The Correlation Between Gpa and Coping Strategies
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
WHITTEMORE, K. G. (2003). The Correlation Between Gpa and Coping Strategies. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 6. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

The Correlation Between Gpa and Coping Strategies
KATHERINE G. WHITTEMORE
LOYOLA UNIVERSITY NEW ORLEANS DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: ELIZABETH HAMMER (eyhammer@loyno.edu)
ABSTRACT
The purpose of the present research was to determine whether a positive relationship exists between grade point average and coping strategies. Seventy-nine students from Loyola University New Orleans took part in the study. Participants were asked to complete a survey about their activities outside of school such as school clubs, hobbies, social drinking and sexual relationships. It was hypothesized that constructive ways of coping with stress such as, involvement in school would result in a higher grade point average and destructive ways such as, substance abuse or sexual activity would lower it. Results from the study were supported and showed that positive coping strategies do have a significant association on grade point average. The discussion examines relationships between substance use and problems, personality factors, year in college and grade point average, sexual relationship status, involvement, social support, and attitudes. The implications are that the more constructive coping strategies are used to deal with stress the better academic performance will be.

INTRODUCTION
Education is an important aspect of our lives. Society places great importance on obtaining the best education possible. We know that without an education, a person will find it very hard to develop the skills needed to make it through everyday life. However, simply going to school doesn’t cut it. A student should be able to perform well in his or her classes in order to get the most out of his or her education. Some students find ways to make this transition constructively and adapt to college, whereas others feel overwhelmed and unable to effectively meet the demands of their new roles. Important elements of social adjustment include becoming integrated into the social life of college, forming a support network, and managing new social freedoms (Gerdes & Mallinckrodt, 1994). Although many have come up with ways to promote greater student performance, not many realize the great importance of healthy lifestyle habits, in particular, coping strategies.Mixed results have been found for the relationship between substance use and grade point average. Wiggins and Wiggins’ study (as cited in Prendergast, 1994) found no correlation between drinking and GPA among students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whereas Maney and Goodwin (1990) reported that heavy drinkers tended to have a lower GPA than more moderate drinkers. McCarty and Kaye’s study (as cited in Prendergast, 1994) concluded that sensation seeking was more strongly related to drinking problems among college students than was stress relief or desire to escape difficulties. In a similar study conducted by Svanum and Zody it was discovered that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Assoc. 1994) criteria for diagnosing substance dependence and recurrent use of mood altering substance that results in the neglect of important activities related to work, school, or recreation. This diagnosis includes features similar to depression. In another study Carlson and Davis (as cited in Prendergast, 1994) found that college students who used marijuana were more likely to have a lower GPA in college than nonusers. However, no significant association was found between cocaine use and GPA. The study by Svanum and Zody (2001) found that substance abuse disorders have a more negative association with GPA. Past research has documented an association between alcohol and drug use and poor school performance, measured in grades. These results indicate that unmanageable alcohol and drug use predicts poor college performance. Maney, Higham-Gardill, and Mahoney (2002) surveyed subset of adolescents with regard to alcohol use practices and related health risk behavior, interpersonal problems, and demographic characteristic. Results showed higher risk adolescents reported having a hangover, regretting behavior, having trouble with family and friends, regretting sexual activity and experiencing school trouble than low risk adolescents. Acoording to Prendergast (1994) even if there is a significant relationship between GPA and substance use, the direction of the relationship is not always clear. Low academic achievement may lead to alcohol or drug use to help the person deal with negative feelings associated with academic problems. On the other hand, heavy drinking or drug use may result in impairments in cognitive or emotional functioning that can lead to poor grades.Is there a difference in GPA between students who use functional strategies and those that use dysfunctional strategies? Do these types of strategies play a role in the difference of GPA in college students? For the purpose of this paper, functional coping is confined to exercise, hobbies, and clubs. Dysfunctional coping is defined as sexual activity and the use of drugs and alcohol. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that the use of functional coping strategies will result in higher GPA and the use of dysfunctional coping strategies will result in a lower GPA.In the study, the two variables examined are grade point average and coping strategies. According to past research there is strong correlation between the two variables. It is expected that the more a student uses functional coping strategies, the greater the grade point average he or she will display. In opposition, the more a student uses dysfunctional coping strategies, the lower the grade point average he or she will display. As a result, it is predicted that there is a positive relationship between coping strategies and grade point average.


METHOD
Participants Participants include 79 undergraduate students from the sophomore level and up from Loyola University New Orleans over the age of 18. Some of the students participated as part of a course credit in one of their psychology classes. The others may have participated as part of a class requirement. The experimenters also recruit them. The sample was a convenience sample, because the participants recruited were easily available for the study.Materials Participants in the study received a survey packet upon arrival. They were also handed two informed consent forms to read and sign before the study began. One form was for the experimenters, and the other form was for each of the participant’s records. The participants then to filled out the survey. The design of the study was a correlational design. The first variable of the study was coping strategies, and it was measured by functional and dysfunctional. The second variable of the study was grade point average. Students were asked to list their current GPA and answer a survey relating to their activities outside of school. To help control extraneous variables, all the groups of participants were tested in a classroom setting; the procedures for the study were conducted in the same order and in the same way for all groups.Procedure Upon arriving to the test location (classrooms at the campus of Loyola University), participants were seated and given two informed consent forms to read and sign before participating in the study. One copy was given back to the experimenters, and the other copy was kept for their own records. Once consent has been obtained, the participants were handed a survey packet. They were not asked to put their names anywhere on the survey. It was explained to the participants that the survey asks them questions about their GPA, followed by questions pertaining to their lifestyle habits. Once they finished filling out the survey, they were debriefed and any questions they had about the survey was answered. During the debriefing, they were told that the survey was looking at the relationship between coping strategies and GPA among college students. If they had any more questions or problems with the survey they are reminded of the phone numbers listed on their informed consent form. After debriefing, participants were allowed to leave.


RESULTS
(Refer to Table 1 for descriptive statistics). The hypothesis stated that there is a positive relationship between coping strategies and grade point average. The questions from the survey were grouped to form subscales. The subscales were made up of questions concerning involvement in school, drug and alcohol use, social support, artistic outlets and acting out. We then related the frequency use of those subscales to GPA. Results from the study showed that positive and negative coping strategies do show an correspondence on grade point average, but not as much as previously expected. The following results partially supported the hypothesis. Sexual activity outside of relationships had a negative association on grade point average (r =. -523, p< .01). Involvement in school also had a positive association on grade point average (r = .348, p < .01) .The following was not supported by grade point average. Drug and alcohol use (r = -.093, ns), social support (r = -.021, ns), artistic outlets (r = -.070, ns) and acting out (r = -.142, ns). Some other interesting findings had strong positive associations between drug and alcohol use and the frequency of sexual activity outside of a relationship (r = .61, p < .001). We also found a positive relationship between school involvement and hours studied (r = .523, p < .001). For the other aspects of coping strategies, no significant correlation was found.


DISCUSSION
The hypothesis predicted that there would be a positive relationship between coping strategies and grade point average. While the results indicated that involvement in school is positively related to grade point average and being sexually active outside of a relationship is negatively associated with grade point average. It also showed that grade point average did not appear to be associated by other aspects such as drug and alcohol use, social support, artistic outlets, and acting out.The study showed similar results to the studies conducted by Wiggins and Wiggins(1987) and Maney, et al. (2002). The study conducted by Wiggins and Wiggins results also showed no correlation between drinking and GPA among students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the study done by Maney, et al.(2002) a subset of adolescents were surveyed with regard to alcohol use practices and related health risk behavior, interpersonal problems, and demographic characteristic. Results showed higher risk adolescents reported having a hangover, regretting behavior, having trouble with family and friends, regretting sexual activity and experiencing school trouble than low risk adolescents. Our survey asked related questions but our results were only similar in the aspects of high risk behavior. Students who participated in sexual activitie outside of a relationships experienced trouble with academic performance. The study differs from the study Maney and Goodwin (1990), who found that heavy drinkers tended to have a lower GPA than more moderate drinkers. Other differences were found in the study conducted by Carlson and Davis (1998) who found that college students who used marijuana were more likely to have a lower GPA in college than nonusers, but that no significant association was found between cocaine use and GPA. Svanum and Zody (2001) also found that substance abuse disorders have a more negative association with GPA. The association between drug and alcohol use were surprisingly not supported.Although this study did provide a good sample size with a survey that showed significant differences between groups, the study was not without shortcomings. One limitation that was the study was a convenience sample, which makes the results of the study less geveralizable to the whole college student population. Replication of this study would make the results more generalized in the future. Another limitation was that the self-report measures for school performance and sexual activity were probably not very honest responses. More reliable testing measures, such as ways to measure positive and negative coping strategies through various tests instead of through self-report would probably make the study yield stronger results in the future.The results of this study do have practical implications. Information that coping strategies do have positive effect on grade point average might encourage a program to teach positive was of coping. If students know how to cope with stress in a constructive way this may promote healthy lifestyle habits for the future. Knowledge on the positive effects of coping on GPA may cause people to practice them more frequently, resulting in higher better school performance as a whole. This is an interesting topic that could have many more practical and theoretical implications. Once more research has been conducted to add to the body of knowledge on coping strategies and grade point average programs can be developed such as seminar discussions or stress counseling sessions to help the development of the students own objectives for personal and professional growth.


Table 1


Table 1

Submitted 12/9/2003 10:40:39 AM
Last Edited 12/9/2003 12:18:45 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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