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Procrastination Predictors in College Students Research Paper

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The compiling of this essay is comprised of defining procrastination as a tendency to postpone doing something or avoiding it completely. Then from here, the essay identifies all the factors that facilitate procrastination. These factors include over expectation from parents, perfectionism, fear of failure, and critics. After mentioning these factors a literature review, which explains in detail, the relationship between these factors and procrastination follows. The evidence provided to write the literature review was gotten from thorough research as indicated in the referencing. The literature review enabled to provide the necessary information for composing the methods of the research, analyzing the results provided by Tables 1 and 2, and hence concluding the discussion.


Procrastination is the affinity to postpone or avoid one’s responsibilities completely. Other scholars such as Lay (1986) terms procrastination as the act of shunning away that that, is vital to be done for one to achieve a specific objective. This behavior according to Solomon and Rothblum (1984) can lead to a feeling of subjective discomfort when prolonged for a long period. Various factors are associated with procrastination.

According to Burka (1982), some people who suffer from severe procrastination tend to blame their challenges on personal flaws such as being lazy, undisciplined, or not being aware of how to manage their time. Those that do procrastinate more often are believed to attribute to dilatory acts for various reasons. These reasons include the protection of their self-esteem through self-handicapping.

This is a show of autonomy, the evading of the aversive task, avoidance of a state of anxiety, a response to their fear of failure or they are said to suffer from perfectionism and usually are believed to lack self-regulation and self-management. It is suggested that dysfunctional procrastination is related to fragile self-esteem, interpersonal dependency, and suffering of self-defeating behaviors.

Procrastination can be categorized into two groups. These are behavior and decisional. Behavioral procrastination occurs when individuals that procrastinate delay doing something for fear of vulnerable self-esteem. On the other hand, individuals that go through decisional procrastination tend to delay making certain decisions for fear of a conflict that may be a subject of their decisions. Behavioral procrastination is the one that will concentrate on since it is the one that will guide this discussion.

This is as a result of its direct relation to academic performances. According to Ferrari procrastination adults resulted from their parents who overemphasized overachievements. This emphasis on the achievement of children by their parents links that achievement with parental love and approval, high fear of failure. Therefore such people, when they grow up, tend to associate self-worth with high achievement and because of this, they develop a high fear for failure since to them failure signifies they are not worthy.

A feeling of fear due to failure or anything that promotes fear of failure can be viewed as an antecedent of procrastination. Therefore self-worth protection was explored as a cause of performance-related procrastination and hence determined as a significant predictor. Other factors to consider when discussing the procrastination predictors in college students include Ferrari’s look of procrastination as a self-defeating behavior pattern.

According to him, there are three criteria for a self-defeating personality. They include failing to accomplish tasks crucial to individual personal objectives despite an ability to meet that objective. The next one is choosing people or situations that lead to disappointment, failure, or mistreatment even after when better results are possible. The last one is feeling guilty after a personal positive event and lack of interest in people that treat you well.

Literature Review

Research to guide this discussion was conducted as shown from the referencing page. The information gathered from those references helped to provide the facts needed to support this discussion. According to Adkins S and Parker W (1996). They believe that perfectionism is strongly related to depression; this research tried to link perfection to suicidal preoccupation. This was accomplished by administering 129 undergraduate students, the Alabama Adolescent Health Survey, and parts of the Thematic Appreciation Test, to measure suicidal preoccupation and multidimensional perfectionist scale to assess perfectionist tendencies.

From the results, it was established that it is only the passive perfectionist i.e. those whose fear is their drive that procrastinates and is at a high risk of suicidal preoccupation. The active perfectionist whose achievements are driven by the fear of perfection is not likely to be the victim of suicidal preoccupation. Perfectionism is also believed to prompt depression and suicidal occupation rather than be a symptom of depression. This information was very important as it provided me with a better understanding of the variables that I was searching for. From this information, I discovered that I needed any negative that I could associate with a perfectionist.

This study was vital as it helped to link the negative results with perfectionism and goal adoption and negative outcome. Other Scholars such as Ferrari (1992) believed that procrastination behavior might be a form of a perfectionist. The behavior variables that Ferrari focused on are self-presentation, self-awareness, and self-handicapping. He noted that procrastinators and mostly those that scored high on perfectionism were established to possess more self-awareness and handicapping, Procrastinators, especially those who scored high on perfectionism, were found to have more self-awareness, self-presentation, and self-handicapping than nonprocrastinators. The most significant results suggest that compulsive procrastinators may be motivated by socially prescribed perfectionism.

The design and results of this study seem very complex. Thankfully I was able to understand what was meant by it all. This study strengthens my understanding of how extrinsic goals fuel socially prescribed perfectionism, which is strongly related to procrastinating behavior. Most variables and characteristics that describe the procrastinating perfectionist can also be seen in academic underachievement. According to Frost R. Marten, P., Lahart, C., and Rosenblate, R. (1990), the five major hypotheses of dimensions of perfectionism include

  • Setting very high standards.
  • High Parental expectations.
  • Over concern about making mistakes.
  • Criticism.
  • Tendency to doubt one’s work/action and organization.

After determining the various dimension associated with perfectionism research was also necessary to identify how the separate dimensions of perfectionism each relate to the variable used above. This study as a whole has only begun to explore perfectionism’s relationship with procrastination. However, it is already evident here that extrinsic and intrinsic or socially-oriented and self-oriented perfectionism has many different relationships with procrastination and achievement.

According to Mandel H. and Sander. (1988) The Academic Problem of underachievement is characterized by how these learners seem to “coast, cruise and float” through life. It is believed that “if only they would try harder” they would have academic success. It simply seems that there is an unexplainable gap between intentions and actions. An interesting theory that the authors present suggests that these are not unmotivated people, but people that are highly motivated to sabotage any chance of true success. It’s believed that success carries with it the unbearable baggage called expectations. It is, in the end, a form of fear of success that is at the root of the problem for the Academic Problem Underachiever.

Then there is the Identity Disorder of Underachiever, who is essentially characterized by a consuming self-observation and introspection aimed at answering questions such as, “Who am I?” and/or “Where am I heading?”. These internal processes leave few mental resources for school; especially subjects that are considered being meaningless. This type of problem usually resolves itself by the time the person reaches their mid-20.

Procrastination is, at times, a serious problem. Internal consequences of procrastination behavior may include irritation, regret, despair, and self-blame (Burka and Yuen 1983). External consequences can include impaired work and academic progress, strained relationships, and lost opportunities (Burka Yuen 1983, Carr 2001). Despite these negative effects and a growing Request for help by procrastinators in both academic and business environments (Burka & Yuen 1983), procrastination remains a relatively poorly understood phenomenon (Haycock et al. 1998). Researchers who have studied academic procrastination estimate that as many as 95% of American college students purposefully delay beginning or completing tasks and that as many as 70% of college students engage in frequent procrastination (Ellis & Knaus 1977).

There is growing evidence that procrastination results in detrimental academic performance, including poor grades and course withdrawal (Semb et al. 1979). Doctoral student procrastination may fail to finish dissertations (Haycock et al. 1998). Gallagher, Golin, and Kelleher (1992) found that 52% of surveyed students indicated having a moderate to high need for help concerning procrastination, making it the most frequently cited personal concern for which they needed help.

The exploratory research project discussed in this paper is oriented toward providing a better understanding of the concept of procrastination and of the effects of explanatory style on academic procrastination behavior among undergraduate business students a cognitive personality variable that was introduced in the reformulation of learned helplessness and depression model, where it accounts for the variability in people’s responses to no contingent negative events (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale 1978).

The explanatory style was previously termed attribution style and refers to the characteristic ways people explain the causes of bad events involving themselves along three dimensions of causality: locus, stability, and globality (Peterson & Seligman 1984). People who characteristically explain negative events with internal (“This is due to something about me”) versus external (“This is due to other people or circumstances”), stable (“Things will never change”) versus unstable (“Next time, maybe things will be different”), and global (“This happens to me in many different circumstances”) versus specific (“This happens to me only under certain circumstances”) causes are said to have a pessimistic explanatory style that puts them at risk for depression when bad events occur (Peterson & Seligman 1984).

Researchers have begun to examine explanatory style in its own right as a basic individual difference, extending it to questions and topics not explicitly part of the original helplessness model or its revisions (Peterson & Park 1998; Seligman & Schulman, 1986). Researchers have correlated explanatory style with a variety of outcomes, including chronic gambling and binge eating (Peterson 1991b). Peterson and Park (1998) state that the conclusion

Suggested by these studies is that explanatory style “is a basic individual difference tapping something very important about people” (Peterson & Park 1998, p. 296). To better understand procrastination, researchers have sought to identify cognitive personality factors associated with it (for a review, see Ferrari, Parker & Ware 1992). The study reported here attempts to extend previous research by exploring the application of explanatory style to academic procrastination. We examined the relationship between students’ explanatory style scores (as measured by the Academic Attribution Style Questionnaire) and their procrastination scores (as measured by the Academic Procrastination Questionnaire). Outcomes from such research may serve in the development of remedial strategies to counsel the student

Population. In accord with presumed effects on motivation and morale, we expected that students with pessimistic attribution styles would procrastinate more relative to students with optimistic attribution styles (those who minimize negative outcomes by shifting blame onto external factors.


Eighty students (43 males; 37 females) aged 19-24 who were enrolled in Consumer Behavior during the fall 2003 semester at a large state-supported universality in the southeast completed the Academic Attribution Style Questionnaire (AASQ) (Peterson and Barrett 1987). The AASQ measures individual differences in the use of locus, stability, and globality, dimensions of causality. The questionnaire presents subjects with 12 hypothetical bad academic events involving themselves, such as not having high enough grades to switch to a desired major or not getting all the reading done that an instructor assigns. In each case, subjects are asked to imagine the event happening to them.

They then write down the major event’s cause and rate it on 7-point scales in terms of internality (7) versus externality (1), stability (7) versus instability (1), and globality (7) versus specificity (1). Summing the appropriate creates composite scores for the three dimensions of locus, stability, and globality and a composite explanatory style items and dividing the sum by the number of items in the composite. Coefficient alpha for the composite explanatory style scale was.54 for the current sample indicating internal consistency was quite modest.

Questions are still being raised about both the meaning and measurement of explanatory style (Peterson 1991a, 1991b). Although perceptions of control occupied a central role in the development of learned helplessness theory, when the attribution style was introduced learned helplessness theory was modified so that it no longer referred to uncontrollable events but instead to bad events (Sellers & Peterson1993). Some researchers argue that perceived controllability of a bad life event is important in understanding how explanatory style influences reactions to it (Sellers & Peterson 1993; Weiner 1991).

The current research addresses controllability because several studies suggest that it may be advantageous for a person to view controllable negative events as internally, stably, and globally caused (Brown and Siegel 1988, Sellers and Peterson 1993). Importance ratings were also included here in light of the possibility that the proposed relationship of explanatory style and procrastination would occur more strongly for important events than for unimportant events. The Academic

The procrastination Questionnaire (APQ) (Day, Mensink, & O’Sullivan 2000) was used to measure procrastination. The questionnaire is about procrastination on academic work: four types of academic tasks (regularly assigned readings, studying for quizzes/tests/exams, writing papers, and other assignments) and academic work in general. For each item, respondents are asked to rate the degree to which they procrastinate on a five-point scale from” not at all” (1) to “very much” (5).

Summing across the five items and dividing five forms a composite score. Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for the measure was.81 for the current sample indicating good internal consistency reliability. Although many students indicate needing help for overcoming procrastination (Gallagher et al.992), and there are case descriptions of students whose performance has been hurt by procrastination (Burka & Yuen 1983), correlation analyses of the overall relationship of procrastination and academic performance have indicated typically either only very weak negative links (Rothblum, Solomon, & Murakami 1986) or no association (Lay 1986, Solomon & Rothblum 1984). To examine the impact of self-reported procrastination on students’

overall academic performance, current grade point ratios (GPR) were obtained from official university sources. Grade points were cumulative through the previous semester. Total course points accumulated in Consumer Behavior also served as a performance measure. Points were obtained in the course using standardized, machine-graded examinations.


Table 1 presents bivariate correlation coefficients for the four study variables of Course Points, GPR, Gender (coded female = 0: male = 1), and Composite Procrastination. Composite Procrastination scores were not found to be statistically related to either of the performance measures or student gender. A significant and positive relationship was detected between

Course Points and GPR. This indicates that students who had higher grade points also earned more points in the course. Significant and negative relationships were found between Gender and Course Points and Gender and GPR. This indicates that females in our sample outperformed males in college overall and Consumer Behavior. The tentative assumptions of our study were tested by correlating attribution measures with Composite Procrastination (see Table 2).

Correlations of attribution measures with Course Points, GPR, and Gender are also shown in Table 2. Only one of the three explanatory styles dimension variables, Locus, was found to be statistically linked to the Composite Procrastination. This positive correlation means that students whose scores represented an internal explanatory style were more likely to procrastinate than students with an external explanatory style. The positive correlation between Locus and Gender indicates that males were more likely than females to have scores representing an internal explanatory style. Zero-order correlation

Coefficients of most interest here are the statistically significant and negative correlation between Importance and Composite Procrastination and the statistically significant positive correlation between Controllability and Composite Procrastination. This indicates that students who tended to rate negative academic outcomes as important and see them as uncontrollable tended to procrastinate less than students who tended to rate these events as unimportant and uncontrollable.

Correlation of composite procrastination with descriptor variable

2 2 3 4
1.Corse point 0.52a -0.37a 0.5
2.GPR 0.37a -0.01
3.Gender 0.17

Table 1.

Correlation of attribution scores with composite procrastination, performance measures and Gender.

Composite procrastination Course Points GPR Grade
Locus 0.28b 0.02 -0.17 0.25c
Stability -0.03 0.06 -0.02 0.15
Globality 0.02 0.04 -0.05 0.07
Composite 0.13 0.06 -0.1 0.21d
Importance -O.42a 0.23c 0.16 0.28b
Controllability 0.37a -0.03 -0.12 0.25c


Analysis and Conclusion

According to Van Eerde (2003) writes that “procrastination is not necessarily dysfunctional” (p. 421) arguing that the outcome of procrastination may only lead to time pressure and that for easy, boring, or routine tasks, time pressure may simply create a challenge and may lead to finishing a task faster. There are other positive consequences of procrastination. Procrastination has been shown to function as a temporary relief from stress and as a strategic effort to better a bad mood temporarily (Tice, Bratslavsky, and Banmeister 2001). We all procrastinate sometimes, and for different reasons. The findings of the present study suggest that procrastination among Generation Y business majors may not impede their academic performance.

The limitations of our study’s design and measurements do not allow us to generalize this finding to procrastination among members of this generation and their ability to achieve at work. Our findings do suggest research extensions that can be tested empirically. Contrary to expectations, a pessimistic cognitive style that includes internal, stable, and global attributions for bad outcomes was not found in this study to play a role in procrastination.

However, upper-level business students in our sample who tend to blame themselves for bad academic outcomes reported higher levels of procrastination than those with tendencies to shift the blame for bad events in their lives to other people or circumstances. Virtually all-theoretical writing of learned helplessness state or imply that perceptions of future controllability are crucial determinants of learned helplessness and depression effects.

College students in our sample tending to perceive stressors in their lives as controllable reported higher levels of procrastination than their colleagues inclined to view them as uncontrollable. Results of correlation analysis showed that the controllability of bad events was a significant and positive predictor of procrastination. Students in the sample that viewed negative academic events as unimportant reported higher levels of procrastination than those viewing them as important.

Correlation results showed that the importance of negative events was a significant and inverse predictor of procrastination. In the past, most of us have been told that procrastination is a bad habit. According to Chase (2003), a management skills consultant, this assumption has always been based on the idea that people who put things off are lazy and unfocused, and assumes, mistakenly, that there is enough time in our world today to complete everything that needs to be completed. Chase goes on to say that this is not practical and that the assumption that procrastination is a bad habit is out-of-date and irrelevant in today’s world.

He notes that there is a difference between putting off doing something because one does not want to do it, and putting off doing something because it is not important right now, the latter he says “is a highly desirable time management skill” in today’s business climate.


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