Effect Of Social Problems On The Academic Performance

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Background to the study

Anti-social activities are rampant in the contemporary Nigerian Society. This is evident in the deluge of social problems witnessed on regular bases. These problems which include various factors such as social inequality, ethnicity, limited resources, corruption, poverty, criminality, and other socio-economic crises pervade the length and breadth of the country. There is a wide gap between the expectations of the society and its actual manifestations. Hardly would a day go by without a record of one form of social problem or the other.

In line with the above, Osarenren (2002) argued that societal attitudes change because society is dynamic and changes occur quite frequently and to support her claims, she advanced some fundamental reasons for anti-social behaviours in the society. For her, one of the reasons is the change in the structure of the society which happens to be as a result of rapid transition from rural to urbanization and industrialization; secondly, there has been a serious disruption of sense of community solidarity and of the integrity of the extended family structure; and thirdly, it is observed that delinquency is on the rise in deteriorated neighborhoods near the city centres of large cities. One may therefore surmise that delinquency is closely associated with urbanization.

From a sociological perspective, a social problem exists when there is a sizable difference between the ideals of a society and its actual achievements. From this perspective, social problems are created by the failure to close the gap between the way people want things to be and the

 way things really are (Coleman, 1999). Certain social conditions are detrimental in any situation (Eitzen, Smith & Baca-Zinn, 2009). These conditions prevent members of a society from developing and using their full potential. Those conditions like poverty, racism, unequal opportunity are, therefore, social problems in any social setting.

There is a common consensus among experts that deviance is a social problem and could be seen as a product of both personal and social traits. Osarenren (2002) argued that any behavior which does not conform to the rules, regulations, norms and values of a given time is viewed as deviance. In line with this position, Ajuzie (2005), submitted that deviance should be eradicated or put to control in the society .She argues further that the best a society could do in order to achieve this is to undertake application of knowledge to practical ends, through corrections, development of policies and programmes for combating crime and deviance, to reform, remobilize and to treat deviants. Matza (1964) came up with the idea of treating deviant cases when he projected a premise that something must be wrong with a deviant actor and which compels him to be lawless and inhibits him from conformity to conventional norms and the laws of the society.

Education is a watchdog that is essential for correcting the problem of deviance and ensuring conformity to institutional rules and regulations. The impact of education on change and adjustment is tremendous in that knowledge is light, it transforms and leads in the right direction. The thrust of this study is to explore the effect of social problems on the academic performance and social adjustment of secondary school students. In this breadth, ‘deviance’ readily comes to mind, because it is a term that is easily associated with social problems among youths in general and secondary school students in particular.

Before the study is explored in-depth, laying a solid foundation with regards to relevant accounts of social deviance issues among  youths and secondary school students in Nigeria will be useful.In the account of Osaat (1999),the present Nigeria generation has been a generation of youth restiveness and moral decadence, sporadic ethnic and religious violence, insurgent tribal youth militias, and labour unrest among adult workers, and a generation where youths grow with criminal tendencies, with growing interests in cultic activities, and examination malpractice as the dominant means of achieving success in educational institutions.

Deviance, disturbances, crises, issues, violence, unrest and all anti-social behaviours, all of which have been categorized as social problems are prevalent in every sector of the Nigerian nation. The primary focus of this study is to lay emphasis on these problems with a focus on the educational sector and especially among students of senior secondary schools in Nigeria. Student participation in anti-social behaviours is on a steady rise. The alarming effect of this behavior constitutes a major challenge Teachers, Parents, Guardians, and the Government, the stake-holders in the educational sector and even among the well meaning Nigerians at large.

A number of occurrences, which have become the ‘norm’, are testimony to the fact that social problems in schools have come to stay. A practical example was recorded by the Nation newspaper of Thursday, June 21, 2012, that social unrest broke out at the Government Girls Secondary School in Abuloma, Port- Harcourt. At the aftermath of the violence, about 13 students including teaching staff were recorded to have sustained various degrees of injuries.  The Nigerian Tribune of Thursday, October 4, 2012 also recorded the killings of about 46 students of the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Adamawa State. The Newspaper attributed the reason for the killings to ethnicity and school politics .Although investigations are still on going as to what led to the extra-judicial killings of the students, but some of the students have confessed that the perpetrators of the dastardly acts are very likely to be their fellow students. In an egalitarian society, there are ideals like peace, fairness, law and order, brotherhood, social and equitable justice, and whenever these collective ideals are truncated, social problems become the consequence.

Violence is rampant in secondary schools these days. According to Awujo (2006), Nigeria today is faced with the syndrome of youth restiveness, which is believed to be connected to the political, social and economic problems of our country. He argued that the syndrome of youth restiveness was borne out of the wounds of despair and disappointment. It is a cry of daily hurt, persistent injustice, exploitation, impoverishment, pain and anger as a result of man’s inhumanity to man.

Aside youth restiveness, there are other social problems witnessed among secondary school students. Sexual promiscuity is one of the problems associated with some secondary school students.Adenuga (2006) supports this claim by stating that the problem of sexual  promiscuity is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria especially among senior secondary school students. He went on to reveal that many secondary school students are under pressure to engage in premarital sex as the popular saying in the urban society is that “everybody is doing it”.

Sexual promiscuity among secondary school, if unchecked, eventually culminates into sexual perversions as lesbianism, homosexuality, transgender sex and other bizarre sexual experimentations like incest, bestiality and other sexual abnormalities. One cardinal danger that sexual promiscuity portends for teenage girls is teenage pregnancy which in all cases is unwanted pregnancies. This will either result in abortion or in teenage parenting which constitutes social problems. All forms of sexual promiscuity and the negative effects constitute danger for the affected victims; it makes them become social misfits. For example, a secondary school girl who gets pregnant will have to undergo series of castigations and rejections from her parents, family members, school mates and even her close friends. The reproach could even lead to her withdrawal from school, a case of school dropout.

Cultism among students is another case of social problem. Today, participation in cultic activities has been extended to students in the secondary schools, but this was not the case in recent past when cultism was limited to students of higher institutions only. The case of cultism on campuses gives credence to the claims of Salako (2005), that our institutions of learning in Nigeria today are being rocked by crises caused by secret cults on the campuses. Cultic activities have become the order of the day so much so that institutions of higher learning seldom run the normal school calendar.

Corruption has been linked with participation in cultism in the country. Eneh (2008) believes that widespread corruption in high places and endemic poverty in the society are precursors of cultism in Nigerian educational institutions. This claim is true when you look at the cases of cultism among students, one would realize that participation in cultic activities is majorly driven by the ambition of students to acquire power and money. That is why they hunt for students from well to do families as initiates, also, some political leaders in the country make use of student cultists to perpetrate evil so as to secure their political seats for as long as they want. These cultists carry out all the dastardly acts for the politicians in exchange for money. Corruption and endemic poverty are at the very roots of cultism in Nigeria’s educational institutions. Corruption eats deep into the fabrics of the society. Little wonder, Umar (2007),put forward a staggering statistics that about 2% of Nigerians control over 60% of the Nation’s financial assets, while over 70% of the population live below the poverty line (Encarta,2005).

The irony of our country is summarized below by Eneh (2006):

“Nigeria, a country blessed with the natural potentials to be among the richest nations of the world, is variously rated between the 13th and 21st poorest country; and 1st or 2nd most corrupt nation of the world” p.126.

There is need to also highlight problems of drug and substance abuse, truancy and juvenile delinquency among students. These all signify the existence of social problems in the society. Smoking and drug intake among youth, as adjudged by Oloyede (1996), is rampant among Nigerian youth of different socio-economic backgrounds both in rural and urban areas. Drug intake and smoking is common among secondary school students. Cigarettes and other performance-enhancing drugs come in cheap and readily available, so students can afford them irrespective of their social class, and also there seems to be no serious laws in the society prohibiting the access of students to these drugs.

Research has proven that students’ truancy is caused by social factors like unstable home life, poverty and socio-economic factors. Juvenile delinquency is another problem among students, it causes a lot of worries for Teachers and Parents. Research has also shown that the influence of the family on the lives of juvenile delinquents is certainly much greater. Studies show that children from poor homes are much more likely to commit serious criminal acts. (Coleman and Cressey, 1999).

From the accounts put forward in the background of this study, it is obvious that Nigeria, as a society, is plagued with multi-faceted social problems. These problems are affecting every segment of the society including the secondary schools which is the focus of this study. In order to establish the effects of social problems on the academic performance and social adjustment of senior secondary school students, it will be useful to highlight the two variables in focus, which are academic performance and social adjustment.

Performance of students in the classroom and school takes a central role in the academic development of the student. Parents, Teachers and School administrators alike take cognizance of the academic well-being of the students. Yardsticks are set by school authority to measure performance, the standards set by the school will determine whether a student is performing well or not.

In the assessment of performance, Ilogu (2004) argued that performance is the behavior of an individual that can be directly observed by another individual. There are schools of thought in academic performance. One school of thought justifies performance of students by evaluating what students have done as against what students have learnt throughout the course. This evaluation is done by measuring home work, test and even examination. By this method, areas of strength and weaknesses in a student’s academic career are determined and evaluated in order to improve on the learning process of the student. Academic performance of students allows for ranking of students in numerically identifiable scale. This is about positioning students in terms of performance. It can also be used for placement purposes. This method is used to determine students that will progress to the next class and those that will stay behind for another process of re-evaluation.

Studies have shown that factors which influence students’ academic performance include the following:

Hard work and discipline, family income, parent’s education, previous schooling and self motivation. Other factors include students’ aptitude, class attendance, age of student, student’s learning style matched with instructor’s delivery style. (Romer, 1993, Cohen & Huston,1995).

Aside students’ academic performance, their social adjustment in and out-of school environment is also very critical. Social adjustment and academic performance go along with Each other as one will either affect or compliment the other. Social adjustment, according to Kelvin and Robert (1991), is the psychological process through which people manage or cope with the demand and challenges of everyday life.

Social adjustment frequently involves coping with new standards and values. In the technical language of psychology, adjustment means getting along with members of the society as best as one can. Psychologists use the term adjustment of varying conditions of social and interpersonal relations in the society. In this regard, adjustment means reaction to the demands and pressures of the social environment imposed upon the individual. Whenever two types of demands come into conflict with each other and results in an adjustment being made, then some special problems of adjustment arises.

Adjustment in School has been described as a very important aspect of student life. Teachers are advised to be more concerned with the adjustment of students in school because the primary purpose of education is to train students to be well adjusted in their social life. Human beings have the capacity to adapt to new situations, they do not only adapt to physical demands but also adapt to social pressures. Social pressures play an important role in the choices students make. In an environment where the degree of social problems is high, then the student would easily fall for the social pressure. This is what the students face on a daily basis.

From the foregoing, it is evident that social problems in our society are generating concerns for all and sundry. This study is concerned about the extent to which social problems affect the academic performance and social adjustment of students in Nigeria.

It is on the basis of these assumptions that this study was construed to examine the effect of social problems on the academic performance and social adjustment of senior secondary school students of Shomolu Education District II of Lagos State, Nigeria.

Theoretical Framework.

This study is anchored on the effects of social problems on the academic performance and social adjustment of secondary school students. The theories that throw light on these problems are appraised below.

Social disorganization theory

This theory was propounded by Shaw and McKay (1969).It viewed society as a collectivity of people bound together by a set of interrelated norms and values. The theory sees deviance as a natural bye-product of rapid social change especially when the pace of social change is significant to disrupt a society’s normative order.

In this study, social disorganization theory will provide a framework for explaining how secondary school students develop deviant behaviours as a result of the rapidly changing social order of the society. The study investigates the extent to which change in society dictate social adjustment.

Labeling theory.

Labeling theory is another theory that strengthens the importance of this study. The theory was propounded by Howard Becker (1963). Howard Becker viewed deviance as the creation of social groups and not the quality of some act or behavior.

He believed that social groups create deviance by making rules whose infraction creates deviance, and by applying those roles to particular people and labeling them as outsiders. From this point of view, deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender’. The deviant is one to whom the label has been successfully attached.

According to Becker (1963), studying the act of the individual is unimportant because deviance is simply rule breaking behavior that is labeled deviant by persons in positions of power. He viewed those people that are likely to engage in rule breaking behavior as essentially different from members of the rule making or rule abiding society. Those persons who are prone to rule breaking behavior see themselves as morally at odds with those members of the rule abiding society.

Becker (1963) also detailed the process of how these deviant outsiders become involved in secondary deviance. Primary deviance is the first step, and the primary act may be either intentional or non-intentional. He argued that most people only think or fantasize in a deviant manner.

The process of being caught and labeled deviant by a person in position of authority leads to secondary deviance. Secondary deviance involves the acceptance of the deviant label. Certain rule breakers come to accept the label of ‘deviant’ as status.

In this study, labeling theory provides a framework for explaining the way and manner society reacts to known cases of deviance. Also, the study attempts to investigate primary and secondary deviance  as well as  distinguish behaviors that society terms as ‘socially acceptable’ from ‘rule breaking’ behaviours.

Physiological/ Biogenic theory.

A third theory that strengthens this study is the physiological or biogenic theory. The theory was propounded by Cesare Lombroso (1876). He attempted to explain human and social behavior by making use of genetic/biological mechanisms.

The theory stipulates that individuals with certain defective pathological characteristics are predisposed to criminal/ deviant activities. This links criminality/deviance with certain propensities to personalities, temperaments and particular body types or shapes.

During autopsy, he discovered that certain physical stigmata were apparent, making him formulate a number of theses indicating some criminal/deviance tendencies. He attached criminality/deviance to certain physiological attributes like: head size and shape common to race and region from which the criminal belongs, asymmetry of the face, eye defects and peculiarities, excessive dimensions of the jaw and cheek bones, ears of unusual size standing out from the head as those of the chimpanzee, abnormal dentition and others.

The theory provides a basis for linking deviance to some physiological constitutional defects or abnormality or cultural experiences.

Statement of Problem.

In recent times, it has become a common phenomenon to read, hear or witness incidences of students’ involvement in anti-social behaviours such as teenage pregnancy/parenting, child abuse, alcohol intake, drug abuse, rape, prostitution, sexual perversion, stealing, cultism, adolescent suicide, school dropout and all kinds of wanton misdemeanor.

Sad to say that some of these social problems are unfortunately fallout of the social ills in the society. It is the society that creates severe poverty, homelessness and economic hardships. Kyra (2009) supports the assumption that social problems are created by social structures when she revealed ‘that much of what goes on in society leaks into the school system, impacting students and their learning experience’. Eitzen et al (2009), also seconded the assumption by suggesting that norm violations are symptoms of social problems and that the source of deviance is found within the social structure. He continues, society plays a role in creating and sustaining deviance by labeling victims as. This shows that anti-social behaviours expressed by students are reflective of what obtains in the larger society.

Many have agreed that deviant acts perpetrated by students in the secondary schools are responsible for the downward turn in the academic performance and social adjustment of these students. It is not certain whether efforts taken by  researchers, teachers ,school administrators and stakeholders  at linking  behaviours  among secondary school students to social problems with a view to curbing these behaviours have yielded any fruits in the past.

In the light of the overall challenges of social problems in schools, this study sets out to examine the effect of social problems on the academic performance and social adjustment of senior secondary school students in selected schools in Shomolu District II of Lagos State.

Purpose of the Study

The specific objectives of the study include:

  1. To identify the common types of social problems exhibited by students in the selected schools for this study.
  2. To evaluate the social implications of the behavior exhibited by the students.
  3. To assess the various ways in which social behavior affects students’ classroom activities.
  4. To ascertain the impact of social problems on students’ academic performance.
  5. To ascertain the impact of social problems on students’ social adjustment.

Research Questions.

The study provided answers to the following research questions:

  1. What are the common types of social problems exhibited by secondary school students?
  2. What are the social implications of behaviours exhibited by the students?
  3. To what extent do social behaviours affect students’ classroom activities?
  4. To what extent do social problems impact on students’ academic performance?
  5. To what extent do social problems impact on students’ social adjustment?


The following hypotheses were tested in the study:

  1. The social problems students’ exhibit in school will not impact negatively on their academic performance.
  2. Students’ social problems will not significantly interfere with their social adjustment.
  3. There will be no gender difference in students’ deviant behaviours.

Significance of the study

The study will be beneficial to the following individuals:

  1. The Students:

The findings and recommendations of the study will inform students and help them understand the manifestations of social problems in Schools.It will enlighten them on ways of managing social problems and its influence on classroom activities.

  1. The Teachers:

The study will help them to easily identify students who exhibit behaviours that reflect social problems. They will also be equipped with the knowledge of managing students that are prone to social problems and working effectively with parents.

  1. The Parents:

Parents will benefit from knowledge of social problems which will enable them identify and associate with their children with the intent of solving the perceived problems.

  1. School Authority:

The school authority will be encouraged to pay more attention to social re-orientation programmes such as sex education, health and safety awareness, HIV/AIDS awareness, drug-free initiatives and adolescent counseling programmes.

  1. Government:

Relevant information on social problems in schools will inspire the Government to take pro-active measures, which may include enacting laws that will protect the rights of vulnerable students. It is expected that at the top of Government agenda is eradication of endemic poverty and its withering effects on school children.

The study will also encourage Government to work on solving the prevalent problems of social injustices, inequalities and economic challenges in the society. All the aforementioned factors adversely affect students’ academic performance and social adjustment in schools.

  1. The Society:

The study will create awareness on the social ills of the society. The awareness is expected to generate concerns for majority of people and stake holders in the society who in turn will gear up to eradicate the prevalent social problems of the society.

Scope of the study.

The study covers the effect of Social problems on the academic performance and social adjustment of Senior Secondary School students in Shomolu Education District II of Lagos State.

Definition of terms.

Academic performance: This is the behavior of a student that can be directly observed by evaluating what he/she has learnt during a course of study. This behavior can be measured through class work, homework, class participation and tests.

Deviance: This refers to possibility of an individual or group deviating from an established norm. Any behavior which does not conform to the rules, regulations, norms, and values of a given time is viewed as deviance.

Social adjustment: This is the psychological process through which a student copes with the challenges that his/her peers face daily. It involves coping with new values and standards.

Social problem: A social problem exists when a significant number of people in a society believe that a certain condition is in fact a problem.

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Effect Of Social Problems On The Academic Performance