Students' behaviour difficulties, sense of coherence and adjustment at school: Risk and protective factors

M. Efrati-Virtzer, M. Margalit*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objectives of the study were to examine the characteristics of non-referred children with behaviour difficulties (BD) (such as verbal and physical aggression towards children and objects), aged 9-12 years and attending mainstream schools, and to compare them with children with no BD. The second objective was to evaluate the contribution of a risk and protective factors model to the explanation of the social and academic characteristics of these students. The sample consisted of 337 students (Grades Three to Six from seven schools in the central area of Israel) divided into two groups: 163 students with BD (142 boys and 21 girls), and 174 students without BD (145 boys and 29 girls). The groups were compared, using the following measures: teachers' assessment of academic achievement and behaviour problems (reactive and proactive aggression; hyperactive behaviour); peer's ratings of social status (degree of social acceptance and rejection, reciprocal friendship and reciprocal rejection), and students' self-perceptions - their sense of coherence and loneliness. Results revealed that teachers evaluated students with BD as achieving lower academic grades and as displaying higher levels of hyperactive behaviour as well as three different types of aggression. Peer ratings of social status revealed that students with BD were less accepted at their classes and had fewer friends. They were more rejected by peers and had more identified enemies. Self-perception comparisons revealed significant differences in their loneliness and sense of coherence. Results of the structural equation modelling analysis suggested a high degree of fit between the risk and protective factors' model and the empirical findings for students with and without BD. Results of the study corroborate the model that explain children's academic and social adjustment, considering the joint impact of risk (behaviour disorders) and protective factors (the sense of coherence), with educational implications in terms of teachers' sensitising and programme development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-73
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Special Needs Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Adolescents
  • Behaviour difficulties
  • Loneliness
  • Sense of coherence
  • Social relations


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