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European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 2 (2009)

The Level of Stress Among Students in Urban and Rural

Secondary Schools in Malaysia

Tajularipin Sulaiman
Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia

Aminuddin Hassan
Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia

Vizata M.Sapian
Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia

Saifuddin Kumar Abdullah

Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia

The purpose of this study was to determine the relationships between stress level and
academic achievement among students in urban and rural secondary schools in of the
district in Malaysia. A study of stress, especially an approach towards measuring level of
stress among adolescents is quite new in Malaysia. So, an attempt to study this condition,
starting with normal adolescents, is the purpose of this study. This study had three main
objectives. The first objective was to find the total percentage of students who suffered
high stress, medium stress and low stress. The second objective was to compare the stress
level between gender and the third objective was to compare the stress level between
students from urban and rural area. The subjects of the study comprised of 155 Form Four
students from two secondary schools in Malaysia. This study used the survey method by
administering Students-life Stress Inventory (SSI) questionnaires. The study showed that no
students experienced high stress, 29 percent students experienced medium stress and 71
percent students experienced low stress. Using the t-test, the findings of the study also
indicated that there are significant differences in level of stress for gender and between
students in rural and urban secondary school. A general conclusion is that there are many
factors influences students’ stress such as parenting style, parents education background,
environment of the students which is can give impact in students life.

Stress exists from the change in an individual’s thinking and their lifestyle nowadays. Now, individuals
have changed in their perceptions and the way they interpret this life. Students in their teens are the
ones who are going through the transitional phase, which is an intermediate of childhood and
adulthood. During the teen years, a lot of biological, physical, mental and emotional changes are
happening, as well as the changes in responsibility and role. In order to stabilize these changes, the
students are always confronted with problems and conflicts (Asri, 2002). For some students who are

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 2 (2009)

not capable of dealing with it, the changes will create stress and tension to them. If it is not dealt with
in the early stages, the student may experience mental problems (Newman, 2005).
Stress is believed to be caused by the various problems that exists such as problems at school,
financial problems, family problems and problems in their surroundings. Teenagers also experience
stress because they are sometimes trapped between making decisions which is to follow rules and
orders or to be free and discover the world like they should. Teenagers in the previous days were
trained for things that were suitable with their age so that they can use it to manage their lives. But
now, teenagers have to follow their parents’ desires which is preparing them to compete in the social
system where the society is scrambling towards modernization so that they are not left behind. If it is
not managed well, stress can ignite psychological disturbances among them when they are grown up.
These disturbances will cause stress to the teenagers in the future if they are not overcome now.
According to Zulkifli (1988), teenagers always face problems in adjusting. Teenagers
especially those who are students always face learning problems, career management and also
problems in solving personal and social matters. These are the factors that contribute to stress in life.
Students are starting to shift from a life that is dependent on others to a life that needs them to release
the dependency and start carrying their own responsibilities.
Morris (1990) stated that teenagers always face stress in school and they compete each other to
get better grades. Levine, 1970 (in Dobson, 1980), explained that stress has a relationship with a
specific situation like a learning environment in school and the inability to do work perfectly and the
failure to achieve anything that is desired. The issues of students doing things like punching teachers,
cursing, slandering and hurting teachers, prostitution and others calls for researchers to see the
mentioned phenomena is connected to the stress situation among teenagers.
Adams (1983, in Kamaruddin, 1997) stated that the biggest problem among schooling teenagers
is the matters associated with their schooling. Other than that, problems that female students have to
deal with are communication and family problems. For the male students, their side problems are
problems with getting involved in sports, recreation and also financial problems. The many
responsibilities and pressure cause stress to the teenagers like the need to achieve good academic
grades, character building and also good attitude besides trying to comprehend with their personal
Research based on the stress levels that are experienced by student have been done by Chin
(2005) on students form Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) College, Malaysia. Meanwhile, Gadzella (2006)
conducted a research on the stress levels in female students in a university. Although past researches
have been on the stress phenomena, the findings of these researches is hoped to be able to assist
directly or indirectly in managing students who are dealing with stress. With that, it is hoped that an
effort or a program that can prevent stress among students will be planned out. Information about the
stress that is experienced by students can also help the more authorized group like parents, school and
society in giving guidance to students on handling the stress that exist in them.
This research is also needed to show and support the fact that there is a relationship between
stress and the students’ academic performance. The question is whether academic achievement cause
or contribute to stress because parent in general measure their success or failure in child rearing based
on the academic achievement. The society has also unconsciously been responsible for embedding in
the minds on individuals that achieving success in exams is a must.
Fariza (2005) who conducted a research on the stress among teenagers found that this age
group have to deal with the academic world. Therefore there exists demand and hope for themselves,
their parents, teachers and the society to see them succeed. This is parallel to the research by Mates and
Alisson (1992) which finds that among the academic factor that contribute to the stress in teenagers is
their achievement in academics.
Therefore, when stress is associated with academic achievements it is hoped that a suitable
teaching and learning method is created so that stress will not exist among students. Other than that,
the education curriculum that stresses on academic achievement by focusing on the importance of

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 2 (2009)

examinations should be reevaluated. This is because it may cause stress to the students. The
importance of this research is to help avoid stress from the beginning.
This research is also conducted to detect the difference of stress level between urban dan rural
students. The reason is the same as the research that was conducted by Muhammad Shah (1993) and
Asri (2002) which was about stress among urban and rural secondary school students. The researchers
felt that further research should be done to support the previous researches so that other methods or
ways can be taken to overcome this problem.
Researches on the difference of stress levels between sexes are usually conducted directly or
indirectly. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to verify the results of previous researches that
concluded female students experience more stress compared to the male students like the research by
Gadzella and Baloglu (2001) which found that female students experience stress during changes in
their life. While Muhammad Shah (1993) found that there is a significant difference between the stress
experienced by male and female students and the research by Mohd Jafri (1991) shows that female
students experience more stress when faced with problems compared to the male students. From the
researches that have been conducted, it is hoped that a program can be created and applied to the
students especially the female students.
Among the question that need to be answered are, does the need to achieve good academic have
an impact on the stress experienced by students, does the students rural or urban environment play a
role in influencing stress in students and is there a difference between stress in female and male
students. Hopefully with the research that is conducted can help identify and understand the stress that
is experienced by students and can also help the students deal with the stress.

Research Objectives
In general, the objective of the research is to study the stress level among the selected secondary school
students. The specific research objectives are :
1. To identify the stress levels that is experienced by secondary school students.
2. To identify the difference of stress levels between sexes among secondary school students.
3. To identify the difference of stress levels between students in urban and rural secondary

Research Methodology
The research pattern being used are descriptive survey research comparing chosen urban and rural
school. The collected data will be analyse using a program called Statistical Package for the Social
Science (SPSS ver.12.0 For Windows). The data analysis includes descriptive analysis such as
frequency, percentage, mean and standard deviation. The difference between variable is decided using
t-test. Tool use for the research is questionnaire set with two parts. Part A is about self information
such as gender, age and school location. Part B measures stress level in leading a student life using
Student-life Stress Inventory modulated Gadzella (1991). The survey focused on five categories of
source of stress which are frustration, conflict, stressor, change and self exposure and four parts
regarding reaction towards stress from psychological, emotional, behaviour and cognitive measurement
(Gadzella dan Baloglu, 2001). In this research, students’ perception towards their stress are levelled as
high, moderate and low based on the answer given in every item in the SSI questionnaire. The analysis
carried out to ensure the trustworthy of SSI questionnaire by counting every item for each category
dan mendapati nilai ketekalan dalaman adalah .88.

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 2 (2009)

Research Findings
A number of 155 secondary school students are involved in this research. From the total, 72 (46.5%)
respondents are male and 83 (53.5%) respondents are female. For school location, it was 63 (40.7%)
from urban secondary school and 92 (59.3%) are rural secondary school students as shown in Table 1;

Table 1: Percentage and number of respondents by school category

Scool category Male Female No of respondent

Rural secondary school 33 30 63(40.7%)
Urban secondary school 39 53 92(59.3%)
Jumlah 72(46.5%) 83(53.5%) 155

Stress level experienced by students

Based on the decided stress level high, moderate and low, the research found that 71% students have
low stress level, 29% with moderate stress level and none of the students experience high stress level
as shown in Table 2;

Table 2: Frequency and Percentage of Students Stress Level

Category Score f %
High 121 - 180 0 0
Moderate 61 - 120 45 29
Low 0 - 60 110 71

Difference of Stress Level between Genders

From Table 3, it was determine that male and female students have significant different in stress level
which is t (153) =2.55,p<0.05. This difference can be seen base on the mean score for both groups.
Mean for male students are (Min=1.123) compared to that for female students (Min=1.345). However,
the mean difference is small even though the difference is significant.

Table 3: Mean Score and t-test for Stress Level between Gender

Gender n mean SD t p
Male 72 1.123 .541 2.55 0.01*
Female 83 1.345 .528
* significant level .05

Difference of Stress Level between Urban and Rural Students

Based on Table 4, urban students and rural students have significant different for stress level which are
t (153) = 4.19, p<0.05. This difference can be seen base on the mean score for both groups. However,
the difference is small when comparing the two groups. Mean for stress level of urban students is
(Min=1.100) compared to that of rural students (Min=1.455).

Table 4: Mean Score and t-test for Stress Level between Urban and Rural Students

Category n mean SD t p
Urban 92 1.100 .500 4.19 .00*
Rural 63 1.455 .538
* significant level .05

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 2 (2009)

Discussion and Research Implication

Results of the research show that students experience stress at differenr level. Generally, students only
experience low and moderate stress level accourding to the percentage acquired in the research. While
no student experience high level stress. The research findings are parallel to the findings of a few
previous research as carried out by Chin (2005) and Gadzella (2006) who found that there is different
stress level among college students.
Different stress levels exist among students because the presence of different force of defense
resulted from different genetic inheritance. Genetic inheritance is the characteristics inherited naturally.
From a few research by genetic scientists, it is believed that different organisms possess different
defences towards different type of stress. (Mohd Daud,1990).
It is undeniable that personality of an individual can also be the source of stress. Personality
refers to the personal characteristic of an individual. For example, a student with a personality that
likes to bottle up emotion, always in fear, rigid and narrow minded will be more exposed to stress
especially facing with a situation which is the opposite to their personality or life challenges. If the
fitting-in process during teenage life occurs easily, it will involve stress at a minimum level. Therefore,
there is no surprise that none of the students experience high level stress if fitting-in is a breeze.
The research also finds that different stress level exist between male and female students. This
finding supports a few past researches as carried out by Gadzella dan Baloglu (2001) and a few othe
researchers who said that there is different level of stress in different gender. In this research, male
students experience less stress compared to the female students. This might be a result from the fact
that male students reach maturity later than female students (Azizi, Jaafar, Shahrin dan Yusof, 2005).
Male students divert the immaturity with other activities and some withdraw themselves by not doing
anything caused them to think less of what is going to happen to them and their surrounding. This
caused less stress to male students compared to the female students.
Female students have different stress compared to the male students. This may be caused of
female students tend to be more emotional and sensitive toward what is happening in their surrounding.
Some of the female students mature earlier than friends of their own age. In the process of reaching
puberty, they will experience a visible change in self image, action towards others and have better
perception. They also need to adjust themselves accordingly to the changes that they are experiencing
such as body shape, sexual maturity and their social status. Although even if they looked mature
physically, that does not means that they are ready emotionally to hold the responsibilities of an adult.
These things are also the contributor of stress in female students (Azizi et.al 2005).
Research finding shows that there iexist differenve in level of stress faced by rural and urban
students. This is parallel to the findings of Asri (2002) and Muhammad Shah (1993) which say that
there exist differences in the stress level faced by urban and rural students in Negeri Sembilan. In this
research, urban students experience less stress in comparison with rural students. Looking at the factors
such as surroundings, lifestyle and family, they also contributed to the level of stress of the students in
these different locations. The differences are clear according to home stability, family surrounding, the
pattern in parents’ behaviour, parents’ socio-economy status, family education background, parents-
children relationship quality and siblings relationship quality give different impact towards stress level
experienced by the students.
As a whole, this research has produced important information about stress according to factors
such as gender and location of students. It is proposed that these informations are to be looked by
students in facing anything that are considered to them as stress. These informations shall also give
benefit for parents and teachers in helping students to manage stress in the right way. Further studies
can be made using different variables to see different aspects of factors affecting stress such as age,
ras, socio-economic status, surroundings, location and others so that the research can be generalised to
all. Use of different types of methods such as experimental and longitudinal will strengthen the
findings of the research.

European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 10, Number 2 (2009)

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