The Effects Of Poverty On Academic Achievement In Adolescents


Summer 2017



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Joyce A. Bell

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Lisa Jagadeesen

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Joyce Taborn-Jackson


Adolescents living in poverty face numerous challenges that can interfere with their academic success. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of stress and anxiety on academic performance among 16 to 21-year-old students from disadvantaged backgrounds who were attempting to complete their high school diploma. A subset of participants was attending high school while caring for children of their own. At the beginning of the semester, participants in this study took part in a focus group and follow-up interview to assess their perceived level of support, and to identify areas for additional supports that would help them succeed academically. Additionally, information about current academic performance was obtained from school records, and students completed questionnaire measures of stress and anxiety. Over the course of the semester, participants were exposed to a new school-wide curriculum designed to help them identify and cope with emotions and worked with researchers to identify resources to help them meet needs identified in the initial focus group and interview. At the end of the semester, the questionnaire measures were re-administered and school records were accessed to examine changes in participant well-being and academic performance over the course of the semester. Results showed significant improvements in measures of academic performance (grade point average and attendance) and emotional well-being (lower self-reported stress and anxiety) after participation in the emotion-focused curriculum and provision of supports. These results indicate that including emotion- focused instruction in the curriculum and helping students connect with resources and supports in the community may help to improve academic and emotional outcomes for students living in poverty.

Research Methodology

Descriptive Statistics, Ethnography, Focus Group, Survey (attitude scale, opinion, questionnaire), Orientational Design


Achievement, At-risk Students, Brain-based Learning, Social Justice

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