While school self-concept is an important facilitator of a student’s school engagement, previous studies rarely investigated whether it may also explain the change in students’ school engagement during secondary school. Moreover, as social relations play an increasingly important role in adolescence, the current research distinguishes between the social and individual school self-concepts of a student. Whereas individual school self-concept uses the perception of a student’s own ability in the past in order to estimate perceived current ability, social school self-concept refers to the comparison of a student's own perceived current ability with the current perceived abilities of others. We examined the role of students’ individual and social school self-concepts in the development of behavioral and emotional school engagement during the period from grade 8 to grade 9. The sample consisted of 1088 German adolescents at the first measurement time (Mage = 13.70, SD = 0.53; 53.9% girls). The findings suggested a significant decline in both emotional and behavioral school engagement over the span of 1.5 years. In addition, social—but not individual—school self-concept was associated with the change in both dimensions of school engagement over time, such as it may intensify a student’s decline in school engagement levels. This might be due to the fact that students with a high social school self-concept tend to increasingly emphasize competition and comparison and strive for high grades, which lowers students’ school participation and identification in the long term.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
All original German items have been translated into English for the current paper to render it accessible to an international reader.
Appleton, J. J., Christenson, S. L., Kim, D., & Reschly, A. L. (2006). Measuring cognitive and psychological engagement: validation of the student engagement instrument. Journal of School Psychology, 44(5), 427–445. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2006.04.002.
Appleton, J. J., Christenson, S. L., & Furlong, M. J. (2008). Student engagement with school: critical conceptual and methodological issues of the construct. Psychology in the Schools, 45(5), 369–386. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.20303.
Asparouhov, T. (2005). Sampling weights in latent variable modeling. Structural Equation Modeling, 12(3), 37–41. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0910967107.
Bakadorova, O., & Raufelder, D. (2016). Do socio-motivational relationships predict motivation in adolescents with low and high school-self-concept? The Journal of Educational Research, 109(3), 219–231. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220671.2014.942031.
Bakadorova, O., & Raufelder, D. (2017). The interplay of students' school engagement, school self-concept and motivational relations during adolescence. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 2171. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02171.
Bentler, P. M., & Bonett, D. G. (1980). Significance tests and goodness of fit in the analysis of covariance structures. Psychological Bulletin, 88(3), 588–606. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.88.3.588.
Bong, M., Cho, C., Ahn, H. S., & Kim, H. J. (2012). Comparison of self-beliefs for predicting student motivation and achievement. The Journal of Educational Research, 105(5), 336–352. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220671.2011.627401.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1975). Reality and research in the ecology of human development. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 119(6), 439–469.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Chan, D. (2009). So why ask me? Are self-report data really that bad? In C. E. Lance ∓ R. J. Vandenberg (Eds.), Statistical and methodological myths and urban legends (pp. 309–336). New York: Routledge.
Chen, F. F. (2007). Sensitivity of goodness of fit indexes to lack of measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 14(3), 464–504. https://doi.org/10.1080/10705510701301834.
Cheung, G. W., & Rensvold, R. B. (2002). Evaluating goodness-of-fit indexes for testing measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 9(2), 233–255. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15328007SEM0902_5.
Christenson, S. L., Reschly, A. L., Appleton, J. J., Berman, S., Spangers, D., & Varro, P. (2008). Best practices in fostering student engagement. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology V (pp. 1099–1120). Washington, DC: National Association of School Psychologists.
Connell, J. P. (1990). Context, self, and action: A motivational analysis of self-system processes across the life-span. In D. Cicchetti ∓ M. Beeghly (Eds.), The self in transition: From infancy to childhood (pp. 61–97). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Connell, J. P., ∓ Wellborn, J. G. (1991). Competence, autonomy and relatedness: A motivational analysis of self-system processes. In M. Gunnar ∓ L. A. Sroufe (Eds.), Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology: Vol. 23. Self processes in development (pp. 43–77). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Connell, J. P., Spencer, M. B., & Aber, J. L. (1994). Educational risk and resilience in African-American youth: context, self, action, and outcomes in school. Child Development, 65(2), 493–506. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1994.tb00765.x.
Connell, J. P., Halpern-Felsher, B. L., Clifford, E., Crichlow, W., & Usinger, P. (1995). Hanging in there: behavioral, psychological, and contextual factors affecting whether African American adolescents stay in school. Journal of Adolescent Research, 10(1), 41–63. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743554895101004.
Craven, R. G., & Marsh, H. W. (2008). The centrality of the self-concept construct for psychological wellbeing and unlocking human potential: implications for child and educational psychologists. Educational and Child Psychology, 25(2), 104–118.
Di Stasio, M. R., Savage, R., & Burgos, G. (2016). Social comparison, competition and teacher-student relationships in junior high school classrooms predicts bullying and victimization. Journal of Adolescence, 53, 207–216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.10.002.
Dupont, S., Galant, B., Nils, F., & Hospel, V. (2014). Social context, self-perceptions and student engagement: a SEM investigation of the self-system model of motivational development (SSMMD). Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 12(1), 5–32. https://doi.org/10.14204/ejrep.32.13081.
Eccles, J. S., & Roeser, R. W. (2011). Schools as developmental contexts during adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(1), 225–241. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00725.x.
Eccles, J., Midgley, C., & Adler, T. (1984). Grade-related changes in the school environment: effects on achievement motivation. In J. Nicholls (Ed.), The development of achievement motivation (Vol. 3, pp. 282–331). Greenwich: JAI.
Eccles, J. S., Midgley, C., Wigfield, A., Buchanan, C. M., Reuman, D., Flanagan, C., & Mac Iver, D. (1993). Development during adolescence: the impact of stage-environment fit on young adolescents’ experiences in schools and in families. American Psychologist, 48(2), 90–101. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.48.2.90.
Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117–140. https://doi.org/10.1177/001872675400700202
Finn, J. D. (1989). Withdrawing from school. Review of Educational Research, 59(2), 117–142. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543059002117.
Finn, J. D. (1993). School engagement and students at risk. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
Frawley, D., McCoy, S., Banks, J., & Thorton, M. (2014). Affective school engagement and self-concept: how are Irish boys and girls faring? Child Indicators Research, 7(4), 843–859. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-014-9247-5.
Fredericks, J. A., & Eccles, J. S. (2002). Children’s competence and value beliefs from childhood to adolescence: growth trajectories in two “male-typed” domains. Developmental Psychology, 38(4), 519–533. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-009-9121-2.
Fredericks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59–109. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543074001059.
Fullarton, S. (2002). Student engagement with school: Individual and school-level influences. LSAY research reports. Longitudinal surveys of Australian youth research report, 27. Retrieved from: http://research.acer.edu.au/lsay_research/31.
Furrer, C. J., Skinner, E. A., ∓ Pitzer, J. R. (2014). The influence of teacher and peer relationships on students’ classroom engagement and everyday resilience. In D. J. Shernoff ∓ J. Bempechat (Eds.), Engaging youth in schools: Empirically based models to guide future innovations (pp. 101–123). New York: Teachers College Press.
Geiser, C. (2010). Datenanalyse mit Mplus: Eine anwendungsorientierte Einführung. [Data analyses with Mplus: a practice-oriented introduction. Wiesbaden: VS.
Goethals, G., & Darley, J. (1987). Social comparison theory: self-evaluation and group life. In B. Mullen & G. Goethals (Eds.), Theories of group behavior (pp. 21–47). New York: Springer.
Green, J., Liem, G. A. D., Martin, A. J., Colmar, S., Marsh, H. W., & McInerney, D. (2012). Academic motivation, self-concept, engagement, and performance in high school: key processes from a longitudinal perspective. Journal of Adolescence, 35(5), 1111–1122. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2012.02.016.
Guimond, S., Chatard, A., Martinot, D., Crisp, R. J., & Redersdorff, S. (2006). Social comparison, self-stereotyping, and gender differences in self-construals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(2), 221–242. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.199.
Harris, L. (2008). A phenomenographic investigation of teacher conceptions of student engagement in learning. The Australian Educational Researcher, 5(1), 57–79. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03216875.
Harter, S., Whitesell, N. R., & Kowalski, P. (1992). Individual differences in the effects of educational transitions on young adolescent’s perceptions of competence and motivational orientation. American Educational Research Journal, 29(4), 777–807. https://doi.org/10.2307/1163407.
Holm, S. (1979). A simple sequentially rejective multiple test procedure. Scandinavian Journal of Statistics, 6, 65–70.
Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structural analysis: conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling. A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6, 51–55. https://doi.org/10.1080/107055199095401.
Jöreskog, K. G. (1993). Testing structural equation models. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 294–316). Newbury Park: Sage.
Kievit, R. A., Brandmaier, A. M., Ziegler, G., van Hamerlen, A.-L., de Mooij, S. M. M., Moutoussis, M., et al. (2018). Developmental cognitive neuroscience using latent change score models: a tutorial and applications. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 33, 99–117. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2017.11.007.
Kopp, J., & Lois, D. (2012). Sozialwissenschaftliche Datenanalyse. Eine Einführung. [Data analysis in social science. An introduction]. Wiesbaden: VS.
Lam, S.-F., Jimerson, S., Shin, H., Cefai, C., Veiga, F. H., Hatzichristou, C., et al. (2016). Cultural universality and specificity of student engagement in school: The results of an international study from 12 countries. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 137–153. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjep.12079.
Lawson, M. A., ∓ Lawson, H. A. (2013). New conceptual frameworks for student engagement research, policy, and practice. Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 432–479. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654313480891.
Lee, J.-S. (2014). The relationship between student engagement and academic performance: is it a myth or reality? The Journal of Educational Research, 107(3), 177–185. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220671.2013.807491.
Lerner, R. M. (1986). Concepts and theories of human development (2nd ed.). New York: Random House.
Lerner, R. M. (1991). Changing organism–context relations as the basic process of development: a developmental contextual perspective. Developmental Psychology, 27(1), 27–32. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16188.8.131.52.
Lerner, R. M. (1992). Final solutions: biology, prejudice, and genocide. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Lerner, R. M. (1998). Theories of human development: Contemporary perspectives. In W. Damon (Series Ed. & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: vol. 1 (5th edn.): theoretical models of human development (pp. 1–24). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Marsh, H. W. (1986). Verbal and math self-concepts: an internal/external frame of reference model. American Educational Research Journal, 23(1), 129–149. https://doi.org/10.2307/1163048.
Marsh, H. W. (1990). A multidimensional, hierarchical self-concept: theoretical and empirical justification. Educational Psychology Review, 2(2), 77–172. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01322177.
Marsh, H. W. (1993). Academic self-concept: theory measurement and research. In J. Suls (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on the self (Vol. 4, pp. 59–98). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.
Marsh, H. W. (2007). Application of confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modeling in sport/exercise psychology. In G. Tenenbaum & R. C. Eklund (Eds.), Handbook of sport psychology (3rd ed., pp. 774–798). New York: Wiley.
Marsh, H. W., & Craven, R. G. (2006). Reciprocal effects of self-concept and performance from a multidimensional perspective: beyond seductive pleasure and unidimensional perspectives. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1(2), 133–163. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6916.2006.00010.x.
Marsh, H. W., & Hau, K.-T. (1996). Assessing goodness of fit: is parsimony always desirable. Journal of Experimental Education, 64(4), 364–390. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220973.1996.10806604.
Marsh, H. W., & Hau, K. T. (2004). Explaining paradoxical relations between academic self-concepts and achievements: cross-cultural generalizability of the internal/external frame of reference predictions across 26 countries. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(1), 56–67. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-06184.108.40.206.
Marsh, H. W., & Yeung, A. S. (2001). An extension of the internal/external frame of reference model: a response to Bong (1998). Multivariate Behavioral Research, 36(3), 389–420. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327906389-420.
Marsh, H. W., Trautwein, U., Lüdtke, O., & Brettschneider, W. (2008). Social comparison and big-fish-little-pond effects on self-concept and other self-belief constructs: role of generalized and specific others. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(3), 510–524. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-06220.127.116.110.
Marsh, H. W., Nagengast, B., & Morin, A. J. S. (2013). Measurement invariance of big-five factors over the life span: ESEM tests of gender, age, plasticity, maturity, and la dolce vita effects. Developmental Psychology, 49(6), 1194–1218. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026913.
Marsh, H. W., Martin, A. J., Yeung, A., & Craven, R. (2017). Competence self-perceptions. In A. J. Elliot, C. Dweck, & D. Yeager (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 85–115). New York: Guilford.
Martin, A. J. (2007). Examining a multidimensional model of student motivation and engagement using a construct validation approach. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77(4), 413–440. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8279.2011.02050.x.
McArdle, J. J. (2009). Latent variable modeling of differences and changes with longitudinal data. Annual Review of Psychology, 60(1), 577–605. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163612.
Milfont, R., & Fischer, R. (2010). Testing measurement invariance across groups: applications in cross-cultural research. International Journal of Psychological Research, 3, 112–131.
Millsap, R. E. (2011). Statistical approaches to measurement invariance. New York: Routledge.
Möller, J., & Pohlmann, B. (2010). Achievement differences and self-concept differences: stronger associations for above or below average students? British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(3), 435–450. https://doi.org/10.1348/000709909X485234.
Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (2012). Mplus user’s guide (7th ed.). Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.
Newmann, F. M., Wehlage, G. G., & Lamborn, S. D. (1992). The significance and sources of student engagement. In F. Newmann (Ed.), Student engagement and achievement in American secondary schools. New York: Teachers College Press.
O’Mara, A. J., Marsh, H. W., Craven, R. G., & Debus, R. L. (2006). Do self-concept interventions make a difference? A synergistic blend of construct validation and meta-analysis. Educational Psychologist, 41(3), 181–206. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15326985ep4103_4.
Onorato, R. S., & Turner, J. C. (2004). Fluidity in the self-concept: the shift from personal to social identity. European Journal of Social Psychology, 34(3), 257–278. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.195.
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2013). Education at a Glance 2013: OECD indicators. Paris: OECD.
Raufelder, D., Sahabandu, D., Sánchez Martínez, G., & Escobar, V. (2013). The mediating role of social relationships in the association of adolescents’ individual school self-concept and their school engagement, belonging and helplessness in school. Educational Psychology, 35(2), 137–157. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2013.849327.
Reeve, J. (2012). A self-determination theory perspective on student engagement. In S. L. Christenson et al. (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 149–172). Berlin: Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
Reeve, J., & Tseng, C.-M. (2011). Agency as a fourth aspect of students’ engagement during learning activities. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 36(4), 257–267. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2011.05.002.
Reschly, A. L., & Christenson, S. L. (2012). Jingle, jangle and conceptual haziness: evolution and future directions of the engagement construct. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. A. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 3–19). New York: Springer Science.
Rheinberg, F. (1980). Leistungsbewertung und Lernmotivation [Appraisal of achievement and learning motivation]. Göttingen: Hogrefe.
Rheinberg, F. (2008). Bezugsnormen und die Beurteilung von Lernleistung. In W. Schneider & M. Hasselhorn (Eds.), Handbuch Pädagogische Psychologie [Handbook of educational psychology] (pp. 178–186). Göttingen: Hogrefe.
Rodriguez, J., ∓ Boutakidis, L. P. (2013). The association between school engagement and achievement across three generations of Mexican American students. Association of Mexican-American Educators Journal, 7(1), 5–12.
Satorra, A., & Bentler, P. M. (2001). A scaled difference chi-square test statistic for moment structure analysis. Psychometrika, 66(4), 507–514. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF0229.
Schöne, C., Dickhaeuser, O., Spinath, B., & Stiensmeier-Pelster, J. (2002). Skalen zur Erfassung des schulischen Selbstkonzepts. Manual [Scales to measure school self-concept. Manual]. Göttingen: Hogrefe.
Schöne, C., Dickhaeuser, O., Spinath, B., & Stiensmeier-Pelster, J. (2003). Das Fähigkeitsselbstkonzept und seine Erfassung). In J. Stiensmeier-Pelster & F. Rheinberg (Eds.), Diagnostik von Motivation und Selbstkonzept. Tests und Trends [Diagnostics of motivation and self-concept] (pp. 3–14). Göttingen: Hogrefe.
Schöne, C., Dickhäuser, O., Spinath, B. ∓ Stiensmeier-Pelster, J. (2012). Skalen zur Erfassung des schulischen Selbstkonzepts - SESSKO. 2, überarbeitete und neu normierte Auflage [Scales to adress the school self-concept- SESSKO. 2. revised and restandardized edition]. Göttingen: Hogrefe.
Skinner, E. A., & Belmont, M. J. (1993). Motivation in the classroom: reciprocal effects of teacher behavior and student engagement across the school year. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(4), 571–581. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0618.104.22.1681.
Skinner, E. A., & Pitzer, J. (2012). Developmental dynamics of engagement, coping, and everyday resilience. In S. Christenson, A. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 21–45). New York: Springer Science.
Skinner, E. A., Furrer, C., Marchand, G., & Kindermann, T. (2008). Engagement and disaffection in the classroom: part of a larger motivational dynamic. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(4), 765–781. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0012840.
Skinner, E. A., Kindermann, T. A., ∓ Furrer, C. J. (2009). A motivational perspective on engagement and disaffection: Conceptualization and assessment of children's behavioral and emotional participation in academic activities in the classroom. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 69(3), 493–525. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013164408323233.
Spector, P. E. (2006). Method variance in organizational research: Truth or urban legend? Organizational Research Methods, 9(2), 221–232. https://doi.org/10.1177/1094428105284955.
Steyer, R., Eid, M., & Schwenkmezger, P. (1997). Modeling true intraindividual change: true change as a latent variable. Methods of Psychological Research Online, 2, 21–33.
Tanaka, J. S. (1993). Multifaceted conceptions of fit in structural equation models. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models. Newbury Park: Sage.
Turner, J. C. (1985). Social categorization and the self-concept: a social cognitive theory of group behavior. In E. J. Lawler (Ed.), Advances in group processes: theory and research (Vol. 2, pp. 77–122). Greenwich: JAI.
Turner, J. C. (1999). Some current issues in research on social identity and self-categorization theories. In N. Ellemers, R. Spears, & B. Doosje (Eds.), Social identity (pp. 6–34). Oxford: Blackwell.
Veiga, F. H., García, F., Reeve, J., Wentzel, K., & García, O. (2015). When adolescents with high self-concept loose their engagement in school. Revista de Psicodidáctica, 20(2), 305–320. https://doi.org/10.1387/RevPsicodidact.12671.
Walker, C., Greene, B., & Mansell, R. (2006). Identification with academics intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, and self-efficacy as predictors of cognitive engagement. Learning and Individual Differences, 16(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2005.06.004.
Wang, M. T., & Eccles, J. S. (2012a). Adolescent behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement trajectories in school and their differential relations to educational success. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 22(1), 31–39. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-7795.2011.00753.x.
Wang, M. T., & Eccles, J. S. (2012b). Social support matters: longitudinal effects of social support on three dimensions of school engagement from middle to high school. Child Development, 87(3), 877–895. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01745.x.
Wang, M. T., & Eccles, J. S. (2013). School context, achievement motivation, and academic engagement: a longitudinal study of school engagement using a multidimensional perspective. Learning and Instruction, 28, 12–23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2013.04.002.
Wang, M. T., & Holcombe, R. (2010). Adolescents’ perceptions of school environment, engagement, and academic achievement in middle school. American Educational Research Journal, 47(3), 633–662. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831209361209.
Waterman, A. S. (1985). Identity in the context of adolescent psychology. In A. S. Waterman (Ed.), Identity in adolescence: progress and contents: new directions for child development, no. 30. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985, 30, 5, 24.
Wehrens, M. J. P. W., Buunk, A. P., Lubbers, M. J., Dijkstra, P., Kuyper, H., & Van der Werf, G. P. C. (2010). The relationship between affective response to social comparison and academic performance in high school. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 35(3), 203–214. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2010.01.001.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Bakadorova, O., Lazarides, R. & Raufelder, D. Effects of social and individual school self-concepts on school engagement during adolescence. Eur J Psychol Educ 35, 73–91 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10212-019-00423-x
- Individual school self-concept
- Social school self-concept
- School engagement
- Latent change model