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Self-Esteem and Academic Performance of Orphaned and Non orphaned Children

Self-Esteem and Academic Performance of Orphaned and Non orphaned Children

Self-Esteem and Academic Performance of Orphaned and Non orphaned Children


Mwebaza Micheal

Regional Coordinator

Book of Hope International USA

South Western Region of Uganda-East Africa


Research Report-2007



This study concerned itself with finding out some of factors that affect children learning especially like self-esteem that may affect the performance of primary school children, particularly the orphaned as compared to non-orphaned children. Children are a deprived group of people and this deprivation may consequently affect their self-esteem. The aim of this study was to investigate whether there was any significant difference between the performance of orphaned and non-orphaned children. It was hypothesized that:

1). There is no significant difference between the performance of orphaned and non-orphaned children with high self-esteem and low self-esteem?

2). There is no significant difference between the self-esteem level of orphaned and non-orphaned children?


It was not yet known whether children without parents performed differently from those with parents. In this study, samples of 155 subjects were randomly selected from three schools in Masaka. The ruffle random sampling method was used. Results were computed and analyzed from the questionnaire.


Background of study

There has been a lot of political and social upheaval in Uganda. One of the consequences of such unrest is the growing number of orphans and widows.

Orphan children is on the increase due to the political and social unrest that include; diseases pandemic, civil wars, domestic violence in homes, hunger and poverty. This has resulted into death of fathers and mothers of the children. The only left guardians are the grandparents who are helpless themselves. They are unable to provide all the required life necessities to the children. The situation worsens because these grandparents hardly continue after the age of five. This counts for the increased deaths among the young people. Grandparents do not have enough food, they do not have money to provide for health services and many health centers are far from their reach and ill equipped. In the villages, there no health services provided and halfway-qualified personnel give the few services provided. This results into deaths mainly of the children and pregnant mothers. It is not surprising to find a home headed by young people looking after their siblings.


When you walk on the streets in the major cities of the country, street children have become many. They are sometimes dropped on the streets by guardians who fail to provide the necessities not because they do want but because they do not have. One day on the street, I found 5 children including a one month baby being left on the street by the mother who lied to them that she had gone to look for the taxi to go home. After two days the mother was nowhere to be seen up to now. Other incidences are leaving children inside the tax or in the tax parks. Young girls between the age of 13 and 17 are married off to men so that the guardians can get some money to keep them running from that man. The situation becomes worse when the family of the deceased did not have any piece of land. The resultant behaviors are thiefty and robbery in young boys so that they can get what to eat or they provide labor on other peoples’ farms just to get lunch and supper. Many times the young boys are hit and hurt while on these duties and they have nowhere to report. They have become beasts of burden to many managers who do not what to pay. These managers use young boys since these boys cannot complain for wages and they have fear to be chased away from the work. Girls are taken to work as house girls for some people who end up abusing them. They are not paid for their services, boys born in those homes rape these young girls (maids) and they are defiled by their bosses in those homes or farms. Many of these children are ignorant, deprived, poorly socialized, jobless and so on. The list is endless.


Problem Statement

It is evident from such background that orphans are deprived group of people. It is also necessary to note that these orphans are part of the population of Uganda and so they are as important as any other citizen and are entitled to all rights due to any other citizens. Such rights may include education, life, and ownership of property and so on. So, the issue at hand is to see to it that these orphans who are already deprived can be well adjusted in their social and personality development. Part of the deprivation suffered by orphans is the change in family circumstances. These tend to deprive them of the stimulus resources found in the normal family, and may affect their academic performance even in schools.  Usually, there is an attempt to bridge this gap of alternation from normal family resources. When the attempt fails, individuals may then develop maladaptive characteristics that include low self-esteem, self-rejection, identity confusion, alienation and distrust. What needs to be established is whether self-esteem affects performance of an orphaned child in comparison to the non-orphaned.


Study purpose

The problem is that deprivation caused by loss of parents seems to affect self-esteem. This may affect the orphans’ academic performance. Therefore for the purpose of this research, it is sought to investigate into self-esteem and academic performance of children.

Study Questions

1). Is there any difference between the performance of orphaned and non-orphaned children with high self-esteem and low self-esteem?

2). Is there any difference between the self-esteem level of orphaned and non-orphaned children?


1). To find out whether there is a difference between the performance of orphaned and non-orphaned children with high self-esteem and low self-esteem

2). To find out whether there is any difference between the self-esteem level of orphaned and non-orphaned children

 Study Scope.

The study was carried out in Masaka district, Uganda. It covered 153 participants from three primary schools that had orphan and non-orphan children and their teachers. The main emphasis was to find out the academic performance of the orphaned and non-orphaned children.

i)                   Deprivation

Deprivation in the study was mainly used to mean, leaving in an environment that lacked a sufficient level of complexity, to enable individuals to develop fully their human potentials. It was a group that was generally regarded as having suffered from some lack of opportunity or misfortune of some sort. Orphans for example had suffered a misfortune due to the loss of their parents leading to deprivation. To be fatherless or motherless during the first two years of life might have later consequences in terms of child’s socialization and personality development. Similarly these children may lose trust in the world, and more particularly, this may apply to those children being looked after by guardians. Their social and personality development may be retarded. When one of the parents dies, children will be deprived socially, economically and emotionally. There will be no model(s) to imitate of get advice from. According to this, deprivation has psychological consequences, one of which is self-esteem.

ii)                 Self-esteem and Deprivation

Self-esteem and deprivation are a function of one another. If a child is deprived of her/his parental care, it affects his/her self-esteem. Children always feel secure, confident and loved when parents tell them of their expectation. So, this indicates that children who are parentless may have no one to hold expectations of them and thus, their esteem may be affected adversely.

iii)              Self-esteem and Performance

People with high self-esteem are always encouraged to work harder and they perform highly than those of low esteem. Children, who think they are failing, stop trying while success tends to increase confidence, effort and the like hood of future success. Students certain of their low esteem relative to a given task do not show improvement in later performance after success. They only accept success if they see it as due to luck rather than to their own abilities and they improved after success attributed to luck. Therefore believing in failure may guarantee failure (a self-fulfilling prophecy).  This indicates that success or high performance raises the self-esteem. A child with high self-esteem is likely to perform better in schoolwork than that one with low-esteem.

Factors kept constant in this study: Intelligence of the children, motivation of the children, home background, child’s health, feeding at school and learning environment. These factors are strong in affecting children’s performance but considering these factors as constant minimized their influence.

Design: The study was comparative using mainly qualitative research design and methods like observation, interview and discussions.

Sample: Through random sampling, the subjects were selected from schools that participated in the study. One scale for self-esteem was then administered to the subjects. Academic performance scores were average of termly marks obtained from the schools attended by the subjects.

Schools sample: Five schools were to participate but they were reduced to three schools due to financial constraints. These came from Masaka district. They belong to two types.

Table 1: Type of school that participated


Type (orphan and non-orphaned)

School 1

Mixed school day and boarding

School 2

Single schools for girls

School 3

Mixed boys and girls

Children sample: Primary five and six children were randomly selected because they had left the childhood stage and no longer do things unconsciously. So their self-esteem had developed. Their concentration to examinable subjects like social studies, mathematics, science and English had developed. From these subjects children’s performance was obtained. 180 children had to participate, 90 orphaned and 90 non-orphaned but the number reduced after the self-esteem inventory because some fell within the median. 

Table 2: Number of children who participated per school




















☼Note: These children were in age range of 11-13 years


Questionnaire: After selection of children, a Rosenberg self-esteem inventory was administered first in the thirty minutes. During the administration of the questionnaires, the researcher, with the help of the class teachers would explain to the children what they could not understand.


The modified Rosenberg self-esteem inventory: This questionnaire consisted of ten questions, each with four possible responses. Some of the statements were positive while others were negative.

            Results:   Positive Statements.

                                    Strongly agree        4 points.

                                    Agree                      3 points

                                    Disagree                 2 points

                                    Strongly disagree   1 point

                           Negative statements

                                    Strongly agree          1 point.

                                    Agree                        2 points

                                    Disagree                  3 points

                                    Strongly disagree   4 point

The scores were awarded for each question and the total for each subject was obtained and recorded. The scores ranged from 1-40 as the maximum. Those whose marks fell within the median were left out of the sample. Those who were above the median were taken to be having high self-esteem while those below the median were taken to be having low self-esteem.

Focused group Discussion and Interview: Teachers and children were interviewed. They also participated in the group discussions.

Heads of the school were also interviewed and their responses helped to provide additional information about the children who are orphans and non-orphans.

Data Analysis

The data was presented in tables, percentages, and diagrams. It was computed using the t-tests for all the groups.


Results and Presentation
Hypotheses one:
There is no significant difference between the performance of orphaned and non-orphaned children with high self-esteem and low self-esteem?

The following tables3 and 4 show the results obtained.

Table 3: Performance of high self-esteem orphaned and non-orphaned children



Mean Score


t obs

t cv



















df=degrees of freedom N=Number of subjects SD=Standard deviation  tobs= t observed

tcv-t critical value  P=0.05,    df=80,    tobs= tcv


Implication of Results: The orphans with high self–esteem seem to perform better than their counterparts’ non-orphaned children. However the performance off non-orphaned children was more homogeneous than that of the orphaned children.

            The results revealed that the difference between performance of high self-esteem orphaned and non-orphaned children is significant. (P =0.005, df =80)

More particularly, high self-esteem orphans perform significantly better than high self-esteem non-orphans. Since t obs is more than t cv, results are significant at 5% level of significance. So the Null hypothesis 1 is rejected


Table 4: Performance of low self-esteem orphaned and non-orphaned children



Mean score
















df=degree of freedom,  N=Number of Subjects, SD=Standard Deviation  P=alpha level of significance.


Implication of Results: The results revealed that the difference between the performances of low self-esteem orphans is not significant from their counterparts who are non-orphaned. (At 5% level of significance df=71) 

The performance is almost the same with just a difference that is negligible. The analysis of Mean and Standard Deviation indicated that the orphaned children have displayed academic superiority over non-orphaned group of children. However, there is more homogeneity in performance of non-orphaned children than their counterpart orphaned children both with low self-esteem.  


Hypothesis 2

There is no significant difference between the self-esteem level of orphaned and

Non-orphaned children?

The results are presented in table 5 and 6

Table 5: The self-esteem of orphaned and non-orphaned children




Mean score
















df=153  p=0.005   tobs=tCv   N=Number of subjects  X=Mean score on the self-Esteem inventory, df=degrees of freedom,  tobs=value observed, tCv=Critical value   SD=Standard Deviation


Implication of Results: A t-test for independent groups was used to compare the means of the different groups (orphaned and non-orphaned). The comparison Means and Standard deviation indicates that non-orphaned children demonstrate a higher self-esteem than the orphaned children.

The results revealed that the difference between self-esteem of orphaned and non-orphaned children is significant. (0.05 level of significance, df=153).

Therefore, the null hypothesis 2 is rejected. More specifically, non-orphaned children have a significantly higher level of self-esteem than the orphaned children.


Findings and Discussion


The findings confirmed that some differences do exist in performance of orphaned and non-orphaned children. Some of the differences were significant though they varied in magnitudes. In many cases, very significant differences were recorded. In other cases, slight and negligible differences were found out. The study also confirmed many cases where there were no significant differences between variables that were studied at 5% level of significance, especially, the slight and negligible differences.

The Means of the two groups of interests were near one another. There was not much difference between the performance means except for the high self-esteem orphaned and non-orphaned children.


Difference in performance of orphaned and non-orphaned children of high and low self-esteem


i)                   Orphans and non-orphaned children with high self-esteem


Generally, both the orphaned children and non-orphaned children with high self-esteem differed in performance. More particularly, the orphaned children with higher self-esteem had recorded at least a higher performance than their non-orphaned counterpart.

When comparing their means, orphaned children’s mean score in performance was higher than that of their counterparts who were non-orphaned, though there was more homogeneity in the performance of the non-orphaned children than that of the orphaned children.


There was an assumption that, orphans were likely to achieve at lower level than children with parents alive. It was thought that parental encouragement was a great contributor to the Childs’ academic work. However this study found it different. Orphans too could perform better than non-orphans. The implication of this is that orphan children should not be neglected, when it comes to education. Their performance may be due to heredity, school influence or availability of good teachers and teaching material that facilitate the orphaned children’s performance. Teachers have to stop looking at these children as disadvantaged than other children. Though there social economic status may not be good, they still can perform and improve the school academic performance at large.


What was noted was that, children with high self-esteem were more assertive, competent, independent and creative. This applied to both orphaned and non-orphaned children that had self-esteem. They also set themselves higher goals, showed less interest for adult approval, less deterred by failure and had more realistic view of their own abilities.


ii)                 Orphans and non-orphaned children with low self-esteem


Both groups orphaned and non-orphaned children with low self-esteem did not indicate much difference in their performance. The difference between the performance of low self-esteem orphaned and non-orphaned children was not significant at 5% level of significance. The performance was almost the same. So the null hypotheses that there is no significant difference in performance of orphaned and non-orphaned children with low self-esteem was retained at 5% level of significance. Both groups indicated that there was heterogeneity in performance, unlike those of high self-esteem where performance of non-orphaned children was more homogeneous than that of orphaned children both with high self-esteem.


What was discovered was that, depression was rampart among the orphans. Their low self-esteem was related to home background where they thought isolated and they thought they lived nowhere. Many of the orphan children were deprived. They lived in an environment where they did not get enough resources. They did not have parents who would give them courage and sometimes it affected their performance. It was realized that guardians of the orphans were beginning to get stress due to the pressure over-exerted on their economic performance. Therefore there is a need to help the guardians who have little resources otherwise the life of the orphans is in a mess.

The orphans need to be brought up in a conducive environment where they are secure and loved like any other children.


The study discovered that low esteem children lacked trust in themselves. They were found to be afraid of expressing unusual ideas in a group. They were afraid of exposing themselves. They listened rather than participated in-group discussions and were the self-conscious and self-confused. They were lacking parental love, acceptance and approval of parents and they shifted these feeling even to school. Therefore the teachers at school have to play the role of the parent whenever they realize that they deal with orphaned and non-orphaned. The teachers should note that, low self-esteem children seem to have a strong need to have the acceptance and approval of others and a strong positive reaction to those they perceive as likely to meet their need.


The low-esteem children were less adjusted, had a relatively negative concept, saw them as less adequate, and felt more criticized, rejected and isolated than did children of equal ability who were not underachievers. Low self-esteem children were found less happy, more shameful and less confident of failure, they became increasingly distressed, and they experienced feelings of hopelessness and became anxious to attribute their failure to external factors.



The results of the study confirmed that, the difference between the performance of high self-esteem orphaned and non-orphaned children are significant at 0.05 level of significance. Contrary to public opinion that the non-orphans in primary schools perform better than primary orphans with high self-esteem, orphans with high self-esteem perform significantly better than their counterparts. The results have tended to favor the Orphaned group. The study has also confirmed that the difference between the performance of orphaned and non-orphaned children with low self-esteem was found not to be significantly different. Their performance was almost the same. The study also found out that, the self-esteem of the orphans and no0n-orphaned children was significantly different at 5% level of significance from


Micheal Mwebaza, BA.Educ, Student of Masters in Education: Currriculum, Instruction and Design of Makerere University kampala Uganda, East Africa. Regional Cordinator Book of Hope International U.S.A in Uganda. Speciallised Researcher and Author of Books for Children and Young people.

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