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Background of the Study

Adolescence is an important and distinct phase of life.  This is because it is a period characterized by rapid growth and social development.  Adolescence is a period an individual’s life between the ages of 13-19 years (Nwachukwu, 2004). According to Erickson (1902) adolescence is the stage of storm and stress. Furthermore, Erickson explained that aadolescent period is a stage where teens compare themselves with other peers. Chukwuka (2012) defines adolescence as a stage that is full of one’s aspiration and potential in life. Chukwuka further explained that the adolescent at this period has a dream and potential to achieve educationally, socially and economically in his society. Palaye (2001) defines adolescence as a period of high ambition and aspiration for oneself characterized by rapid change. Adolescence is perceived as the time when there is a shift of interests from parents to peers and ends with development of capacity for intimacy (Smetana, Campione-Barr, and Metzger, 2006). From the above assertion, it can be stated that adolescence is a period during which intense physical, emotional and psychological changes, accompanied by series of developmental tasks, take place within the individual. The researcher is concerned about the in-school adolescents, because these adolescents exhibit some perceived rebellious behaviour as a result of the hormonal upsurge prevalent at that stage. In-school adolescents are adolescents who are in secondary school.

Generally, the period of adolescence has a lot of implications on the lives of adolescents especially with regard to their activities in the school. This is because it is the period the adolescents tend to exhibit characters that will make them noticeable or popular among colleagues. Oni, (2010) states that adolescents in the school tend to be recognized and hailed as being popular either through their possession of social competence or high academic achievement. The author further adds that a key aspect of adolescent at this stage is sexual development which is characterized by qualitative changes in physical growth, emotional and exhibition of behaviours that will lead to his popularity in schools. Popularity can also be achieved by the adolescents through possession of social competence in sports especially in secondary schools.

Popularity is one of the driving forces among adolescents in secondary schools especially with regard to their self concept. Popularity means having a well established social place among peers who want to be with one, with whom one has social standing, with whom one can hang out, and who can provide the acceptable companionship one needs (Schwartz, Gorman, Nakamoto and McKay, 2006). In the context of this study, popularity refers to the extent adolescents are admired and are being liked by a large number of school mates in schools. Similarly, attaining popularity with a broad group of peers is conceptually and behaviourally distinct from the ability to manage the intensity of a relationship with best friends.

Popularity is related to various positive and negative characteristics in adolescence, such as antisocial and pro social behaviour, aggression, attractiveness and athleticism (Jeanique, 2009). Popular adolescents’ positive characteristics are features that represent health and reproductive success, like athletic abilities, physical attractiveness and prosociality. However, popularity is also positively correlated with antisocial behaviours such as substance use, disruptiveness, physical aggression, bullying and relational aggression (Dijkstra, Lindenberg, Verhulst, Ormel & Veenstra, 2009). This means that popular adolescents do not have to be well liked to be popular.

In secondary schools, popular students often command the respect and support of others sometimes positively or negatively. Some students can be popular through their performances in academics or sports while others achieve popularity because they are heady and assert negative tendencies like disobeying school teachers and their seniors. However such show of negative popularity can be one of the major factors contributing to poor academic achievement of some adolescents in secondary schools.  Adolescents who are popular are well socialized among their peers. They also appear to have increasing levels of delinquent and drug-using behaviours because they would want to be noticed at all times or to be socially competent among their peers.

Social competence is highly valued in most societies. There are different dimensions of competence and each manifest in different ways. Examples of competencies include academic competence, behavioural competence and social competence. Social competence deals with how effective a person is in ones social interactions. Scort (2005) defines social competence as the capacity of an adolescent to function effectively within a given social context. Such context makes adolescent to have a sense of belonging, value and opportunities to contribute meaningfully in the society. Socially competent adolescents are accepted by their peers and very often maintain high degree of relationship in the school. As applied in this study, social competence is a special quality possessed by an adolescent in school that makes him popular among his colleagues in the schools. This could be in the field of sports, dancing, acting and singing amongst others.

Competence, irrespective of gender describes student’s skill or ability in specific matter or being able to do something well like having skill in relating and interacting with people. Raven and Stephenson (2001) stated that competence grows through experience and the extent of an individual to learn and adapt. Males appear to demonstrate competence in science related subjects than females in some cases. Santrock (2009) observed that females tend to exhibit more competence in language related subjects than males in schools. In other words, social competence affects the achievement of males and females in their schools activities and can also affect their popularity among peers. An adolescent with positive social competence is said to have good interpersonal relationship with others.

Social competence with regard to gender is one of the foundations upon which expectation for future interaction with others is built, and upon which individuals develop perceptions of their own behaviour (Spence, 2003). Spence further stated that social skill describes the child’s knowledge of the ability to use a variety of social behaviours that are appropriate to a given interpersonal situations that are pleasing to others in each situation. The capacity to inhibit negative social behaviours could also be a reflection of social skill and this could also be reflected in the adolescents’ academic activities or achievement in schools.

Achievement means the attainment or the accomplishment of a desired goal. Achievement is a goal that can be successfully attained through hard work. Academic achievement is a concept explained in many ways by different scholars. Keeves, (2005) defines academic achievement as the actualization of the educational standard and appropriate goals as the major objective function of school in the society. This implies one being able to accomplish his desires with respect to educational goals, aims and objectives which are achieved through effort and competence in studies.  Scort (2005) defines academic achievement as education outcome demonstrating excellence in academic disciplines, either or both, in classroom and in extracurricular activities. This means that academic achievement of student is the ability of the student to study and remember facts and be able to communicate ones knowledge orally or on paper.

Academic achievement means how students deal with their studies and how they cope with or accomplish various tasks given to them by their teachers. Educational performance or achievement equally describes the extent to which educational goals have been achieved by both the students, teachers or even educational institution. In this context, academic achievement refers to the adolescents’ realization of his academic objectives in secondary school through which the adolescent may become popular among the colleagues.

Regrettably in Enugu education zone there have been reported cases of students’ poor academic achievement in West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NECO) results in recent times. Nwachukwu (2004) observed that over 65% of the candidate who sat for WAEC and NECO examinations in 2007/2008 academic session did not make up to twenty credits in English language and Mathematics and eighteen credits in biology and chemistry across the schools in Enugu education zone. Chuwuka (2012) lamented that over 56% of the candidate who sat for WAEC and NECO in 2011/2012 in secondary schools in Enugu education zone failed to credit English and Mathematics. These poor results were attributed to the students’ poor study habit relating to their delinquent and drug-abusing behaviours for popularity and social competence in the area.

Most of the student’s believe that with their popularity and high degree of   social competence among their peers that they can easily obtain their WAEC through frivolous practices like examination malpractice and other vices. Hence, they no longer pay attention to their academic activities. This no doubt is of great concern to parents and guardians as well as other stakeholders in education in Enugu Education Zone. It is against this background that the present study examines popularity as a predictor of academic achievement and social competence among schooling adolescents in the zone.

Statement of the Problem

Adolescence is a crucial stage in the development of every individual. It is a stage in which an adolescent seeks to establish his identity. As some adolescents interact with others in the school, they aspire to achieve certain levels of popularity which may or may not affect their life endeavour in the future with regard to their academic achievement in schools. This popularity can be achieved through possession of outstanding qualities in academic activities or social competences such as in sports, dancing and drama amongst others by the adolescents.  These traits if not well controlled by individuals can affect them in school activities negatively.

Unfortunately, there seems to be increasing poor performance of students in WAEC and NECO examinations in recent years in Enugu Education Zone. Through interaction with the teachers in the zone, the poor results were attributed to increasing delinquent behaviours of the students’ associated with popularity and social competence among their colleagues in schools. Most of these students no longer pay attention to their academic activities in the school. This has been a source of worry to school authorities, teachers and parents alike in the zone. It calls for an urgent solution in order to control the ugly situation. Hence, the problem put in a question form is: How doesopularity predict the academic achievement and social competence of students in Enugu Education Zone?

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of the study is to determine how adolescent popularity predicts academic achievement and social competence of schooling adolescents in Enugu Education Zone. Specially, the study intends to;

  1. Determine the popularity levels of the adolescents.
  2. Predict the relationships between adolescents’ popularity and academic achievement.
  3. Predict the relationships between adolescents’ popularity and social competence.


Significance of the Study

The findings of this study will be of theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, this study is anchored on Goal Framing Theory (Lindenberg, 2006) that places emphasis that various goals “frame” of an individual’s perception determines the degree of effort and determination towards achieving such goals. The findings of the study will help to extend the assumptions of the theory through schooling adolescents’ efforts towards popularity and social competence to achieve academically in schools. Practically, the findings of this study will be of immense benefits to students, teachers, parents, and future researchers.


The findings of the study will be of immense benefits to students because of its emphasis on the relationship between popularity and academic achievement. If eventually popularity is found to be a predictor to school achievement it then means that students should do as much as possible to acquire popularity so as to enable them achieve higher in schooling.

The findings of this study will also be beneficial to teachers because if popularity will actually be a predictor to social competence among adolescents, teachers will learn to design measures on how to help unpopular students to become popular so as to acquire social competence.

The findings of this study will reveal to the parents the likelihood of popularity in predicting academic achievement and social competence of their children. This will enable the parents to design measures on how to help their children improve on them.

The findings of this study will be of immense benefit to future researchers as it will provide a working document for theoretical and empirical evidence in the related area not covered by the present study.


Scope of Study

The study was delimited to senior secondary schools two (SSII) in public secondary schools in Enugu Education Zone, Enugu State. The content scope focused on determining how popularity predicts adolescents’ academic achievement, social competence; and how gender predicts adolescents’ academic achievement as well as social competence in schools within Enugu Education Zone.


Research Questions

The following research questions guided the study:

  1. What are the popularity levels of the adolescents?
  2. What is the relationship between adolescents’ popularity and academic achievement?