Academic journal article College Student Journal

Obsessive-Compulsive Complaints and Academic Performance in College Students

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Obsessive-Compulsive Complaints and Academic Performance in College Students

Article excerpt

Obsessive-compulsive features contribute to academic failure in children and adolescents. Yet, only limited research of such features and academic performance has been conducted with college students. This study examined how obsessive-compulsive complaints, as measured by the Maudsley Obsessional-Compulsive Inventory. ([MOCI] Hodgson & Rachman, 1977), related to academic performance in a college student sample (N = 56). Analyses involved correlation, regression, and group comparisons. Students who indicated a higher level of obsessive-compulsive complaints earned a significantly lower course grade, despite having enrolled in fewer credit hours. Obsessive-compulsive complaints predicted course grades independent of credit hours. Such complaints were elevated significantly among non-Caucasian respondents. The MOCI may be of utility in predicting academic difficulty. Implications for intervention and future research are addressed.

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Students who experience symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorders (APA, DSM-IV-TR, 2000) may show a decline in their academic performance. The majority of studies that refer to this have involved grade-school children or adolescents (Adams, Waas, March, & Smith 1994; Clarizio, 1991; McGough, Speier, & Cantwell, 1993). Obsessive-compulsive features in youth "contribute significantly to school failure" (Parker & Stewart, 1994, p. 563). Such features persist, and present similarly, in adulthood (DSM-IV-TR, 2000; Swedo & Rapoport, 1989; Vanin, 1990). In fact, 18 to 24-year-olds who are also single or unemployed are at highest risk for obsessive-compulsive disorder ([OCD] Karno, Golding, Sorenson, & Burnham, 1988). It follows that obsessive-compulsive symptoms would contribute to poor academic performance in college students, just as these do in youth. Yet, despite the incidence of obsessive-compulsive symptoms in college students (Frost, Sher, & Geen, 1986; Sher, Martin, Raskin, & Perrigo, 1991; Sternberger, 1993), only limited research of those symptoms and academic performance has been conducted with college samples. This is surprising considering that college students, when compared with students in primary grades, are met with ever-greater academic responsibilities.

A limited number of previous studies may have implications for the phenomena described above, but have not specifically or systematically addressed it. For example, college students who engaged in compulsive checking behavior believed they studied material they in fact had not (Rubenstein, Peynircioglu, Chambless, & Pigott, 1993). Certain case studies note the potential for obsessive-compulsive university students to experience academic difficulties (Oldham & Morris, 1995). For example, one student wrote each page of her thesis 15 to 20 times over in an attempt to perfect it (Hughes & Campbell, 1991). Another student's dissertation was several years past due despite that he "organized" hundreds of related articles, and made "to do" lists (Durand & Barlow, 1997). Implications of these studies indicate the need for further research. Nevertheless, a thorough literature review reveals that an investigation of obsessive-compulsive complaints (as measured by the Maudsley Obsessional-Compulsive Inventory [MOCI]; Hodgson & Rachman, 1977) and academic performance among college students has not been completed. Examples of obsessive-compulsive complaints include checking and repeating behavior, the feeling that carefully executed tasks are not quite right, over-attention to detail, and failure to complete necessary tasks (Hodgson & Rachman).

The questions this study addresses are (a) How might obsessive-compulsive complaints relate to academic performance in a college student sample? (b) Is it possible to predict course grades based on MOCI scores? (c) Might other variables (i.e., course load and study habit) account for an association between obsessive-compulsive complaints and course grades? …

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