Explaining students' test anxiety and depression: The role of family interaction quality

  • Jelena Čeko Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Split, Split, Croatia
  • Ina Reić Ercegovac Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Split, Split, Croatia http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4228-6054
Keywords: family relations, elementary school students, child depression, test anxiety


Aim: To examine the relationship between the quality of family interactions and test anxiety and depression in a sample of 4th and 7th grade primary school pupils.

Methods: The Scale of Depression for Children and Adolescents (SDCA, Vulić Prtorić, 2003a), The Subscale for Test Anxiety (STA, Vulić Prtorić, 2004a), and Scale of Interaction Quality within the Family (SIQF, Vulić Prtorić, 2004b) were used.

Results: Older pupils were generally more depressed and anxious compared to the younger ones. However, the increase in depression was observed only in female pupils, whereas in male pupils, the levels of depression were generally stable, regardless of age. A similar pattern was found in test anxiety. Overall satisfaction with family, as well as the quality of interactions with mother and father was higher in fourth graders, compared to seventh graders. Female pupils assessed their mothers as more accepting, whereas male pupils assessed their fathers as more accepting than girls did. Maternal rejection was independent of gender, but paternal rejection was more prominent in boys, compared to girls. Higher maternal rejection and lower paternal acceptance were shown to be significant predictors for both depression and test anxiety.

Conclusion: Results confirmed our hypothesis that early-adolescents, as well as girls, have more pronounced depressive and test-anxiety symptoms, when compared to younger children and boys. (Pre)-adolescents’ perceptions of family dynamics have an important role in explaining depressiveness and test anxiety, which implies their value in prevention of mental health problems in (pre)adolescents.

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