A Cross-Lagged Panel Analysis of Fear Appeal Appraisal and Student Engagement


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Background: Fear appeals are persuasive messages given by teachers to students about the importance of avoiding failure in an upcoming high-stakes test. The relationship between the way that students appraise fear appeals and engagement in lessons has not previously been tested using a robust methodological and analytical design that fully controls for concurrent relationships between the variables and stability over time. Aim: The present study addressed these limitations using a cross-lagged panel design to probe reciprocal relationships between students’ appraisal of fear appeals as a threat and as a challenge, with their engagement in class. Sample: A total of 2,025 Year 10 and 11 students took part. Method: Fear appeal appraisal and student engagement were measured at two time points, 4 months apart. Results: After controlling for unlagged and auto-lagged correlations, and gender and year group, the model fit the data well and six cross-lagged paths emerged as statistically significant. Threat appraisal and emotional engagement were reciprocally, negatively related. Threat appraisal also positively predicted emotional disaffection and challenge appraisal negatively predicted behavioural disaffection. In addition, prospective relations were revealed between specific components of student engagement. Conclusions: Classroom teachers need to be aware of the possible consequences of making fear appeals and moderate this aspect of their practice accordingly. It would also be beneficial for educational interventions to focus on promoting challenge appraisals of fear appeals.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12334
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Early online date9 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • challenge appraisal
  • fear appeals
  • student disaffection
  • student engagement
  • threat appraisal


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