Relationships among academic stress, social support, and internalizing and externalizing behavior in adolescence
Bjorkman, Stacy Marie
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The present study was an investigation of the relationships among academic stress, social support, and internalizing and externalizing behaviors in a sample of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students (n = 268) from suburban Illinois. Gender effects and developmental trends were examined in all analyses. The construct of academic stress was measured by the Survey of Academic Stress (SAS), an instrument that was developed specifically for use in this study. Perceived social support was measured by the Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale (CASSS), and internalizing and externalizing behaviors were assessed with selfreport versions of the Behavior Assessment System for Children, Second Edition (BASC-2). Students’ grades, ffee/reduced-price lunch status, and special education status were also collected from school records. Overall, it appears that academic stress is a relevant construct to consider when examining the potential sources of stress that junior high students experience, and girls and boys report similar levels of academic stress. The construct appears to be related to internalizing problems similarly for girls and boys, though internalizing and externalizing behaviors are related to different sources of academic stress. Social support from parents and classmates was related to lower levels of stress, and support from parents, teachers, and classmates was related to fewer internalizing problems in the current sample. For boys, parent support was related to fewer externalizing problems, though teacher support was also significantly related to this outcome for girls. Contrary to expectations, social support from parents, teachers, and classmates did not buffer students experiencing academic stress from internalizing and externalizing problems in the current study. Taken together, the results of this study suggest that academic stress is a relevant construct to consider when investigating potential correlates of emotional and behavioral problems. Academic stress was also related to social support, though social support did not act as a buffer in the present study. Early identification, along with specific instruction of stress-reducing skills, may be useful in preventing and remedying students’ responses to stress. Future research should focus on how specific interventions affect perceived academic stress as well as internalizing and externalizing behaviors in adolescence.