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  8. »Catherine Fung, Ph.D.

Department of Psychological Sciences

Catherine Fung, Ph.D.

Advisor: Dr. Leon Rappoport

Dissertation Title

Relationships between education-related fears, anxiety, self-esteem, and education attitudes. 

Dissertation Abstract

The study was designed to examine nontraditional student's attitudes towards higher education as a function of self-esteem, general anxiety, education-related fears, and various demographic background factors including genderage, marital status, high school graduating class size, and prior education experience. A questionnaire containing demographic items and four assessment instruments was administered to 406 adult students at Kansas State University. The four assessment instruments were (1) The Adult Attitudes Towards Continuing Education Scale; (2) the Self-Esteem Scale; (3) the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale short form; (4) the Education-Related Fears Questionnaire.

Multiple regression analysis of attitudes towards adult education revealed significant effects for self-esteem, and education-related fears, but not general anxiety. The beta weights obtained for the variables confirm that self-esteem is the strongest predictor of attitudes towards adult education.

Furthermore, substantial gender effects indicate that males' self-esteem scores are more predictive of their attitudes towards education than females' self-esteem scores. Males also show lower education-related fears than females.

The results of one-way analyses of variance revealed that the age of nontraditional students has a significant effect on their attitudes towards education: respondents aged 45 and older tend to have more positive attitudes.

Participation, i.e., the level of involvement in education, also significantly influenced attitudes: a higher level of participation is associated with a more positive attitude. Similarly, a higher level of participation is associated with higher self-esteem.

Exploratory interviews with a small subsample (n = 13, ages from 25 to 57) revealed that regardless of age, gender, or marital status, the most frequently mentioned fears concerned course material and/or performance, e.g., "My fear is math, statistics," or "science formulas."

This study suggests that attitudes and self-esteem both improve with more involvement. It also suggests that as a practical matter, greater efforts should be made to support the self-esteem, and reduce the education-related fears of female nontraditional students.


Ph.D., Psychology, Kansas State University, 1994