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School Psychology International


32(1) 20–34
A cross-cultural ! The Author(s) 2011
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DOI: 10.1177/0143034310396830

problem behaviors spi.sagepub.com

in middle schools
Haigen Gu
Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai, China

Shu-Ling Lai
Asia University, Taichung, Taiwan

Renmin Ye
Houston Independent School District, Houston, Texas, USA

Abstract
Using the latest international educational database, TIMSS, this study investigates and
compares the occurrences of 11 student problem behaviors as reported by middle
school principals in ten countries. For each country, the study reveals the relationships
of these problem behaviors with teachers’ attitudes and parental involvement, and
discusses the influences of the problem behaviors on students’ academic achievement.
Finally, a longitudinal study analyses the development and changes of student problem
behaviors in 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007 using the data from TIMSS four regular cycles.
The results find that the student problem behaviors, especially those problem behaviors
related to lessons or conflicting with others, in the Western country schools, have
strong relationships with students’ performances. The findings provide worldwide per-
spectives and meaningful references for intensive research of school psychology, reduc-
tion of student problem behaviors in middle schools, and improvement of students’
academic performance.

Keywords
cross-cultural study, four cycles, middle school, problem behaviors, TIMSS

Corresponding author:
Shu-Ling Lai, College of Creative Design, Asia University, 500 Lioufeng Road, Wufeng, Taichung 41354, Taiwan
Email: sllai@asia.edu.tw

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Gu et al. 21

Introduction
It is important to examine what problems exist in schools today, not only the
perceptions of teachers, but also those of members of the general public who are
often in the position of passing judgement on the health of the education system
and who are instrumental in the policy making process (Salkind et al., 2000).
Student behavior management is one of the greatest challenges that teachers
encounter every day, and misbehaving students have to be dealt with immediately,
because problem behaviors often have a negative effect upon outcomes in the
school environment (Hung & Lockard, 2007). The co-occurrence between poor
academic performance and behavior problems is a significant predictor of school-
related adjustment problems, which continue to hold as children age (Gilbertson,
Duhon, Witt, & Dufrene, 2008; Morgan & Merier, 2008). Educational and psy-
chological researchers have made great efforts on a variety of programs to solve or
reduce student problem behaviors in schools. A program conducted by Holsen,
Smith, and Frey (2008) had significant positive effects on externalizing, but not
internalizing problem behaviors, and the results varied between genders and class-
rooms; Scarpaci (2007) used a rational method to analyse student problem behav-
iors and proposed a practical approach to assist teachers in managing and solving
most behavior problems; Bond’s article (2008) highlighted 12 questioning tech-
niques and offered additional strategies to minimize students’ problem behaviors;
and Peterson (2007) provided ten books and a range of materials with strategies to
manage student problem behaviors. However, a major US national concern is that
student problem behaviors are both ongoing and growing, and similar concerns
are apparent in other countries (De Jong, 2005). It is necessary to investigate,
analyse, and understand the levels of students’ problem behaviors, factors that
influence the development of problem behaviors, and their impacts on multiple
aspects. Student problem behaviors are relevant to school environment and cul-
ture, which have tremendous influences on student values, beliefs, motivations, and
attitudes. School climate has been widely perceived as a critical factor in successful
schools and a litmus test for student academic achievement. Whenever educators
spend excessive time managing student inappropriate behaviors, it is harmful both
for students with and without behavioral problems because it forces teachers to
devote valuable instructional time to address those misbehavers and decreases the
number of learning opportunities for other students. Thus, educational environ-
ments have become complicated and difficult (Shin & Koh, 2008). Parental
involvement serves as an important factor that relates to the number of student
problem behaviors in schools, but current levels of parental involvement in most
schools are meager and infrequent (Koutrouba, Antonopoulou, Tsitsas, &
Zenakou, 2009). Poor parent-child relationships and low parental monitoring
are also important reasons for students’ problem behaviors (Malete, 2007).
Teachers’ responses and actions impact students’ behaviors in the classrooms
more than school policy (Marachi, Astor, & Benbenishty, 2007). Teachers’ behav-
iors contribute to classroom disruptive behaviors, and students’ performance is

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22 School Psychology International 32(1)

also feedback to teachers’ implementation of management strategies (Reinke,


Lewis-Palmer, & Merrell, 2008).
School psychologists should have an understanding of a critical aspect of behav-
ior change ‘treatment integrity’, to plan implementation of an intervention
(Wilkinson, 2006). They also need to design and develop behaviors assessment
scales for comparisons and gather information regarding the range of problem
behaviors (Gladman & Lancaster, 2003). The Trends in International
Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is a valuable tool for measuring and com-
paring student behaviors across nations. TIMSS is a very ambitious series of inter-
national assessments used to measure mathematics and science learning at fourth
and eighth grades. TIMSS was conducted first in 1995, and then again in 1999, 2003,
and 2007. Fifty-nine countries participated in TIMSS 2007. The TIMSS School
Questionnaire focuses on a set of indicators of school quality that research has
shown to characterize schools that function as well-managed integrated systems
supportive of teaching and learning. The participating countries have reacted in a
variety of ways to the comparative performance of their students, and studies have
examined how these reactions have played out in terms of changes to curriculum,
instruction methods, and schooling effectiveness. The educational policy makers and
school administrators have used TIMSS results to help plan or implement changes
designed to improve educational systems (Tatsuoka, Corter, & Tatsuoka, 2004).
Although a number of studies expounded student problem behaviors in schools
from different respects in the United States, the relationships between the behavior
problems and other learning factors in middle schools, and our knowledge of stu-
dent behavior management practices in other countries is minimal and not clear
(Akin-little, Little, & Laniti, 2007; Thuen & Bru, 2009). Therefore, this study
investigates 11 student problem behaviors at middle schools in ten countries.1
Results from TIMSS provide an opportunity to assess the generalization of
previous findings for a large international sample of schools and students from a
cross-cultural context (Roth & Givvin, 2008), help educators and teachers design
interventions to prevent and/or reduce student problem behaviors, and improve
school and classroom environments.

Methods
The primary data source of this investigation was the School database of TIMSS
2007 group B (the eighth grade) reported by principals. Major variables were the
number of occurrences of 11 student problem behaviors in schools, and the scale
range was from 1–Never to 5–Daily. The independent variables also included the
items related to the student problem behaviors: teachers’ attitudes (their job satis-
faction and expectations for achievement), parental support for student achieve-
ment and involvement in school activities (see Appendix 1 for details), and student
academic achievement. Students’ academic achievement was worked out by using a
mean combining ten mathematics and science standard testing scores from the
Student Database, and the range was 1.0–5.0.

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Gu et al. 23

Selection of countries considered several features: geographical representation,


cultural and educational comparability; five Asian countries with top achievements
for beneficial model experiences; and available countries in the TIMSS database.
A total of 1,816 middle schools from ten countries were chosen as the sample, and
these principals’ reports were from 220 Australian, 327 Canadian, 134 English,
117 Hong Kong, 144 Japanese, 150 Korean, 210 Russian, 159 Singaporean,
149 Chinese Taipei, and 206 US schools.
The school sampling weights (SCHWGT) were used in the statistic procedure
based on the TIMSS 2007 User Guide. Thus, the results may present occurrences of
the problem behaviors and correlation/regression analyses more comprehensively
and accurately. Descriptive statistics was employed to compare occurrences of the
student problem behaviors between the countries. Pearson correlation was applied
to reveal the relationships of the student problem behaviors with teachers’ attitudes
and parental involvement. After merging school data with student data by school
number (IDSCHOOL), multiple linear regressions were conducted to predict stu-
dents’ academic achievements by the 11 student problem behaviors. The figures
were used to present the changes and trends of student problem behaviors during
four cycles of TIMSS by country.

Results
Comparison of student problem behaviors in middle schools among
the countries
Overall, the occurrences of the student problem behaviors in middle schools were
not very high. With a Likert-type scale, including five levels (from 1–never to
5–daily), none of the means was larger than 4.0 level (see Table 1). By the com-
parisons of 11 problem behaviors, four were higher: arriving late at school, class-
room disturbance, absenteeism, and violating dress code, which mostly were around
the 3.0 level; and four were rather low: physical injury to other students, theft,
cheating, and vandalism, which were below the 2.0 level. The arriving late at
school behavior had the highest means in eight countries (excluding Australia
and Korea), and school principals in six countries reported that this problem
behavior was often at more than a monthly (>3.0) level. The classroom disturbance
behavior was also frequent, and its occurrences were higher than monthly (>3.0)
level in Australia, Canada, England, and the US, but it was very low in Japanese
schools. The principals in Japan reported very low occurrences of theft, cheating,
classroom disturbance, profanity, and skipping class behaviors, but there were very
high rates of absenteeism and arriving late at school behaviors. In Russia, all student
problem behaviors were lower than those in other countries, and their rates of
vandalism and theft were extremely low. Korean students’ rate of classroom distur-
bance was fairly high as compared to other problem behaviors.
An interesting finding was that there were evident differences between four
Western countries: Australia, Canada, England, and the US and three countries

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24 School Psychology International 32(1)

Table 1. Comparisons of occurrences of student problem behaviors between countries


School Late Absent Skip Dress Disturb Cheat Profanity Vandal Theft Abuse Injury

Australia 220 M 3.59 3.28 2.64 3.29 3.71 2.06 3.20 2.38 2.22 3.15 2.01
SD 1.31 1.29 1.30 1.28 1.17 .71 1.28 .87 .65 1.00 .56
Canada 328 M 3.68 2.98 2.07 2.40 3.30 2.06 2.80 2.12 1.95 2.80 2.04
SD 1.25 1.23 1.22 1.01 1.20 .59 1.09 .81 .69 1.07 .71
England 134 M 3.45 2.94 2.47 3.14 3.30 1.86 2.91 2.15 2.00 2.60 2.06
SD 1.32 1.30 1.12 1.31 1.20 .44 1.19 .68 .52 .92 .56
HK 118 M 2.84 2.38 1.67 2.96 2.48 1.96 2.45 1.92 1.95 1.87 1.54
SD 1.16 1.03 .73 1.21 1.06 .53 1.08 .76 .58 .69 .58
Japan 144 M 3.03 3.00 1.73 2.23 1.64 1.54 1.66 1.84 1.47 1.87 1.69
SD 1.39 1.60 1.06 1.23 .96 .56 .89 .90 .62 .71 .70
Korea 150 M 2.19 1.70 1.42 2.28 2.64 1.27 1.90 1.55 1.47 1.73 1.53
SD 1.07 .85 .68 1.22 1.33 .44 .84 .68 .57 .69 .57
Russia 210 M 2.68 2.29 2.34 1.63 2.19 2.34 1.95 1.15 1.16 1.40 1.48
SD 1.15 1.03 .93 .92 1.03 .95 .92 .40 .37 .66 .51
Singapore 159 M 3.36 2.77 2.33 3.05 2.82 1.91 2.18 2.01 2.06 2.19 1.75
SD 1.32 1.13 .85 1.23 1.10 .28 .80 .53 .43 .64 .54
C-Taipei 151 M 2.65 2.18 1.87 2.52 2.44 2.03 2.84 2.19 1.73 2.09 1.88
SD 1.06 .69 .66 1.05 1.01 .50 1.05 .64 .57 .62 .49
USA 206 M 3.35 3.00 1.74 2.66 3.11 2.15 2.74 1.99 1.96 2.75 1.87
SD 1.22 1.31 .90 1.07 1.04 .60 1.12 .61 .66 .94 .68

The range of 11 student problem behaviors is from (1 ¼ Never) to (5 ¼ Daily).

with the least problem behaviors: Korea, Russia, and Japan. In the latter three
countries, student problem behaviors were below monthly (mostly <2.0) level,
which illustrated that in these three countries, students had very good school envi-
ronments. Because of the small means of the occurrences, the differences of the
occurrences [Standard Deviations (SD)] among the schools were small, and this
meant there were no large differences between all schools in each country. In Japan,
about 50% of the schools never had student classroom disturbance behaviors, but in
the four Western countries, nearly 30% of schools reported that this problem
behavior occurred daily. The occurrences of student problem behaviors in
Australian middle schools were very high (six problem behaviors >3.0), and
eight problem behaviors had the largest frequency values among all participating
countries with very large SD, which illustrates that these problem behaviors varied
immensely even within Australian schools. Almost all student problem behaviors in
Canada, England, and US also have high frequencies, and more than 20% of
school principals reported student absenteeism behavior daily, but in Korea,
about 23% of schools never had this problem behavior. By comparisons, those
occurrences of problem behaviors in Singapore, Chinese Taipei, and Hong Kong
were mostly at medium levels.

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Gu et al. 25

Student problem behaviors related to teachers’ attitudes and


parental involvement
Student problem behaviors and teachers’ attitudes. Teachers’ attitudes in this
study included their job satisfaction and expectations for student achievement.
Almost all correlations between teachers’ attitudes and student problem behaviors
were negative, and most of them were significant, especially in four countries:
Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Canada (see Table 2). In middle schools,
there were negative interactions between student problem behaviors and teachers’
attitudes. In all these relationships, student absenteeism, classroom disturbance, and
skipping class behaviors had very high negative correlation with teachers’ expecta-
tions for student achievement. High occurrences of these problem behaviors, which
directly take place in classrooms and influence instruction procedures certainly
affected teachers’ emotions and prospects for student achievement. Students’ intim-
idation or verbal abuse of other students, and physical injury to other student behav-
iors seriously deteriorated school environment and safety, and they also
significantly negatively correlated with teachers’ attitudes towards students and
job. Nevertheless, theft, vandalism, and cheating were weakly related with teachers’
attitudes, because teachers were less involved in these student behaviors directly.
The relationships of teachers’ attitudes with violating dress code and arriving late at
school problem behaviors were distributed over medium levels and varied among
the countries.

Student problem behaviors and parental involvement. The negative relation-


ships between student problem behaviors and parental involvement were more
significant than those between the behaviors and teachers’ attitudes. The more
parental supports for student achievement and involvements in school activities,
the fewer occurrences of the student problem behaviors in schools (see Table 3).
Although a few correlations were weak in Chinese Taipei and Singapore, almost
all the results of correlations between parental involvement and the student prob-
lem behaviors were also negative. Overall, to middle school students, parental
support and involvement had very positive effects on prevention of the problem
behaviors in school. In Australia, Canada, US, and England, parental involvement
greatly reduced the occurrences of student absenteeism, classroom disturbance, pro-
fanity, arriving late at school, and vandalism problem behaviors. Nevertheless, the
relationships between the parental involvement and cheating and theft were rather
weak in several countries (e.g. in Chinese Taipei, Singapore, and Russia).

Student problem behaviors and academic performance


Using school codes, we merged school files with student problem behaviors and
student files with their academic achievement. Some cases were missed in this
procedure, because not all schools matched the students. Therefore, those schools
without student variables were excluded in the regression analysis (see Table 4).

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26

Table 2. Correlations between student problem behaviors and teachers’ attitudes

M SD Late Absent Skip Dress Disturb Cheat Profanity Vandal Theft Abuse Injury

Australia 3.85 .63 0.29*** 0.41*** 0.50*** 0.33*** 0.33*** 0.04 0.29*** 0.45*** 0.21** 0.14* 0.25***
Canada 3.88 .53 0.30*** 0.30*** 0.18*** 0.28*** 0.27*** 0.26*** 0.38*** 0.23*** 0.13* 0.21*** 0.14*
England 3.97 .55 0.21* 0.25** 0.21* 0.24** 0.15 0.02 0.17* 0.19* 0.10 0.24** 0.23**
HK 3.77 .54 0.23* 0.29** 0.20* 0.20* 0.26** 0.21* 0.19* 0.26** 0.25** 0.19* 0.28**
Japan 3.52 .50 0.32*** 0.27** 0.32*** 0.30*** 0.26** 0.25** 0.29*** 0.34*** 0.32*** 0.31*** 0.31***
Korea 3.83 .60 0.39*** 0.32*** 0.21** 0.33*** 0.41*** 0.11 0.22** 0.15 0.26** 0.17* 0.25**

Teachers0 attitudes
Russia 3.29 .39 0.24*** 0.30*** 0.29*** 0.03 0.24*** 0.11 0.19** 0.02 0.13 0.34*** 0.20**
Singapore 3.76 .56 0.15 0.24** 0.19* 0.16* 0.31*** 0.02 0.12 0.07 0.06 0.18* 0.24**
C-Taipie 4.00 .55 0.35*** 0.22** 0.08 0.13 0.17* 0.15 0.39*** 0.41*** 0.15 0.13 0.27***
USA 3.96 .61 0.15* 0.05 0.31*** 0.09 0.27*** 0.13 0.31*** 0.12 0.14* 0.24*** 0.29***
(The range for teachers’ attitudes is 1–5); *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001.

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School Psychology International 32(1)
Gu et al.

Table 3. Correlations between student problem behaviors and parental involvement

M SD Late Absent Skip Dress Disturb Cheat Profanity Vandal Theft Abuse Injury

Australia 3.21 .81 0.37*** 0.50*** 0.51*** 0.37*** 0.40*** 0.01 0.42*** 0.40*** 0.17 0.29*** 0.24***
Canada 3.08 .84 0.37*** 0.49*** 0.39*** 0.33*** 0.35*** 0.26*** 0.44*** 0.33*** 0.25*** 0.36*** 0.19**
England 3.15 .73 0.48*** 0.56*** 0.39*** 0.23** 0.33*** 0.03 0.25** 0.22* 0.13 0.26** 0.16
HK 2.96 .81 0.37*** 0.34*** 0.26** 0.35*** 0.22* 0.15 0.20* 0.25** 0.16 0.24** 0.37***
Japan 3.20 .67 0.26** 0.20* 0.38*** 0.28*** 0.27*** 0.13 0.27** 0.38*** 0.22*** 0.23** 0.19*
Korea 3.28 .77 0.33*** 0.31*** 0.23** 0.21* 0.22** 0.07 0.21*** 0.20* 0.26** 0.23** 0.29***

Parental Involvement
Russia 2.81 .48 0.21** 0.29*** 0.19** 0.07 0.28*** 0.07 0.17* 0.09 0.01 0.14* 0.04
Singapore 3.09 .68 0.19* 0.29*** 0.25** 0.12 0.37*** 0.01 0.19* 0.11 0.05 0.16* 0.24**
C-Taipei 3.75 .72 0.16 0.08 0.05 0.03 0.03 0.09 0.24** 0.25** 0.23** 0.10 0.10
USA 3.14 .94 0.16* 0.43*** 0.47*** 0.18* 0.43*** 0.24*** 0.49*** 0.28*** 0.29*** 0.38*** 0.45***
(The range for parential involvement is 1–5); *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001.

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27
28

Table 4. Multiple regression for preditions of students’ academic achievement by student problem behaviors

Late Absent Skip Dress Disturb Cheat Profanity Vandal Theft Abuse Injury r2/Fdf¼11 M/SD

Australia b 0.07 0.17 0.15 0.00 0.11 0.18 0.09 0.04 0.06 0.04 0.18 .25/115*** 505.7
t 3.01** 6.05*** 6.31*** 0.00 5.05*** 11.00*** 3.89*** 1.75 3.39*** 1.90 10.77*** 67.9
Canada b 0.05 0.09 0.10 0.05 0.01 0.01 0.08 0.06 0.02 0.07 0.02 .06/36*** 519.8
t 2.49* 4.54*** 5.79*** 2.92** 0.32 0.43 4.18*** 3.00** 1.25 4.24*** 1.29 56.7
England b 0.16 0.27 0.05 0.03 0.03 0.15 0.04 0.13 0.16 0.05 0.03 .17/67*** 526.4
t 6.07*** 8.47*** 1.93 1.45 1.18 8.43*** 1.62 6.00*** 7.34*** 2.11* 1.37 72.8
HK b 0.07 0.33 0.01 0.13 0.17 0.17 0.04 0.09 0.07 0.15 0.03 .26/103*** 545.4
t 2.51* 11.79*** 0.64 5.82*** 6.23*** 8.31*** 1.70 4.19*** 3.18** 6.38*** 1.20 74.2
Japan b 0.03 0.04 0.03 0.11 0.07 0.09 0.07 0.04 0.00 0.02 0.04 .06/25*** 557.5
t 1.40 2.10* 1.21 4.33*** 2.91** 3.70*** 2.56* 1.29 0.05 0.88 1.50 67.6
Korea b 0.07 0.08 0.00 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.03 0.06 0.09 .01/5*** 569.3
t 3.24** 3.78*** 0.03 0.57 0.25 0.39 0.47 0.67 1.18 2.71** 3.78*** 70.9
Russia b 0.04 0.13 0.03 0.17 0.05 0.04 0.05 0.02 0.02 0.03 0.00 .05/18*** 517.2
t 1.95 6.02*** 1.30 9.30*** 2.47* 1.92 2.71** 1.21 1.40 1.42 0.01 68.1
Singapore b 0.12 0.01 0.17 0.10 0.04 0.09 0.10 0.10 0.01 0.06 0.12 .13/58*** 572.6
t 5.33*** 0.25 8.21*** 4.84*** 1.69 6.13*** 4.88*** 5.01*** 0.64 3.10** 6.85*** 86.9
C-Taipei b 0.01 0.00 0.09 0.05 0.03 0.07 0.04 0.11 0.14 0.06 0.00 .02/9*** 573.1

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t 0.48 0.10 2.76** 1.79 1.18 3.71*** 1.42 4.42*** 6.11*** 2.45* 0.01 84.8
USA b 0.08 0.09 0.07 0.08 0.01 0.08 0.07 0.05 0.00 0.02 0.09 .06/34*** 512.6
t 3.78*** 4.15*** 3.66*** 4.44*** 0.41 5.03*** 3.48*** 2.58** 0.20 1.23 5.66*** 67.4
(The range for students’ achievement is 200–800); *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001.
School Psychology International 32(1)
Gu et al. 29

The results of regressions revealed that influences of student problem behaviors


on their academic achievement were different among the countries. The prediction
rates (R2) in Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Russia (< ¼ 5%) were not high, but in
Hong Kong (R2 ¼ 26%), Australia (R2 ¼ 25%), England (R2 ¼ 17%) and Singapore
(R2 ¼ 13%), these rates were practicable to predict students’ academic achievement
by student problem behaviors. Student absenteeism, intimidation or verbal abuse of
other students, profanity, and skipping class played significantly negative roles in
predictions of student academic achievement in most participating countries.
Student cheating, theft, and violating dress code behaviors were positively correlated
with student academic achievement in England, Singapore, and Chinese Taipei.
These weak relationships/predictions in some countries also provided two ques-
tions: (1) were the student problem behaviors in school reported by principals not
sensed by students, or students were not aware, or disturbed by these problem
behaviors; and (2) are there some student problem behaviors or school environ-
ments that do not influence students’ academic study?

Changes of student problem behaviors by four cycles


Regarding student problem behaviors, TIMSS 1995, 1999, and 2003 school ques-
tionnaire used the same items, which could compare the changes of the problem
behaviors during these four regular cycles (except missing data for two cycles in
England, and 1995 data in Japan and Chinese Taipei). From the figures (see
Figures 1a, 1b, 1c), an evident trend was that student problem behaviors reported
by principals in middle schools were decreasing from 1995–2003, but the numbers
of occurrences in many countries increased in 2007. This trend in Australia,
Canada, Singapore, and the US was particularly true. The changes of vandalism,
theft, intimidations or verbal abuse, and physical injury in Figure 1c were not very
large, and mostly were decreasing over these 12 years, with the exception of student
intimidations or verbal abuse of other students behaviors which had rebounds in
several countries. The changes in Korea presented the best improvement of student
problem behaviors during these four cycle years, but profanity behavior did not
have significant changes. The changes of student problem behaviors in Japan were
small, where the occurrences were low through whole nine years, and the serious
absenteeism problem behavior in this country had lowered by about 0.5 level during
the nine years. In Russia, changing trends of student problem behaviors were good,
except for cheating and profanity behaviors were more serious in 2003 and 2007.

Discussions and conclusions


Although principals’ reports are different among the countries, the occurrences of
student problem behavior in middle schools show similar level orders in the par-
ticipating countries. arriving late at school, absenteeism, skipping class, and class-
room disturbance are problem behaviors that are common or severe, and these
student problem behaviors have stronger relationships with teachers’ attitudes,

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30 School Psychology International 32(1)

(a) Occurance Late Absent Skip


4.5

4.0

3.5

3.0

2.5

2.0

1.5

1.0
95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07
Australia Canada England H.K. Japan Korea Russia Singapore C-Taipei USA

(b) Occurance Dress Disturb Cheat Profanity


4.5

4.0

3.5

3.0

2.5

2.0

1.5

1.0
95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07
95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07
95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07
95
99
03
07
95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07
Australia Canada England H.K. Japan Korea Russia Singapore C-Taipei USA

(c) Occurance Vandal Theft Abuse Injury


4.5

4.0

3.5

3.0

2.5

2.0

1.5

1.0
95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

95
99
03
07

Australia Canada England H.K. Japan Korea Russia Singapore C-Taipei USA
1-Never to 5-Daily

Figure 1. (a–c) Comparisons of occurrances of student problem behaviours.

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Gu et al. 31

parental involvement, and students’ performances than other problems. Student


problem behaviors in classrooms partly indicate that troubled students do not like
or do not pay attention to what they are studying in schools. So, raising awareness
of the importance of academic studying, fostering of interests in learning, and
developing meaningful and vivid lectures and activities in classes are basic strate-
gies for reducing student problem behaviors in classrooms. Of course, other pre-
vention or intervention programs/methods could also be implemented.
Middle school teachers’ job satisfaction and expectations for student achieve-
ment are negatively related with the student problem behaviors, especially with
those problem behaviors occurring in classrooms. Teachers’ expectations lead
them to change teaching strategies and classroom activities, and influence students’
learning system in schools. Teacher efforts to improve sensitivity, prospects, and
supportiveness of students can have a broader influence on children’s overall
school functioning (Rey, Smith, Yoon, Somers, & Barnett, 2007). Highly negative
correlations of teachers’ attitudes with absenteeism, skipping class, classroom dis-
turbance, and arriving late at school behaviors should caution all school adminis-
trators and teachers. From very high scores of mathematics and science tests in five
Asian countries, the top reading achievement in Russia,2 and low occurrences of
student problem behavior in school, it is necessary to explore further the relation-
ships of student problem behaviors with their values on knowledge and school
learning, and with academic achievement.
Generally, teachers’ high expectation on student performance and parental
involvement in school activities play important roles in reducing student problem
behaviors in schools. Children’s perceptions are a great predictor of emotional and
behavioral problems (Berthold & Hoover, 2000; Yazdkhasti & Harizuka, 2006). It
is essential to foster more concern and encouragement from teachers and parents
for reduction of problem behaviors in school. Therefore, how to increase support
from teachers and parents needs to be further discussed to lead to better school
environments, reduce classrooms disruption so that more time can be devoted to
learning and instruction.
An interesting finding is that student problem behaviors in Japanese, Korean,
and Russian middle schools are very different from the Western countries. In these
three countries, the occurrences of student problem behaviors are fairly low, and
the predictions for academic achievement by these problem behaviors were lower
than those in the other countries. Of course, these differences are related to school/
nation culture, policy of education, social values, environment, and school psy-
chology between the three countries and the Western regions. Inquiry of advan-
tages and weaknesses of school culture and climate in the two regions is an
advanced research field of international school psychology.
The same occurrence questions were reported by middle school principals across
the four cycles, and thus, the changes during this period (12 years) basically rep-
resented development trends of student problem behaviors in schools. A common
tendency is that there was an evident decrease of student problem behaviors
in school from 1995–2003, but the rates had a rebound in last four years.

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32 School Psychology International 32(1)

What happened in each participating country that led to changes in the numbers of
student problem behaviors in schools? More studies in this field should find and
discuss the relationships of student problem behaviors in school with worldwide
development and changes.
Public opinion over the past 30 years consistently rates lack of discipline in
schools to be one of the biggest problems teachers have to contend with in schools
(De Jong, 2005). Analyses of international databases may help educators find
existing educational states of affairs and relationships from a worldwide perspec-
tive, but its limitations are that the questions are beyond the scope of items in the
databases and are therefore unavailable for analyses and impossible to follow-up.
Thus, clear explanations of causes and internal reasons of the results requires
further investigation.

Notes
1. The term ‘country’ in this article is from the TIMSS unit, which does not involve any
political argument.
2. For the results of students’ Mathematics and Science testing scores, see the Report of
TIMSS, and the results of Reading testing scores from PIRLS.

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Haigen Gu is a Professor of Psychology in the Department of Applied Psychology,


Educational College, Shanghai Normal University. Interests include school and
educational psychology, and student Internet addictions. Address: No.100 Gui
Lin Road, Shanghai, 200234, China.

Shu-Ling Lai, EdD, is a Professor in the College of Creative Design, Asia


University. Her current interests are in computer technology in school and

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34 School Psychology International 32(1)

creative design psychology fields. Address: 500, Lioufeng Road, Wufeng, Taichung
41354, Taiwan. Email: ccd@asia.edu.tw

Renmin Ye, EdD, is a Senior Research Specialist in the Research Department,


Houston Independent School District. Current interests include cross-cultural
studies using international education database. Address: HISD, 2NW38E, 4400
West 18th Street, Houston, TX 77092, USA.

Appendix

Items from TIMSS (2007) school questionnaire


7. How would you characterize each of the following within your school?
a) Teachers’ job satisfaction
d) Teachers’ expectations for student achievement
e) Parental support for student achievement
f) Parental involvement in school activities
Answers: 1–Very low; 2–Low; 3–Medium; 4–High; 5–Very high
[the Mean of items a) and d) is teachers’ satisfaction; and the Mean of items
e) and f) is parental involvement]
18. How often does each of the following problem behaviors occur among students
in your school?
a) Arriving late at school
b) Absenteeism (i.e. unjustified absences)
c) Skipping class <hours/periods>
d) Violating dress code
e) Classroom disturbance
f) Cheating
g) Profanity
h) Vandalism
i) Theft
j) Intimidation or verbal abuse of other students
k) Physical injury to other students
Answers: 1–Never; 2–Rarely; 3–Monthly; 4–Weekly; 5–Daily
[Main variables; same items in 1995 – 18, in 1999 – 17, in 2003 – 22]

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