Competition and Its Relationship to Student Performance and Wellness

Donald R Schels, Fordham University


The intensity of teenage anxiety, depression, and at-risk behavior among suburban youth of high socio-economic status is epidemic. More empirical research mapping the relationship between academic “competition,” often magnified at affluent schools, student performance; and student wellness is needed. This study explores the relationship between competition, as a potentially positive and negative force, in a student’s psyche. It examines students’ academic performance and mental health/wellness; it measures the potentially mediating effects of performance approach and avoidance mindsets. The Opposing Processes Model of Inconsistent Mediation, and the competition/performance and competition/wellness relationships, expressed as linear regressions, constitute the conceptual frameworks. Findings reveal that trait competitiveness modestly predicts student performance for grade point average but not for standardized tests; environmentally perceived competition modestly predicts performance for standardized tests but not for grade point average. Findings also reveal that student perceptions of environmental competition, along with performance avoidance mindsets, significantly predict student depression and anxiety. Performance Approach mindsets modestly but negatively predict depression and anxiety. In most of the relational pathways studied, no inconsistent mediation effects emerged, but the Opposing Processes Model of Inconsistent Mediation was validated in the environmentally perceived competition-anxiety pathway. These findings should be considered by school leaders when designing instructional strategies and climate norms. Recommendations include using student conceptions of competition as a data point for school data teams, designing pedagogical and ecological responses to both leverage and mitigate competition’s multiple effects, and training faculty on interventions targeting the types of mindsets likely to trigger student depression or anxiety.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Educational psychology|Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Schels, Donald R, "Competition and Its Relationship to Student Performance and Wellness" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI29397880.