Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 255–281 | Cite as

School Misbehaviour as a Coping Strategy for Negative Social Comparison and Academic Failure

  • Angeline C.E. KhooEmail author
  • Penelope J. Oakes


This paper presents research findings suggesting that unacceptable behaviour in schools is a group strategy adopted for coping with negative social comparison and academic failure. Participants are adolescents in Singapore schools who are identified through self-reports as ‘misbehaving’ and ‘conforming’ students. They are presented with a vignette of a student who has failed an examination and is thus faced with the threat of negative social comparison. Two coping strategies are given, one is a strategy of competition adopted by the individual; the other is a group strategy of derogating the more successful and hypothetical outgroup. Two other conditions are included, that of attribution of the failure to lack of effort and to lack of ability. Findings revealed that although there is an overall preference for the individual-competitive strategy, misbehaving students showed relatively higher evaluation of the outgroup-derogation strategy compared to conforming students, but only when the attribution of failure was to lack of ability rather than lack of effort. Misbehaving students who showed a higher preference for the outgroup-derogation coping strategy tend to perceive the self-derogation levels of the target who adopts this strategy to be lower than the target who adopts the individual-competitive strategy.


Social Psychology Coping Strategy Social Context Research Finding Education Research 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of Education, Psychological StudiesNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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