Resilient female students out-perform male counterparts research finds
The study - published in the British Journal of Guidance & Counselling - was led by Senior Lecturer in Physical Education and Sports Pedagogy, John Allan, and Professor of Physical Activity and Health, Professor Jim McKenna.
A total of 1534 first year students were profiled for their psychological resilience as they came to university. Resilience represents the capacity of individuals to adapt to new challenges. Higher resilience is widely regarded as helping students to cope with the stress they face at the start of their studies. Resilience scores taken from the inductees were then used to predict end-of-first-year academic attainment. Preliminary analysis indicated that the link between resilience and academic performance was similar across all student cohorts. Yet, further analysis revealed an important gender difference: resilience had more positive effects in females than males.
John Allan, who conducted the research, commented: "This large, distinctive study has implications for student support practices. It highlights that the relationship between resilience and academic achievement requires further consideration in higher education (HE).
"Our findings confirm the unpredictability of adaptive capacity. Although some males showed signs of resilience in respect to attainment - almost one-fifth of males high in resilience attained a 2.1 grade - there were twice as many others with similarly high scores who acquired lower grades, while another portion withdrew from study. While this may seem to signify a negative academic outcome, it could easily represent a purposeful and functional choice. Certainly there are concerns at how the general nature of HE has evolved to favour female students; our data confirmed that females do better with every unit increase in self-reported resilience."
The study was a joint collaboration between university's Counselling Services and Leeds Met's Institute of Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure. The sample included 1534 full-time first degree students who volunteered to take part in the study within the first weeks of their course - 51.8% of which were male and 48.2% were female - all aged 18 or 19 at the time the research was conducted.
As a result of the research targeted interventions for male students to access counselling have been implemented by the counselling services at Leeds Met.
Professor McKenna added: "Although at the end of the inductees' first academic year the outcomes suggested similar academic performance by gender, higher resilience was progressively and incrementally associated with higher grade profiles for females. In some males, and contrary to the conventional understanding of resilience, higher resilience was linked with poorer prospective academic performance. This may be explained by gender-specific differences in how resilience is built. Our analysis revealed that twice as many high-resilience females, over high-resilience males, achieved the two highest grade classification outcomes."