Worry, Optimism, and Expectations as Predictors of Anxiety and Performance in the First Year of Law School
Research suggests that worry, optimism, and expectations have subsequent effects on performance, which may be mediated through self-efficacy expectations. The first year of law school provides a unique naturalistic setting in which to study this process. Participants were recruited at orientation and assessed at five points during their first year of law school. Results indicated that worry was significantly related to self-efficacy and anxiety. Controlling for trait anxiety, higher levels of worry were also predictive of better academic performance. Expectations were positively related to class rank and performance on a final exam, and predicted first year law school grade-point average (GPA) even after controlling for undergraduate GPA and Law School Admissions Test score. Optimism was inversely related to both dispositional and state anxiety, although it was not related to performance. Implications of these findings for counseling first-year law students are discussed, and the results may generalize to other professional situations.
KeywordsWorry Optimism Expectations Anxiety Academic performance Law school
The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Professor Leah Wortham, Assistant Dean John F. Lord, Doris Malig, and Michael Koby of the Columbus School of Law of the Catholic University of America. We also wish to thank Kathleen Cimbolic Gunthert for her help with data collection and scoring.
- Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Brown J. D., & Marshall, M. A. (2001). Great expectations: Optimism and pessimism in achievement settings. In E. C. Chang (Ed.), Optimism and pessimism: Implications for theory, research, and practice (pp. 239–255). Washington: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
- Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1988). A control-process perspective on anxiety. Anxiety Research, 1, 17–22.Google Scholar
- Davidson, K., & Prkachin, K. (1997). Optimism and unrealistic optimism have an interacting impact on health-promoting behavior and knowledge changes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 617–625.Google Scholar
- McCroskey J. C. (1984). The communication apprehension perspective. In J. A. Daly & J. C. McCroskey (Eds.), Avoiding communications: Shyness, reticence, and communication apprehension (pp. 13–38). Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
- Molina S., & Borkovec, T. D. (1994). The Penn State Worry Questionnaire: Psychometric properties and associated characteristics. In G. C. L. Davey & F. Tallis (Eds.), Worrying: Perspectives on theory, assessment, and treatment (pp. 265–283). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Newman M. G. (2000). Generalized anxiety disorder. In M. Hersen & M. Braggio (Eds.), Effective brief therapies: A clinician’s guide (pp. 157–178). San Diego: Academic.Google Scholar
- Spielberger, C. D., Gorsuch, R. L., Lushene, R., Vagg, P. R., & Jacobs, G. A. (1983). Manual for the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Form Y). Palo Alto, Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
- Tallis, F., Eysenck, M. W., & Mathews, A. (1991). Worry: A critical analysis of some theoretical approaches. Anxiety Research, 4, 97–108.Google Scholar