Attributions for failure among low and high self-concept learning disabled and nondisabled students

Date

1982

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Abstract

The purpose of the study was to determine whether learning disabled and nondisabled students indicated different attributions for failure at an achievement task; causal preferences were examined for both low and high self-concept students within learning disabled and nondisabled samples. In addition this study investigated whether differences existed in locus of control orientation among learning disabled and nondisabled students. The sample consisted of 40 students from grades 4 and 5. Based on scores on the Piers-Harris Children"s Self-Concept Scale, 10 students in each group were identified as having high self-concepts and 10 as having low self-concepts. Each student was administered the LOCITAD, a locus of control measure, and then was given instructions in a novel task (how to divide fractions). Following establishment of a base rate (number of problems completed in 5 minutes), the students were asked to again attain the base rate within the same time span, but were not actually given the entire time to complete the task. They were then asked to attribute their failure to one or more of the following causes: lack of ability, high task difficulty, lack of effort, or bad luck. Analysis of variance procedures were applied to all measures according to a 2 (Type of Student: Disabled-Nondisabled) x 2 (Self-Concept Level: High-Low) design. Significant F ratios were analyzed further using the Newman-Keuls multiple comparison list. The results indicated that the stability of attributions given differed by type of student: nondisabled students gave more unstable attributions, whereas learning disabled students tended to give more stable attributions. No significant differences were found in locus of control orientation between learning disabled and nondisabled groups. These findings suggest the importance of examining the relationship between academic attributions and academic performance in order to understand the achievement behavior of learning disabled students. The results of the present investigation also have implications for attribution retraining interventions that may complement the remedial strategies used by teachers. This study should be replicated in schools of different socioeconomic and ethnic compositions. Further research should utilize a larger number of girls, and might investigate attributions of distinct populations based on type of learning disability and employ a more open-ended attribution assessment format in order to investigate a wider range of possible attributional choices.

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Keywords

Learning disabilities, Achievement motivation

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