Education Specialist (Ed.S.)
Degree Granting Department
Educational and Psychological Studies
Shannon Suldo, Ph.D.
Elizabeth Shaunessy-Dedrick, Ph.D.
Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.
Advanced Placement, coping, high-achieving students, high school, International Baccalaureate, stress
High school students in accelerated academic curricula including Advanced Placement (AP) courses and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs are faced with unique challenges associated with their rigorous academic demands, in addition to normative adolescent stressors. Because of the increasing popularity of AP and IB among high-achieving youth and benefits realized by students who successfully manage such curricula, there remains a need to better understand the experiences of stress and coping among this population. The current study used longitudinal and cross-sectional comparisons to (a) investigate the degree to which students in accelerated curricula experience environmental stressors and employ coping strategies to manage academic stressors, and (b) determine which stressors and coping strategies were associated with student success. The longitudinal sample consisted of 184 students from six high schools within three school districts who completed the six-factor Student Rating of Environmental Stressors Scale (StRESS) and 16-factor Coping with Academic Demands Scale (CADS) at Time 1 (grades 9-11) and one year later, at Time 2 (grades 10-12). The cross-sectional sample included 2,379 students (grades 9-12) from 19 high schools within five school districts who also completed the StRESS, CADS, and the Students Life Satisfaction Scale (SLSS); grade point averages (GPAs) were gleaned from school records. Findings indicate that AP and IB students reported more frequent stressors specific to academic requirements over time, while older students (e.g., 11th and12th grade) also reported experiencing more frequent stress due to academic and social struggles and financial issues than their younger counterparts. Regarding coping strategies, findings from longitudinal and cross-sectional comparisons suggested students tend to respond to higher stress by increasing their use of maladaptive strategies including reliance on substance use, reduce effort on schoolwork, and deterioration. Predictive analyses indicated that environmental stressors explained 4-7% and 17-23% of the variance in academic achievement and life satisfaction, respectively. High-achieving students' stress due to academic requirements was related to greater academic success, while it did not appear to compromise life satisfaction. Moreover, while stress due to academic and social struggles was predictive of diminished life satisfaction, stress within this domain was not predictive of poorer academic outcomes. Coping strategies used to manage academic demands accounted for 13-20% and 23-32% of the variance in achievement and life satisfaction, respectively. Students who employed time and task management, sleep, and deterioration to cope were more likely to experience higher academic achievement, while those who coped by seeking academic support, skipping school, engaging in social and creative diversions, using substances, reducing effort on schoolwork, and handling problems alone were less likely to be academically successful. Additionally, those who used cognitive reappraisal, turning to family, and social and athletic diversions were more likely to experience high life satisfaction, while those relying on creative diversions, reduce effort on schoolwork, handle problems alone, and deterioration were less likely to have high life satisfaction. Implications of findings for key stakeholders, including schools psychologists, and future directions for research are discussed.
Scholar Commons Citation
Hearon, Brittany V., "Stress and Coping in High School Students in Accelerated Academic Curricula: Developmental Trends and Relationships with Student Success" (2015). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.