Academic achievement, self concept, and locus of control in special and regular Greek primary school children
Recently and despite definitional problems, a clearly identifiable group of children has emerged characterized as 'learning disabled' for which programming and hence specialized services are being made available in the Greek state school setting. A more complete description of these children seems necessary in order to find out if and how they differ from other children in personality and whether their academic difficulties have created unique problems for them. The purpose of the present study was, then, to empirically investigate the comparative differences in measures of self-concept (academic and general), locus of control and causal attributions in Special and Regular Class primary school children, in Greece. 424 children enrolled in the third through sixth primary school grades served as subjects. The sample was drawn from state schools located within the three educational districts in the county of Attiki. There were 72 Special Class, and 352 Regular Class children. The Regular Class children were classified as Low Achievers (LA) and Normal Achievers (NA) on the basis of their school grades. Three self report questionnaires were used; the Perceived Competence Scale for children (PCS), and the Self Description Questionnaire (SDQ) were used to measure academic self-concepts and global self-esteem. The two cognitive competence scales from the PCS and the two subject-specific scales from the SDQ were used to assess children's perceptions of their academic abilities. Global self-esteem was measured by a scale from the PCS. The Intellectual Achievement Responsibility Questionnaire (IAR) was used as a measure of locus of control and causal attributions. Teacher ratings of academic performance in Reading and Maths and a Mathematics Test prepared by the researcher were used as achievement measures. The primary independent variable was group inclusion and school achievement. In addition sex and age differences were investigated. Results showed significant and consistent between group differences. Special Class children were found to differ significantly from Normal Achievers on academic self- concepts and global self-esteem. There were also significant differences between Low and Normal achievers on academic self-concepts but not on global self-esteem. Special Class children differed from the other two groups on their locus of control orientation and attributional patterns as well. They attributed both their successes and their failures to external factors, thus fitting the picture of 'learned helplessness'. Low achievers seem to hold the same attributional patterns as Normal Achievers, attributing their successes to their efforts and their failures externally. Suggestions are made that this is likely to be due to societal pressures. Developmental differences were evident in relation to locus of control, with older children showing greater internality. There were also age differences in relation to Perceived Competence Evaluation (PCE), in Special Class children, implying that this group of children develop more negative academic self-concepts as they grow older. Results seem to suggest that academic underachievement accompanied by Special Class placement had a substantial effect on children's academic self-concept, global selfesteem and pattern of attributions.