due to the embarrassing nature of the questions asked resulting in invalid data. One of the problems may have been that the questions were too ambiguous or easily misinterpreted. There may not have been enough participants to achieve a realistic view of the population. Perhaps there was not enough of a variety in the participant pool. All of theses problems may have occurred along with other unknowns to cause the results to show such a small amount of support for the hypothesis.Theoretically the study should have shown how the use of negative coping strategies is destructive to the well being of the student and is associated with a low GPA. If the results would have shown more support then the study could have been used as a way to deter college students from using negative coping strategies. Hopefully gearing them towards the more constructive methods of positive coping strategies when dealing with life stressors. Which in turn would help the students to achieve higher academic performance as well as improve their well-being. Many improvements could add to the validity of the study, such as more specific questions about daily habits, a larger sample population, or more variety in the sample population. Questions may also need to be asked in a clearer fashion than in the previous survey. One new idea may be to separate the students depending on majors. For example, business students may perform better academically with the use of strictly positive coping strategies. While art students may perform better academically in their creative classes with the use of negative coping strategies such as drugs. In conclusion, the study aimed to associate the use of positive coping strategies with a high GPA. In addition, we aimed to associate the use of negative coping strategies with a low GPA. Some of the data did support the hypothesis but not enough to show significant associations between coping strategies and GPA.

ReferencesAdlaf, E. M., Allison, K.R., & Mates, D. (1997). Life strain, coping, and substance use among high school students. Addiction Research, 251-273.Bromley, S. P., & Musgrave-Marquart, D., (1997). Personality, academic attribution, and Substance use as predictors of academic achievement in college students. Journal of Social Behavior, 501-512.Carey, K. B., Carey, M. P., Carnrike Jr, C. L.M., Meisler, A. W. (1990). Learned Resourcefulness, drinking, and smoking in young adults. Journal of Psychology, 391-396.Levey-Thors, C., Schiaffino, K. M., Zaleski, E. H., (1998). Coping mechanisms, stress, social support, and health problems in college students. Fordam University, Department of Psychology. Vol. 2, No. 3, 127-137.Prendergast, M. L. (1994). Substance use and abuse among college students: A review of Recent literature. Journal of American College Health, 43, 99-114. Health risks and developmental transitions during adolescence.

Submitted 12/9/2003 12:31:26 PM
Last Edited 12/9/2003 12:31:26 PM
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