International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences 2015, 5(1): 26-34
Academic Stress, Parental Pressure, Anxiety and Mental
Health among Indian High School Students
Sibnath Deb1, Esben Strodl2,*, Jiandong Sun3
1Department of Applied Psychology, Pondicherry University, Puducherry, India
2School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Australia
3School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Australia
Abstract This work investigates the academic stress and mental health of Indian high school students and the associations
between various psychosocial factors and academic stress. A total of 190 students from grades 11 and 12 (mean age: 16.72
years) from three government-aided and three private schools in Kolkata India were surveyed in the study. Data collection
involved using a specially designed structured questionnaire as well as the General Health Questionnaire. Nearly two-thirds
(63.5%) of the students reported stress due to academic pressure – with no significant differences across gender, age, grade,
and several other personal factors. About two-thirds (66%) of the students reported feeling pressure from their parents for
better academic performance. The degree of parental pressure experienced differed significantly across the educational levels
of the parents, mother’s occupation, number of private tutors, and academic performance. In particular, children of fathers
possessing a lower education level (non-graduates) were found to be more likely to perceive pressure for better academic
performance. About one-thirds (32.6%) of the students were symptomatic of psychiatric caseness and 81.6% reported
examination-related anxiety. Academic stress was positively correlated with parental pressure and psychiatric problems,
while examination-related anxiety also was positively related to psychiatric problems. Academic stress is a serious issue
which affects nearly two thirds of senior high school students in Kolkata. Potential methods for combating the challenges of
academic pressure are suggested.
Keywords India, Secondary School, Academic Stress
Academic stress involves mental distress regarding
anticipated academic challenges or failure or even an
awareness of the possibility of academic failure . During
the school years, academic stressors may show in any aspect
of the child’s environment: home, school, neighbourhood, or
friendship [2, 3]. Kouzma and Kennedy reported that
school-related situations – such as tests, grades, studying,
self-imposed need to succeed, as well as that induced by
others – are the main sources of stress for high school
students . The impact of academic stress is also
far-reaching: high levels of academic stress have led to poor
outcomes in the areas of exercise, nutrition, substance use,
and self-care . Furthermore academic stress is a risk factor
for psychopathology. For example, fourth, fifth and
sixth-grade girls who have higher levels of academic stress
are more likely to experience feelings of depression .
1.1. The Indian Education System
* Corresponding author:
email@example.com (Esben Strodl)
Published online at http://journal.sapub.org/ijpbs
Copyright © 2015 Scientific & Academic Publishing. All Rights Reserved
The Indian school education system is textbook-oriented
that focuses on rote memorisation of lessons and demands
long hours of systematic study every day. The elaborate
study routines that are expected by high school students span
from the morning till late evening hours, leaving little time
for socialisation and recreation.
In India, the school education system is governed by two
major categories of educational boards recognised by the
government of India. The first category includes the
All-India Boards, like the CBSE (Central Board of
Secondary Education), the CICSE (Council for the Indian
School Certificate Examinations) and the National Open
School. The second category includes the State Level Boards
that are authorised to carry on their activities within the states
where they are registered. The education system in India is
highly competitive because of a lack of an adequate number
of good institutions to accommodate the ever-expanding
population of children. Hence children face competition at
the entry level of pre-primary education, and thereafter at the
end of every year, in the form of examinations that determine
their promotion to the next grade. In classrooms teachers
attempt to cover all aspects of a vast syllabus, often
disregarding the comprehension level of students .
Tenth grade terminates with first board examination – in
which the competition with other students expands from the
International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences 2015, 5(1): 26-34 27
school-level to the state and even the national level.
Performance on the 10th grade board examination is
important for a number of reasons. It determines, to a very
large extent, whether a student will get to specialize in
his/her preferred stream of education, and whether or not
they will be admitted into the institution of his/her choice.
Since the job prospects for students from the science stream
is somewhat better than that for students of humanities and
commerce, the popular choice for most of the students and
their guardians is the science stream in Grade 11. The choice
made regarding stream of study is often irrevocable. Unlike
the situation in many Western industrialised countries, in
India, it is difficult for a student to switch stream of
education after leaving school. This is particularly the case
for students specialising in commerce and humanities. These
structural factors exacerbate the academic stress experienced
by senior high school students.
The 12th grade, and high school life, ends with the second
board examination. The performance in the 12th grade final
examination is crucial for getting admission into one’s
preferred choice of college or university. The poor ratio of
number of available institutions to the aspirants for college
education ensures that the students face tremendous
competition in getting admission to tertiary education. In
addition, the majority of senior high school students who
specialise in science undergo further stress as they tend to
also sit for entrance examinations for admission in
engineering, medical and other specialized professional
courses. The pressure of preparation for examinations
creates a high degree of anxiety in many students, especially
in those who are unable to perform at a level that matches the
potential they have shown in less stressful situations .
1.2. School Disciplinary Measures
Although disciplinary measures in schools vary from
institution to institution in India, corporal punishment is
practiced in most of the schools in India. Corporal
punishment is often used for violation of school rules, for not
being able to answer questions in the class, not completing
home-work, and for coming to school late. In the recent past
there has been lot of discussion and debate about positive and
negative aspects of corporal punishment. To date there is no
specific law for prevention of corporal punishment in
schools in India.
1.3. Anxiety and Stress in School Children
Anxiety as a disorder is seen in about 8% of children and
adolescents worldwide [8, 9]. There is a still larger
percentage of children and adolescents in whom anxiety goes
undiagnosed owing to the internalized nature of the
symptoms . Anxiety has substantial negative effects on
children’s social, emotional and academic success .
Depression is becoming the most common mental health
problem suffering college students these days  – caused
by poor social problem-solving, cognitive distortions and
family conflict , as well as with alienation from parents
and peers, helpless attribution style, gender, and perceived
criticism from teachers . Mental health problems among
children and adolescents are frequent in India as well
Psychiatrists have expressed concern at the emergence of
education as a serious source of stress for school-going
children - causing high incidence of deaths by suicide .
Many adolescents in India are referred to hospital psychiatric
units for school-related distress – exhibiting symptoms of
depression, high anxiety, frequent school refusal, phobia,
physical complaints, irritability, weeping spells, and
decreased interest in school work [18, 19]. Fear of school
failure is reinforced by both the teachers and the parents,
causing children to lose interest in studies [1, 20]. This is
similar to the scenario in the East Asian countries where
psychiatrists use the terms ‘high school senior symptoms’ or
‘entrance examination symptoms’ to indicate mental health
problems among students .
The self-worth of students in the Indian society is mostly
determined by good academic performance, and not by
vocational and/or other individual qualities . Indian
parents report removing their TV cable connections and
vastly cutting down on their own social lives in order to
monitor their children’s homework . Because of
academic stress and failure in examination, every day 6.23
Indian students commit suicide  – raising questions
regarding the effects of the school system on the wellbeing of
Ganesh and Magdalin found that Indian children from
non-disrupted families have higher academic stress than
children from disrupted families . It is likely that the
children from disrupted families get less attention and
guidance from their parents regarding academic matters than
do their counterparts in non-disrupted families. This,
paradoxically, reduces their academic stress – thus
highlighting the negative impact of the parental vigilance
and persuasion on the academic lives of their children.
Given the said background, our purpose was to find out
degree of academic stress of 11th and 12th grade Indian
students experiences, as well its association with various
psycho-social factors and its effect on mental health.
1.4. Research Questions
1. Do adolescent boys and girls differ significantly with
respect to academic stress and examination-related anxiety?
2. Is educational level of the parents positively associated
with parentals expectations and pressure?
3. Does the nature of academic stress vary with
4. Do adolescents of different age groups suffer from
5. Is there any relationship between academic stress,
number of private tutors and examination-related anxiety?
6. Is there any relationship between communication skills
in English and examination-related anxiety?
7. Are adolescents involved in extra-curricular activities
28 Sibnath Deb et al.: Academic Stress, Parental Pressure, Anxiety and
Mental Health among Indian High School Students
less prone to academic stress?
8. Is there any impact of academic stress on the mental
health of adolescents?
The study was conducted on a group of 190 11th and 12th
grade adolescent students from six schools – three,
government-aided, and three, private – in Kolkata, one of the
largest metropolitan cities in India, following the multi-stage
sampling technique. Ten schools were officially approached.
Four schools declined to give permission on account of
examination and syllabus load.
The sample included 49 boys (25.8%) and 141 girls
(74.2%) aged between 16 and 18 years (mean age: 16.72
years and SD=.77). Several students could not provide
information about their parents’ educational background and
income. About 41% of the students had fathers who were
non-graduates while for the majority of them the fathers
were graduates and post graduates (58.8%). Fifty nine
percent and 41% of the mothers were non-graduates and
graduates/post graduates respectively. Of the fathers, 52.5%
were in government services while 47.5% of them were
engaged in business. Fifty two participants had working
mothers – self-employed or employed in the government or
2.2.1. General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) – Goldberg
and Hiller (1979)
The GHQ is a 28 item self-administered screening test
aimed at detecting short-term changes in mental health
among respondents . It consists of 4 subscales: (i)
somatic symptoms; (ii) anxiety and insomnia, (iii) social
dysfunction and (iv) severe depression. Each sub-scale
consists of seven items and each item has 4 response
alternatives. Scoring was done by Likert method (0-0-1-1).
The total score for the questionnaire ranges from 0 to 28 and
the score for each subscale ranges from 0 to 7. Threshold for
case identification was taken as 4/5, i.e., scores of 4 and
below signify a non-psychiatric case and scores of 5 and
above signify psychiatric caseness.
2.2.2. Structured Questionnaire
This questionnaire was developed by Dr. Sibnath Deb and
has five sections.
Section I: Demographic and Socio-economic Information,
comprised of six items on issues like age, gender, education,
parents’ education and occupation, and family income.
Section II: Perception about Stress of Adolescents,
comprised of eight items on feeling and level of academic
stress, source of academic pressure, number and necessity of
private tutors and its effects. An example of academic stress
related question is as follows: ‘Do you feel stressed because
of academic pressure?’ Participants are asked to respond in
terms of either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Section III: Anxiety related to Examination, comprised of
three items on nature and level of examination-related
anxiety and perception about coping strategies. An example
is provided: ‘Do you have any anxiety related to
examination?’ Participants are asked to respond in terms of
either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Section IV: Communication skills and Future Aspiration,
comprised of three items on proficiency in English and
Section V: Involvement in Extra-curricular Activities and
Academic Performance, comprised of four items on nature
of involvement in extracurricular activities, reasons for not
participating in extra-curricular activities and details of the
latest academic performance.
For some items, the mode of response was dichotomous
(yes/no), while others were multiple choice items. The
questionnaire was reviewed by two experts who gave
feedback on the utility of the questions, the face validity, and
language of the questions. The measure has been used in
other previously published research (43).
Written permission was obtained from all the schools after
explaining the objectives of the study to the school
authorities. At the time of data collection, students were
briefed about the objective of the study and its justification in
simple terms and were assured about confidentiality of the
information. Only those students who had given informed
consent for participation were covered in the study.
2.4. Data Analysis
In addition to the descriptive analysis of data, Pearson’s
chi-square test and/or Fisher’s Exact Test was applied to
ascertain the associations between the mental health
measures and the demographic and academic factors.
Several logistic regressions were conducted to further
examine the relationships between psychiatric caseness and
academic stress and/or examination-related anxiety. All
analyses were conducted using SPSS for Windows 17.0.
Statistical tests used were two-tailed with a significance level
Table 1 display the frequency and percentages for all
demographic variables considered in this study.
3.2. Academic Stress and Risk Factors
Most of the students (63.5%) reportedly felt stressed
because of academic pressure (Table 2). As shown in Table 3,
education level of the father was significantly associated
International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences 2015, 5(1): 26-34 29
with academic pressure (χ2(1, N=159)=5.96, p=.015):
participants whose fathers were non-graduates were found to
be more likely to report academic pressure. There were no
significant differences in academic stress across gender, age,
class, and other factors.
3.3. Parental Pressure and Risk Factors
About two-thirds (66.0%) of the students reported that
their parents pressurize them for better academic
performance (Table 2). Students whose parents were
non-graduates (χ2(1, N=158)=16.33, p<0.001 for father
education level; χ2(1, N=136)=8.15, p=.004 for mother
education level); whose mothers were self-employed (χ2(2,
N=133)=6.30, p=.043); who had none or at the most 1 or 2
private tutors (χ2(2, N=188)=11.07, p=.004); and who had an
average level of academic performance (χ2(2, N=186)=10.53,
p=.005) were more likely to experience parental pressure
than their counterparts.
3.4. Examination-Related Anxiety and Risk Factors
More than four-fifths (81.6%) of the students had some
anxiety related to examination (Table 2). Female students
(χ2(1, N=190)=6.53, p=.011) and those who were not
proficient in communicative English (χ2(1, N=189)=4.97,
p=.026) were more prone to examination-related anxiety
than male students and those who were proficient in
3.5. Mental Health and Risk Factors
About one-third (32.6%) of the students obtained a high
score (i.e., five and above) in GHQ which is above the
threshold for psychiatric caseness (Table 2). Gender is found
to be associated with examination-related anxiety and
psychiatric caseness (p<.05). At the same time, gender (χ2(1,
N=190)=4.49, p=.034) and father’s occupation (χ2(2,
N=162)=4.64, p=.031) were significantly associated with
increased GHQ score – with female students and students
whose fathers were employed in service reporting more
health problems than male students and students whose
fathers were engaged in business respectively (Table 2).
3.6. Relationships between Academic Stress, Parental
Pressure, Examination-related Anxiety and Mental
Academic stress was positively correlated with parental
pressure (χ2(1, N=187)=11.89, p=.001) but not examination
anxiety (χ 2(1, N=189)=1.99, p=.158). There was no
significant relationship between parental pressure and
Table 1. Description of the Sample (N = 190)
Count (%) Count (%)
Sex Father’s occupation
Male 49 (25.8) Business 77 (47.5)
Female 141 (74.2)
Age (years) Family income
16 90 (47.4) Less than Rs. 20, 000 p.m. 124 (81.0)
17 64 (33.7) Rs. 20, 000 to 40, 000 p.m. 29 (19.0)
18 36 (18.9) Number of Private Tutors
Grade None 16 (8.4)
11 116 (61.1) 1-2 63 (33.2)
12 74 (38.9) 3-4 105 (55.3)
Mother’s education Proficiency in English
Non-graduate 82 (59.4) Proficient 103 (54.5)
Graduate/Post graduate 56 (40.6) Not proficient 86 (45.5)
Father’s education Extra-curricular activity
Non-graduate 66 (41.3) Yes 122 (64.2)
-graduate 94 (58.8) No 68 (35.8)
Mother’s occupation Academic performance
Business 29 (21.5) Good/Very good 56 (29.8)
Service 23 (17.0) Moderate 100 (53.2)
Unemployed 83 (61.5) Not so good 32 (17.0)
Note: Sample sizes for each category were not necessarily equal due to missing data.
30 Sibnath Deb et al.: Academic Stress, Parental Pressure, Anxiety and
Mental Health among Indian High School Students
Table 2. Prevalence (%) of Academic Stress, Parental Pressure, Examination Anxiety and Psychiatric Caseness across Demographic Variables (N = 190)
Variables Academic stress Parental pressure Examination
Total 120 (63.5) 124 (66.0) 155 (81.6) 62 (32.6)
Male 27 (55.1) 35 (74.5) 34 (69.4) ** 10 (20.4) *
Female 93 (66.4) 89 (63.1) 121 (85.8) 52 (36.9)
16 50 (56.2) 54 (60.0) 76 (84.4) 27 (30.0)
17 45 (70.3) 45 (72.6) 51 (79.7) 24 (37.5)
18 25 (69.4) 25 (69.4) 28 (77.8) 11 (30.6)
XI 67 (58.3) 75 (64.7) 97 (83.6) 39 (33.6)
XII 53 (71.6) 49 (68.1) 58 (78.4) 23 (31.1)
Non-graduate 60 (73.2) 65 (81.3) ** 60 (73.2) 28 (34.1)
Graduate/Post graduate 33 (60.0) 33 (58.9) 46 (82.1) 15 (26.8)
Non-graduate 50 (75.8) * 55 (85.9) *** 53 (80.3) 20 (30.3)
Graduate/Post graduate 53 (57.0) 52 (55.3) 75 (79.8) 28 (29.8)
Business 19 (65.5) 24 (88.9) * 23 (79.3) 8 (27.6)
Service 16 (72.7) 17 (73.9) 20 (87.0) 8 (34.8)
Unemployed 55 (66.3) 53 (63.9) 60 (72.3) 26 (31.3)
Business 51 (66.2) 54 (71.1) 61 (79.2) 17 (22.1) *
Service 51 (60.7) 51 (60.7) 71 (83.5) 32 (37.6)
Less than Rs. 20, 000 p.m. 78 (63.4) 85 (69.7) 96 (77.4) 36 (29.0)
Rs. 20, 000 to 40, 000 p.m. 21 (72.4) 21 (72.4) 25 (86.2) 13 (44.8)
Number of private tutors
None 13 (81.3) 15 (93.8) ** 12 (75.0) 8 (50.0)
1-2 43 (68.3) 46 (74.2) 54 (85.7) 21 (33.3)
3-4 64 (58.2) 63 (57.3) 89 (80.2) 33 (29.7)
Proficiency in English
Not proficient 56 (65.1) 61 (71.8) 76 (88.4) * 32 (37.2)
Proficient 64 (62.7) 62 (60.8) 78 (75.7) 29 (28.2)
No 42 (61.8) 42 (61.8) 59 (86.8) 22 (32.4)
Yes 78 (64.5) 82 (68.3) 96 (78.7) 40 (32.8)
Not so good 19 (59.4) 19 (59.4) ** 28 (87.5) 13 (40.6)
Moderate 67 (67.0) 75 (76.5) 79 (79.0) 35 (35.0)
Good/Very good 32 (58.2) 29 (51.8) 46 (82.1) 14 (25.0)
Note: Sample sizes for each group were not necessarily equal due to missing data. * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001
Several logistic regressions were conducted to examine
the relationships between academic stress, parental pressure,
examination-related anxiety and psychiatric caseness (Table
3). Results showed that academic stress (OR=2.3, 95% CI:
1.2 – 4.6) and examination anxiety (OR=2.7, 95% CI: 1.1 –
7.0) were significantly associated with psychiatric caseness.
When the impact of gender was controlled, the relationship
between academic stress and mental health remained
significant (Adjusted OR = 2.2, 95% CI: 1. 1 – 4.4). Parental
pressure also had a positive but not statistically significant
association with psychiatric caseness (Table 3).
International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences 2015, 5(1): 26-34 31
Table 3. Associations between Academic Stress, Parental Pressure, Examination Anxiety and Mental Health (N = 190)
Prevalence of psychiatric caseness (%) OR (95%CI) Adjusted OR (95%CI) a
No 15 (21.7) 1 1
Yes 47 (39.2) 2.3 (1.2 – 4.6) 2.2 (1.1 – 4.4)
No 16 (25.0) 1 1
Yes 45 (36.3) 1.7 (0.9 – 3.4) 1.9 (0.9 – 3.8)
No 6 (17.1) 1 1
Yes 56 (36.1) 2.7 (1.1 – 7.0) 2.4 (0.9 – 6.3)
Note: OR = Odds ratio; CI = Confidence interval a Adjusted for gender.
The mental health of students, especially in terms of
academic stress and its impact has become a serious issue
among researchers and policymakers because of increasing
incidence of suicides among students across the globe. The
present study revealed that 63.5% of the higher secondary
students in Kolkata experience academic stress. Parental
pressure for better academic performance was found to be
mostly responsible for academic stress, as reported by 66.0%
of the students. The majority of the parents criticized their
children by comparing the latter’s performance with that of
the best performer in the class. As a result, instead of
friendship, there develops a sense of rivalry among
classmates. Some parents even tend to demean the
achievement of the top scorer of the class by stating that
he/she might have been favoured by the teacher .
There are instances of mental health problems in
secondary school students (10th grade final examination) and
senior high school student (12th grade final examination).
Pushed by the parents to ‘be the best’ in art or music lessons
and under pressure to score well in school, some students
cannot cope with the demands anymore and emotionally
collapse when the stress is high. Constantly pushed to
perform better in both academic and extra-curricular
activities, some children develop deep rooted nervous
disorders in early childhood .
Parents put pressure on their children to succeed because
of their concern for the welfare of their children and their
awareness of the competition for getting admission in
reputed institutions. The overall unemployment situation in
India has also provoked parents to put pressure on their
children for better performance. Some of the parents wish to
fulfil their unfulfilled dreams through their children. All
these have made a normal pursuit for adolescents  –
leaving them to deal with the demands of the school as well
as that of their tutors. More than half of the parents appoint 3
to 4 private tutors or even more for their wards. On days
when there are no academic tuitions, there are art or music
lessons. The students hardly get time to watch TV, to play or
to interact with neighbours freely or even to get adequate
sleep. Naturally such students end up being nervous wrecks
when the examination pressure mounts.
The data revealed that parents with low level of education
i.e., non- graduates, pressure their children more than the
parents with graduation and post-graduation background do.
In addition, the child’s mother’s occupation, number of
private tutors and the academic performance of the students
are some of the other factors associated with academic stress.
People from lower and middle class social strata want their
children to do well in studies since this is often the only
means to an honourable vocation for them. In a review of
studies from low and middle income countries, Patel and
Kleinman confirmed the association between indicators of
poverty and the risk of common mental disorders .
Academic anxiety is found to be the least in case of
adolescents from high socio-economic classes – which may
be partly attributed to their secured future at least in material
aspects. The prevalence of anxiety disorders tends to
decrease with higher socio-economic status . Another
study has also reported that social disadvantage is associated
with increased stress among students .
In the present study, examination-related anxiety has been
reported by 81.6% of the students, especially the female
students who are coming from Bengali medium schools and
are not proficient in English. The students from the lower
socio-economic strata get admitted in government-sponsored
schools and study primarily in the local language – since in
government schools in West Bengal, English education is
introduced in year 8. Compelled to learn a foreign language
at a late age and then to study all other participants in that
ill-mastered language, the students in these schools face
communication and comprehension problems, which affect
their academic performance as well as their self-confidence.
This leads to anxiety – causing school avoidance, decreased
problem-solving abilities, and lower academic achievement
Gender was also found to be significantly associated with
examination-related anxiety and psychiatric caseness. That is,
female students experience more examination-related
anxiety and psychiatric caseness than their male counterparts.
This confirms previous findings that adolescent girls report a
greater number of worries, more separation anxiety, and
higher levels of generalised anxiety than do boys of the same
age [34-37]. Deb, Chatterjee and Walsh also found higher
anxiety among female students in Bengali Medium schools
32 Sibnath Deb et al.: Academic Stress, Parental Pressure, Anxiety and
Mental Health among Indian High School Students
in India .
It is believed that extra-curricular activities could be one
of the mediating factors for academic stress. More than
three-fifths of the students reported to be involved in
extra-curricular activities like games and sports, cultural
programmes, National Cadet Corps (NCC) and National
Social Service (NSS) and so on. No significant difference is
found between the academic stress of students who are
involved in extra-curricular activities and who are not. This
could be because of either a lack of meaningful involvement
in extracurricular activities or involvement for an insufficient
period of time and requires further investigation.
Unfortunately, the magnitude of mental health problems
of children and adolescents has not yet been recognised
sufficiently by the policy makers in many countries .
Unexplained headaches, migraine and hypertension are
becoming alarmingly common among teenagers – often an
outcome of their stressful lives. Even recreational activities
like sports, music, painting or swimming have become as
competitive as studies . In the present study, psychiatric
problems are found to present in 32.6% of the participants,
which is a serious an issue of concern for policy makers. A
number of previous studies reported psychiatric illnesses
among children [40, 41]. These students require immediate
psychiatric attention for improving their mental health status
– along with counseling for their parents.
Academic stress is found to be positively correlated with
parental pressure and psychiatric problems.
Examination-related anxiety is also observed to be related to
psychiatric problems. It is important to remember that
mental constitution or coping capacities vary from one child
to another. Therefore, children with poor coping capacities
become more prone to anxiety, depression and fear of
The understanding of a child’s development has presently
shifted from just a marks-based assessment to a holistic
assessment of students’ performance in Kolkata schools
because of numerous reported incidents of academic failure
among students. Even schools affiliated to the WBBSE
(West Bengal Board of Secondary Education), the State
Board in Kolkata, India, have done away with ranks in report
cards. In order to reduce academic stress on students and
parents, since a decision in 2009 by the Human Resource
Development Minister, the Government of India has made
the Year 10 board examinations optional . As a result,
the CBSE has made the secondary examinations optional.
While this policy has the potential to take some of the
pressure of high school students, the intense competition
means that many students still experience high levels of
academic stress .
This study found that 63.5% of the students in the present
study are stressed because of academic pressure. There were
no significant differences in academic stress across gender,
age, class, and other factors. Two-thirds of the students
reported that their parents pressurize them for better
academic performance. The incidence of reported parental
pressure differed significantly by parental education levels,
mother’s occupation, number of private tutors, and academic
performance. More than four-fifths of students suffer from
examination-related anxiety, especially female students and
those who are not proficient in English. About one-third
(32.6%) of the students are indicative of psychiatric caseness.
In this regard, gender and father’s occupation were
significantly associated. Academic stress was found to be
positively correlated with parental pressure and psychiatric
problems. Again, examination-related anxiety was positively
related to psychiatric problems – which emphasises the need
for psychological intervention. On the basis of the findings
of the study, the following steps are suggested:
• Immediate attention of mental health professionals is
required for the students whose scores on the GHQ are
indicative of psychiatric caseness for improving their
mental health status.
• At school, adolescents should be trained on how to
manage stress and anxiety
• Knowledge about mental health and academic stress
should be promoted among the parents of the
adolescents and taught strategies to help improve the
resilience and coping strategies of their children.
4.1. Limitations of the Study
Given the large population of the higher secondary
students in Kolkata, the sample size was relatively small.
Therefore, caution should be used when generalising the
findings of the study. Secondly, responses are based on
self-report. However, the findings give some idea about
prevalence of the academic stress among higher secondary
students in Kolkata and its association with parental pressure,
number of private tutors and examination-related anxiety. To
further validate the findings, another study with a larger
sample is recommended. The present study did not take into
account the effect of punishment or threat of punishment in
schools on the mental health of the students – keeping in
view the recently imposed blanket ban on corporal
punishments in Indian schools, and also the fact that
punishments are not usually deemed necessary in the Higher
Secondary classes, as students are seen as mature enough to
follow rules and regulations themselves. However, further
investigation is needed to ascertain if the ban has been
implemented effectively, and also to ascertain the impact of
non-corporal punishments – such as scolding, suspension or
withdrawal of facilities – on students.
Finally while a strength of this study was that there was no
or very little missing data in most of the variables, a
limitation of the study was the high level of missing data for
parental education, and occupation, and family income. The
percentage of missing data in these variables ranged from
14.7% for fathers’ occupation to 28.9% for mothers’
occupation (Table 2). Missing rates were significantly higher
among females, especially for Grade XI students or for those
aged 16 or below. However, for the major outcome measures,
most rates did not significantly differ between the groups
indicating no great influence on inferential analyses.
In conclusion this study examined the level of academic
International Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences 2015, 5(1): 26-34 33
stress in year 12 high school students in Kolkata India.
Nearly two-thirds of the students reported stress due to
academic pressure – with no significant differences across
gender, age, grade, and several other personal factors.
Furthermore about two-thirds of the students reported feeling
pressure from their parents for better academic performance.
About one-thirds of the students were symptomatic of
psychiatric caseness and 81.6% reported examination-
related anxiety. Academic stress was positively correlated
with parental pressure and psychiatric problems, while
examination-related anxiety also was positively related to
psychiatric problems. Given the high levels of academic
stress and psychiatric caseness in this sample of high school
students, there is an urgent need to develop suitable
interventions to reduce this level of stress and psychiatric
The authors wish to acknowledge their gratitude to all the
school authorities for giving permission for data collection.
Students who participated in the study voluntarily and shared
their valuable views and opinions about the issue also
deserve special appreciation. Authors wish to extend special
thank to Bishakha Majumdar for her assistance in data
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