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Externalizing behaviour, task-focused behaviour, and academic achievement: An indirect relation?
J. Becherer, O. Köller, F. Zimmermann

Externalizing behaviour, task-focused behaviour, and academic achievement: An indirect relation?

British Journal of Educational Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjep.12347

Although many studies have suggested that students' externalizing (aggressive and rule-breaking) behaviour is detrimental to their academic achievement, the underlying mechanisms have rarely been investigated.

We conducted a longitudinal investigation of whether the negative relation between externalizing behaviour and academic achievement operationalized as grades and test scores is mediated by students' task-focused behaviour while controlling for the effects of initial achievement and general cognitive abilities. We conducted separate analyses for different rating perspectives (i.e., parents and teachers) on students' externalizing behaviour to investigate the robustness of effects and determined whether gender moderated the mediation. Participants were N = 1,039 students in 55 classes from different school types who were followed from fifth to ninth grade. In fifth grade, parents and teachers rated students' externalizing behaviour, and students were administered standardized tests in mathematics, German, and general cognitive abilities. In seventh grade, teachers rated students' task-focused behaviour. In ninth grade, students were again administered standardized tests in mathematics and German, and their grades were obtained from school registries.

Structural equation models consistently revealed indirect effects of externalizing behaviour via task-focused behaviour on grades and test scores beyond effects of initial achievement and general cognitive abilities. Result patterns were similar for parents' and teachers' ratings of externalizing behaviour and male and female students. This study extends knowledge about the negative relation between externalizing behaviour and academic achievement in adolescents by showing that there is an indirect relation through task-focused behaviour. Implications are discussed.