Locus of control, attributional style, and school truancy : the case of Hong Kong

Tam, Shui Kee Tony

April 2004

Thesis or dissertation

© 2004 Shui Kee Tony Tam. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The present study on school truancy was developed out of a concern about students who do not adapt to the demands of the school environment as they go through the process of transition from primary school to secondary school. It suggested that the school environment in which we expect to see behavioral manifestations of the internal conflicts which adolescents face. Specifically, it suggested that truancy is a behavior that indicates a student is not adapting to the rules and regulations of the school environment. It suggested that this behavior be explored in terms of psychological variables relevant to adolescent development.

A theoretical framework derived from attribution theory and locus of control theory was utilized in an effort to explore these issues. The overall concern of the study was to understand more fully the patterns of locus of control and causal attributions of secondary school truants and non-truants in Hong Kong. The key research question was how truants and non-truants differ in these patterns in relation to family and school experiences and how these relations vary within each group. The research question was examined in a sample of 384 secondary school students of the junior forms. A structured questionnaire was administered to the students in class to obtain their responses to family and school experience measures, a slightly modified version of the Nowicki-Strickland Locus of Control Scale, and an adapted version of the Attributional Style Questionnaire.

The results of ANOVA showed that the truants scored higher externality of locus of control than the non-truants although the difference was slightly short of statistical significance. Multivariate analysis of variance showed that the truants scored significantly higher on the composite measure as well as each of the three dimensional measures of bad outcomes than the non-truants. The result also showed that the truants scored significantly lower on the composite measure as well as each of the three dimension measures of good outcomes than the non-truants. This pattern of attribution indicates that the truants would attribute bad events as due to internal, stable and global causes and would attribute good events as due to external, unstable and specific causes. The findings further suggest that negative experiences in school provide the context for truancy to occur. Results show that, the truants reported poorer relations with teachers, a tendency of disbelieving in the value of schooling, and more frequent involvement in problem behaviour.

Clearly, the relation among truancy, locus of control, attributions, and their family and school experiences is a complex one. In view of this, the present study is conceived as an attempt leading to an initial evidence for linkages among truancy status, locus of control, family and school experiences and children's attributions for school events. This further suggests that the approach of this study may have been sound and that more research should be conducted to find additional support for the observed relationships. It is hoped that continued testing of this approach to the study of school truancy may serve to explain why some students play truant from school but others do not, even though both groups are low academic achievers.

Institute for Learning, The University of Hull
Bright, Barry P., 1947-; Howie, Dorothy
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