Family Size, Self Efficacy And Students Performance In Biology And Chemistry

Project and Seminar Material for Chemistry Education

Family Size, Self Efficacy And Students Performance In Biology And Chemistry


This study was carried out within the scope and ramification of the topic. It involves the collection, review and analysis of related literature and data. The topic of the study is “family size, self-efficacy and students’ performance in biology and chemistry”. Two schools (state high school Alimosho and Alimisho Grammer School) in Alimosho local Government Area of Lagos State were used as the population of the study. This work comprises of five chapters. Chapter one introduces the background of the study, the statement of problem, purpose, scope, limitation and the significance of study, together with the research questions and definition of key terms. Chapter two review some related literature. Chapter three dealt with the methodology on data collection, review and analysis. Chapter four analysed the collected data in relation to the research question, while chapter five consists of the summary of the research work, conclusion as well as recommendations.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

It is the case in recent times in Nigeria that the academic performance of students particularly in biology and chemistry have gone down drastically when compared with the years following the political independence of Nigeria in October 1st 1960. This much has been evidenced by the results year after year turned out by the West African Examination Council (WAEC). This trend did not originate at the level of WAEC, Rather it has been a product of the junior and senior secondary levels. This malady has even gone past the level of secondary school, and has eaten deep into our tertiary institutions, such that Professor Wole Soyinka asserted that the quality graduates produced by our education system are subject to re-examination.

Biology is described as a science of life and plays a very vital role in the life of every human being. It is very vast with many divisions including zoology, botany, ecology, genetics, morphology, anatomy physiology, histology, microbiology biochemistry, evolution and the more advanced cell biology, molecular biology among others. Apart from the inter-relatedness that exist among these branches, biology is closely related with other science subjects like agricultural science, chemistry, geography, mathematics and physics. Little wonder then that biology finds application in many specialised areas like medicine, pharmacy, food production and processing industries, biotechnology, genetic engineering, agriculture and horticulture, environmental protection, tourism industry and so on. Considering biology’s many branches and vast application in every field of human endeavour as enunciated above it importance in a nation’s economy development cannot be over emphasised.

Chemistry has been identified to be one of the important subjects needed for the sustenance and transformation of the national economy, and hence should be accorded adequate attention. Advancement in science and technology has created a greater demand for more people to study chemistry and this is particularly important in the realisation of Nigeria’s vision to become industrialised. Acquisition of appropriate scientific and technological skills is necessary to cope with the challenge presented by the evolving needs of the modern work place in the industries and the ever growing non formal sector. Education and training systems that responds adequately to these demands will therefore, contribute to the efforts to overcome the growing unemployment and marginalization of majority of the population. Providing access to appropriate learning experiences, designed to broaden skills and knowledge can increase productivity and significantly improve the fortunes of the unemployed, thereby reducing poverty and unemployment amongst the youth (Adesoji, 2008).

It is as a result of the recognition given to Chemistry in the development of the individual and the nation that it has been made a core pre-requisite subject for offering most science oriented courses in the tertiary institutions and this calls for the need in teaching it effectively.

It is worth mentioning that the development of the students’ positive attitude is necessary because attitude is linked with academic achievement (Cheung, 2009). Similarly, a study conducted by Kelly (1998) concluded that the British students’ liking for a specific science subject were the actual predictor of their choice in school in various subjects like Physics, Biology and Chemistry. Therefore, all stakeholders should consider the development of positive attitude towards the chemistry subject as one of their central responsibilities (Cheung, 2009). In Nigeria, the students’ performance in chemistry and biology has persistently remained below average. This has been attributed partly to the negative attitudes adopted by the students towards the chemistry. This further underscores the importance of promoting positive attitudes towards Chemistry.

To this effect, a lot of project and would be solutions have been proffered to provide a panacea to this chronic problem all to no avail. It therefore became imperative to identify what factors is culpable for this undesirable situation. In line with this a lot of factors have been identified ranging from poorly trained teachers, poor learning environment and poor students attitude to learning. Other factors are family based. For example what kind of family does a given student come from? What type of parents does a given student have? What is the condition in the home? What is the family size. Is it possible that the size of a given family can affect the academic performance of the children in school specifically in biology and chemistry?

Another factor which may have had its toll on students’ performance especially in biology and motivation and self-advocacy in learning. Motivation and self-advocacy in learning. Chemistry is the level of confidence of students. Studies show a link between the self-efficacy possessed by any given student and the level of tenacity and doggedness he employs in tackling tasks.

“If student have a high self-efficacy, They are more likely to view a stem

Degree as a challenge to transcend Rather than a threat to escape.”

Students will pursue a course of action if they feel confident of being rewarded with success. A student who has been successful in a previous biology or chemistry test is more likely to have a positive disposition to a new challenge as opposed to a student low in self-efficacy. A sound level of self-efficacy often translates to what is called self-regulated learning. Self-regulated learning refers to students knowing how they are doing in a class and advocating for themselves. Pintrich (1999) found a strong relationship between motivation and self-advocacy in learning.

For the purpose of this exercise family size refers to the total number of children in the child’s family including the child himself. Research has shown that in large families, the first born are usually the beneficiary of a better level of attention (Beeker 1980). Subsequent births receive less and less attention and consequently perform notably less in school (Leana 1982) asserts that a relationship exists between birth order and creativity. Spear (1982) in his study shows that the quality of intelligence of children was largly related to family size. For example Okoye and Okeke (2007) in their study found out that in 2002, 2003 and 2004 the percentages of candidates who passed the west African school certificate examination (WASCE) of credit level and above (grade 1-6) in biology were 30.3%,42.1% and 30.2% respectively. Similarly Egbunonu and Ugbaja reported that only 30.29% of the biology students who sat for the WAEC between 2000 and 2005 passed at credit level and above (A1 – C6). In 2008 WAEC chief examiner reported a deadline in performance in biology especially in the theoretical aspect (WAEC, 2008). Furthermore, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in March 17th 2010 reported that the National Examination Council (NECO) recorded 74% failure in biology in their Nov/Dec .2009 SSCE examination results.

Another word for self-efficacy is confidence, self-confidence plays a huge part in the performance of students. Self-efficacy is when an individual thinks they are capable of performing tasks necessary to achieve their goals. A survey once carried out asserts that there are students who even avoid the sciences due to lack of self-efficacy. The perception of one’s ability which is another term for efficacy can also be formed from the cradle of socialization (the family). It is the goal of this work to link self-efficacy and family size to students’ performance in biology and chemistry.

Three common theoretical threads are apparent in the literature regarding family structure: social cognitive theory, attachment theory, and the theory of moral absolutism. Each of these theoretical frameworks provides conceptual underpinnings for the literature on family structure. A closer look at each theory provides greater understanding of the subsequent literature.

Social Cognitive Theory

The research on family structure is grounded in Bandura’s (2002) social cognitive theory because the theory contends that human development is influenced, in part, by environmental agents. Family structure is an environmental agent that impacts human development and therefore student achievement. According to Santrock (1997), social cognitive theory is “the view of psychologists who emphasize behavior, environment, and cognition as the key factors in development” (p. 44). Family structure is an environmental factor that affects the development of students and, in turn, impacts student achievement.

Attachment Theory

Attachment theory was first conceptualized by John Bowlby and later refined by Mary Ainsworth (Bretherton, 1992). The theory contends that a strong emotional bond with at least one primary caregiver is crucial for healthy child development. Attention is given in much of the literature to the child’s mother as the primary caregiver (Cavanagh & Huston, 2008). Attachment theory offers insights into the depressed academic achievement of students from some subgroups of non-traditional families. Further, it is consistent with Pong’s (1998) platform that students from single-parent households in which the mother is present can still experience competitive academic achievement levels.

Theory of Moral Absolutism

The final framework for this literature review is the theory of moral absolutism. This theory maintains that there are morally correct and incorrect actions (Hawley, 2008). Moral absolutism suggests that the morally correct way to raise a child is through a traditional family structure that is comprised by two biological parents (or adoptive parents from birth), one male and one female, cohabitating in a marital relationship.

Moral absolutism coincides with the Biblical ideal of family and extends attachment theory to suggest that two parents are better than one. This theory also offers insights into the academic achievement of students based on family structure.

Interaction of Theories within the Framework

The three theoretical frameworks discussed previously interact to inform the causal-comparative study of the effects of family structure on student achievement. The three theories are closely related and, together, they serve as the foundation for the association between family structure and student achievement. It is the interaction of the three conceptual frameworks that serves as the cornerstone for understanding child development and academic achievement as they relate to family structure.

Though school environment factors certainly influence student achievement, Firestone and Riehl (2005) suggested that individual student characteristics have the “strongest effects” (p. 15) on student achievement. Individual student characteristics include family structure and composition.

Family demographics, therefore, can have a significant impact on student achievement. A student’s family demographics could include a non-traditional family or a traditional family. Various studies have found evidence indicating an achievement gap exists between students from at least one subgroup of non-traditional families and students from traditional families (Angel-Castillo & Torres-Herrera, 2008; Bachman et al., 2009; Guidubaldi et al., 1986; Hampden-Thompson, 2009; McLanahan and Sandefur (1994); Hampden-Thompson’s (2009) comparative international study revealed a literacy achievement gap between teenagers from two-parent households and teenagers from single-mother households.

The gap was significant in 12 countries, with the greatest gap occurring in the United States. The National Center for Education Statistics (1998) purported an achievement gap in classroom grades across elementary, middle, and high school between students from single-parent households where only one parent was involved in the child’s schooling and students from two-parent households where both parents were involved in the child’s schooling. Guidubaldi et al. (1986) found an achievement gap in elementary school students between those from traditional families and those from families of divorce, with the most prominent gap in achievement existing between male students from those two categories.

Similarly, Waldfogel et al. (2010) reported an achievement gap between students specifically from single-mother families and students from traditional families. According to Angel-Castillo and Torres-Herrera (2008), school dropout rates for Hispanic students were almost doubled in students from single-parent families or blended families as compared to students from two-parent families. Zill et al. (1993) concurred with their longitudinal data, reporting 18-22 year old Americans from families of divorce were twice as likely to have dropped out of high school as their peers from traditional families, even after the researchers controlled for race, parental education, and other child and family factors. Zimiles and Lee (1991) magnified the gap by stating, “Students from stepfamilies and single-parent families are almost three times as likely to drop out as their counterparts from intact families (7% vs 20%)” (p. 316). International research supports the existence of an achievement gap between students from single-parent families and students from two-parent families in Nigeria (Uwaifo, 2008; Yara & Tunde-Yara, 2010). Research also supports the presence of an achievement gap between students from single-mother families and students from traditional families among low-income adolescents (Bachman et al., 2009). McLanahan and Sandefur (1994) devoted a decade worth of research to the topic and their results indicated an achievement gap exists between students from single-parent households and students from two-parent households.

Not only does the literature indicate an achievement gap exists for students from non-traditional families, research suggests an achievement gap exists for schools with high concentrations of students from non-traditional families. Collectively, lower reading and mathematics scores were linked to schools with high populations of single-parent homes when compared to schools with less than 25% of student homes being single-parent homes (Pong, 1997; 1998). Pong (1998) referred to this phenomenon as the “school compositional effect” (p. 23). Individual demographics aside, attending a secondary school with a high concentration of students from non-traditional families places a student at a higher risk of experiencing academic difficulties in the areas of reading and mathematics (Pong, 1998).

Much attention is given in the literature to traditional families that become non-traditional families and the effects of the change on children. This focus is on children that have not always been classified as members of non-traditional families since conception. Whether changes in family structure are one-time or reoccurring, the change from traditional to non-traditional inherently creates family instability. Jeynes (2006).

1.2 Statement of Problem

Biology and chemistry are core and very important subjects in the sciences. When there is a decline in these subjects, there is automatically is a problem in the education system of that given country since science is crucial and national aspiration of any given nation. A vast number of factors have been attributed to the melanise one of these is the family size. Is this in fact the case? If it is case how so?

The average family in Nigeria is faced with a lot of challenges and most times financial and economic challenges rank number one. The parents in such average family will probably not have much for the children. Since children spend more time at home than other place, the home therefore is the foundation of child socialization and therefore the level of confidence or self-efficacy of any given child has a lot to do with the home.

1.3 Research Questions

  1. Does the family size affect the performance of students in biology and chemistry?
  2. Does family birth order affect academic performance?
  3. Does self-efficacy have adverse impact on student’s academic performance?

1.4 Research Hypotheses

  1. Family size affects the effectiveness and capabilities of student
  2. Self-efficacy can be a product of family birth order
  3. Student’s poor performance in biology and chemistry originates from family size and lack of self-efficacy.

1.5 Purpose of Study

The aim of this work is to determine the effect of the largeness of the family and self-efficacy on students’ performance in biology and chemistry.

1.6 Significance of Study

There is the need for the education system to acknowledge the impact of child birth order and family size not just on students’ performance in biology and chemistry, but on academic generally. The system could develop a policy that makes up for such student so as to mitigate the adverse effect of family size on the children and also work on the student’s psychology.

Even though we are in Africa and as such, little or nothing can be done about family size in the immediate. Yet this work aims at educating parents and would be parents on the adverse effect of lack of 100% attention on their children due to the large size of the family or the birth order. It is the case that first born often receive the best of attentions, naturally so, the second third and subsequent children do not get as much thereby being disadvantaged.

1.7 Definition of Key Terms

Vicarious Experience:

This is an experience where a given observer witnesses the execution of an activity or activities by one or more models which the observer holds to be difficult or stressful. It is a source of efficacy expectations.

Child Birth Order:

This is the position of a given child in a given family in terms of the sequence of births among the siblings. For example a second child in the family of four children is the second in the family’s child birth order.

Self Efficacy:

Self-efficacy is the totality of an individual belief in their own ability or effectiveness in dealing with specific situations.

Experience Of Mastery:

This is a performance based experience in which case, a given individual successfully undertakes a task and this experience becomes a pillar in self-efficacy.

Family Size:

This term denote the total number of children in the family aside from the parent.

Outcome Expectancy:

This is defined as a person’s estimate that a given behaviour will lead to certain outcomes.


This is a reaction that takes place in the mind and is rooted in cognitive activities. It is the activation and persistence of behaviour aimed at a given goal.

Efficacy Expectations:

This is the conviction that one can successfully execute the behaviour required to produce the right outcome.

Personal Mastery:

This is when a given individual can really lay claim to have faced directly a distressing or difficult task and through effort and persistence overcame and got the expected and desired outcome.

Coping Behaviour:

This is a mechanism created through cognitive processes to combat stress or fear associated with activities that may be threatening or difficult. It is a combination of mental and physical actions.


This is the commencement or activation of a mode aimed at combating stressful or threatening situations. For example initiation of coping behaviour.

Performance Accomplishment:

This is one of the sources of efficacy expectations. It is the most important and veritable source of efficacy information because it is based on personal mastery.

Verbal Persuasion:

This is also a source of efficacy information. As the name implies it has to do with verbal inducement or encouragement as a psychological treatment of phobia.

Phobia / Phobic:

It is an irrational or very powerful fear and or dislike of given thing. Phobics are peoples who suffer from such disorders.

Individual Student Characteristic:

This include a given student family structure and composition.

Non-Traditional Families:

These are families that are not comprising in their entirety by two biological parents one male and one female.

Emotional / Psychological Arousals:

This state is one of agitation due to stress, fear or difficulty. It is a source of information for self-efficacy.

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