Work avoidance goals, which refer to wanting to do as little as possible in school, are detrimental to school success. Given its maladaptive nature, studies have investigated the antecedents of work avoidance, such as the role of personal characteristics and social-contextual factors. The influence of one’s classmates, however, remains under-explored. Drawing from social contagion research, we examined whether work avoidance goals spread among classmates. Questionnaires were administered to 1524 adolescent students nested within 50 classes. Two waves of data were collected one semester apart. Multilevel modeling was used to analyze the data. Results showed that a student’s work avoidance in Time 2 was predicted by his/her classmates’ work avoidance in Time 1. These results held even after controlling for one’s own Time 1 work avoidance. Moreover, work avoidance goals led to higher levels of disengagement and lower levels of engagement. The findings demonstrate that work avoidance goals are socially contagious and that they have negative consequences for students’ engagement. This study extends our theoretical understanding of work avoidance by highlighting the vital role played by one’s classmates in shaping students’ avoidance of schoolwork and the deleterious consequences that come with it. Copyright © 2021 Instituto Universitário de Ciências Psicológicas, Sociais e da Vida.
CitationMendoza, N. B., & King, R. B. (2021). The social contagion of work avoidance goals in school and its influence on student (dis)engagement. European Journal of Psychology of Education. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10212-020-00521-1
- Social contagion
- Work avoidance goals
- Avoidance goal contagion