Perceived Stress and Academic Engagement for Dual Language Learners: Grit and Academic Support as Protective Factors

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Estevez, Gabriella Cristina
O'Neal, Colleen
For decades, the academic achievement gap between dual language learners (DLLs) and their non-DLL counterparts has remained at the forefront of education research. Stress is considered one of many contributors given its negative effects on academic achievement. However, little research exists on the effects of stress on academic engagement for DLLs, despite evidence that academic engagement is paramount for academic success. This study examines grit (teacher-reported and student-reported) and academic support (teacher and peer) as protective factors via moderation model testing of the relationship between perceived stress and two subtypes of academic engagement: emotional engagement (teacher-reported and student-reported) and behavioral engagement (student-reported only). Relying on transactional stress theory and risk and resilience theory, this model was tested using data collected from a school serving a majority of low-income, dual language learner (DLL) 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students (N = 142, 75% Latinx). Results indicated peer academic support was a protective factor for high-stressed DLL students (with outcome of student-reported emotional engagement) while student-reported grit was a protective factor for low-stressed DLL students (with outcome of teacher-reported emotional engagement). Schools and school psychologists are encouraged to address DLL students’ stress and implement evidence-based, systems-level practices that can mitigate the effects of stress on academic engagement for this demographic.