Causes and consequences of low motivation among teens and possible interventions

Lack of motivation among teenagers is an area of concern for parents and school administrators alike.  Low motivation can manifest in the form of disinterest toward studies, unwillingness to participate in extracurricular activities and disinclination toward sports, etc.  Low motivation was also closely linked to a plethora of other teenage problems, including “detrimental family background,” “lack of preparation for learning,” “disrespect for teachers,” “participating in school violence,” “truancy”, “deviant behavior”. (Vanderjagt, 2001, p.39)  It this context, it is likely that inspiring and motivating teenagers can bring positive transformation in other areas of their lives, creating the groundwork for a healthy adult life. Sociologists have come up with several theories for explaining low motivation among high school students.  There are also more practical reasons based on the political, economic and social conditions of the locality and country inhabited by the student.  This essay will look into three aspects of low motivation among teens, namely causes, consequences and possible interventions.

One of the major areas of deficiency that leads to low motivation among pupils is the way education systems are set up.  For example, one of the lesser acknowledged reasons for low motivation in the classroom are inadequacy on part of instructors to prepare students for a class.  Surveys reveal that many students do not understand the rationale for studying a particular subject and don’t comprehend why they are attending classes on the subject.  This will make them disinterested and prevent them from fully exploring ideas within the subject.  But a bigger reason for student low motivation is “low self-efficacy” induced by poorly designed instructional programs.  As researchers assert,

“instructional programs designed to identify and label students who are lacking in the reading areas of decoding, fluency and comprehension have led to intensely negative perceptions about students’ abilities even as the programs strive to correct their reading deficiencies…Others argue that the school curriculum can lead to low motivation by stifling children’s choice in reading and continually setting limits on reading, which can permanentlyaffect how students see themselves as readers. Whatever the origin, low motivation can seriously hinder a student’s progress within the language arts classroom. (Seglem, 2006, p.76)

Another cause for low motivation among highschoolers is their tendency to experiment with recreational drugs.  There is also a correlation between early drug abuse and dysfunctional family background.  Hence, drug abuse itself can be seen as a consequence of another social problem, namely broken homes.  These days school playgrounds have become places of drug retailing and drug consumption.  Research based on American schools has found that “Drug use increases as the grade level increases. Many students become involved in using illegal substances because of peer pressure and others due to an emotional need. A feeling for need fulfillment may propel adolescents into the destructive behavior of substance abuse.” (Vanderjagt, 2001, p.39)

The atmosphere within the family, and especially the values transmitted from parents to children can play an important role in the motivation levels of teenagers.  Adolescence is when individuals rebel from parental values and social norms and try to form an identity of their own – a process referred to by psychologists as ‘individuation’.  Teenagers face a lot of internal conflict, as their early parental molding comes into conflict with divergent set of values acquired from peers and society during adolescence.  This leads to a period of uncertainly and personality re-adjustment, which resolves itself into a stable state by the end of adolescence.   But if the home atmosphere, especially the relationship between parents is strained or broken, it can leave a lasting negative impact on the formative teenage personality and motivation levels. Also, the effects of family dysfunctionality can manifest differently on girls and boys.  (Pinquart & Silbereisen, 2004, p.83)

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