Factors that influence procrastination

The introductory chapter included several parts that provide a basic frame of study. It presented the background of study about procrastination, which was followed by the statement of problem with four research objectives and related hypotheses. Major variables that might appear in the study were defined in terms of conceptual and operational definition, as well as the significance of study of study and limitations were presented.

1.1 Background to the Study

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DeSimone (Ferrari, Johnson & McCown, 1995) stated that the term of procrastinate originated from Latin verb of “procrastinare”, which means to delay something until tomorrow; whereby in ancient Egyptians, procrastination could be denoted into two meanings: valuable habit of avoiding unnecessary work, or negative habits of laziness in finishing job tasks (Ferrari et al., 1995).

In today’s society, procrastination is a common phenomenon happening in our daily life. Example of procrastinate includes paid mobile bills after get barred, deliberately leave assignment when deadline is overdue, and et cetera. These examples are classic examples of procrastination that experienced by many of us in daily life. It can be classified into five subtitles, such as general procrastination, academic procrastination, decision-making procrastination, neurotic procrastination, and also non-obsession procrastination (Sirin, 2011). Procrastination is a behavior that will causes to low productivity, poor performance, and increased of stress (Chu & Choi, 2005), and characterized by most of the people as negative, harmful, and bad (Beheshtifar, Hoseinifar, & Moghadam, 2011), thus procrastination regarded to be a serious issue in societies.

Estimates indicate that 15 to 20 per cent of general population are procrastinators (Steel, 2007), around 75 to 95 per cent of students in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, developed behavior of procrastinate for academic tasks (Ferrari, O’Callghan, & Newbegin, 2005), and almost 20 to 40 per cent of college students perceived procrastination as a troubling phenomenon which they wish to reduce it (O’brien, 2002).

There is no complete consensus on the definition of procrastination. For example, Soloman and Rothblum (1984) defined procrastination to be unnecessary act of postponing tasks which hence led to negative consequences. Procrastination regarded by Lay (1994) in terms of discrepancy between behavior and intention. In short words, the severity of procrastination depends on discrepancy between intent and behavior. Schouwenburg (1995) defines procrastination as behavior of delaying tasks. In 2003, procrastination referred by Wolters as failure in perform tasks within desired time frame or delaying work until the last minutes.

Procrastination can also refers to be voluntary postpone of an intended course of action, and has been typically characterized as self-regulatory failure (Steel, 2007). Soloman and Rothblum (1984) specify that academic procrastination is a maladaptive behavior that caused psychological distress on students. Student procrastination can considered from the perspective of behavioral, which refers to an unfavorable habit in which students likely to delay or avoid tasks that distressing for them (Soloman & Rothblum, 1984). They are more likely to complete tasks that provide them with positive reinforcement, and tasks with short term gain (Noran, 2000).

Procrastination appears to have a complex set of causes. Predictors such as self-efficacy, perfectionism, and motivation are just a few contributing factors of procrastination. Klassen, Ang, Chong, Krawchuk, Huan, Wong, and Lay (2009) reported that procrastination is associated with students’ self-efficacy. A study on procrastination and its relationship with perfectionism had done been conducted (Seo, 2008). There are countless of factors could lead to behavior of procrastinate, in the light of this, researchers found that there is a need for them to study on it.

1.2 Statement of Problem

Based on the background of study, question of how one can determine factors that contribute to or influence procrastination levels emerged in researcher’s mind. Previously, many research has been conducted regarding students’ procrastination behavior, but not much on that its relationship with self-efficacy, perfectionism, and motivational level.

Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to accomplish any given tasks on time (Bandura, 1997; as cited in Seo, 2008). Schraw, Wadkins and Olafson’s (2007) stated that students with higher level of self-efficacy, tend to procrastinate more than others. They were extremely confident in their ability to complete tasks, and if there is no deadline or some extrinsic motivator for them, they found it difficult or even impossible to motivate them. In contrast, Wolter’s study (2003) disagreed with it, and stated that students of low self-efficacy were more likely to engage in procrastinating works.

These results give rise to question of either students with lower level of self-efficacy more prone to develop procrastination behavior or those with high level of self-efficacy will more likely to avoid or delaying academic tasks. Another problem that still remain unclear is whether students’ behavior of procrastinate are influence by level of self-efficacy or behavior of procrastination is the powerful determinant of self efficacy level. Due to these problems, it had sparked researcher’s interest in identifying the role of self-efficacy on level of procrastination among college students. This enable researcher to gain understanding on procrastination and its connection with self-efficacy.

Motivation is a psychological and social forces that drives an individual to take part in certain activity or perform something. It can influence a student’s exertion of effort as well as his or her persistence placed onto the assignment (LeUnes & Nation, 2002). In previous research, the primary aim was focused on either intrinsic or extrinsic motivation were related to procrastination. Most of the past research does not emphasized on whether level of motivation is one of the contributing factors of procrastination. In this case, researcher intends to find out either low or high motivational level will positively or negatively associated with academic procrastination.

Perfectionism is a multifaceted and multidimensional construct (Frost, Marten, Lahart, & Rosenblate, 1990). It usually considered by others to be linked with negative outcome and symptom of maladaptive. Perfectionists often experienced procrastination, difficulty in making decision, fear of failure, low self-esteem, and so forth (Solomon & Rothblum, 1984; Sorotzkin, 1985). However, not all the facets and dimensions of perfectionism appears to be negative. Indeed, some of the perfectionism dimensional are resulting in positive outcome.

There are many studies focus on the relationship between perfectionism and procrastination. For instance, Ferrari and Tice (2000) stated that perfectionism which fear of failure were coordinated with procrastination. The findings reported that students with higher level of perfectionism more likely to demonstrate behavior of procrastinate. Due to procrastinate, it decreased the quantity and quality of learning that led to increment of stress and negative impact on students’ lives. Thus, it supported that perfectionism play an important role in determining students’ academic procrastination level. However, some studies discovered that perfectionism affect procrastination if there were existence of mediators such as feeling of shame and guilt (Fee & Tangney), self-efficacy (Seo, 2008) and others.

These studies leave open questions to researcher of whether perfectionism will increase or decrease the level of procrastination, or perfectionism itself unable to influence procrastination. Consequently, the question of whether perfectionism predict students’ procrastination level remain unknown. Therefore, researcher are interested to identify if high level of perfectionism will increase or decrease level of procrastination, or there is no relation between both these variables.

Another variable such as gender differences and its relationship with procrastination level had not been widely studied by researchers. However, there were still some previous researches concluded that gender had not much association with procrastination, in which it appears that there is no gender differences on level of procrastination (Akinsola, Tella, & Tella, 2007; Sepehrian, & Lotf, 2011). These studies showed no relationship between procrastination and gender, but nonetheless there were also studies that proved gender differences will significantly influence the procrastination level. Yong (2010) and Klassen et al. (2009), both reported that there is gender differences in the rate of academic procrastination. It indicated that male students more likely to procrastinate than female. Such inconsistencies give insight for present study to identify if there is differences between male and female on procrastination level, and what could be the actual factor that cause variations.

Last, but not the least, there were little research on academic procrastination among college students had been studied within Malaysia. The generalizability of previous research are limited as the results produced might not applicable for students in Malaysia context. Thus, it may be uncertain whether the results of previous studies may generalize to population of Malaysia. Therefore, it is an important issue that should concern by researcher in order to yield a result that fit the context of Malaysia.

1.3 Objectives of the Research

To analyze the role of self-efficacy on level of academic procrastination among college students.

To determine the relationship between level of motivation and the level of academic procrastination among college students.

To evaluate the relationship between perfectionism attitude and the level of academic procrastination among college students.

To identify gender differences in influencing level of academic procrastination among college students.

1.4 Research Hypotheses

H1: Students who have lower level of self-efficacy more prone to develop procrastination behavior compared to students with higher level of self-efficacy.

H2: Students with lower level of academic motivation more likely to procrastinate than others with higher level of academic motivation.

H3: Students with high tendency of perfectionists will procrastinate more compared to students with lower perfectionism attitude.

H4: Academic procrastination does not differ across the gender of the students.

1.5 Limitations of the Study

As with any other studies, the present study has some limitations to be identified by researcher. The most obvious limitation of the study is the generality of findings to other population. The present study is for academic purposes, and hence it involved only students from Tunku Abdul Rahman College (TARC) as subjects. Though, the results might applicable for students in TARC, but it is impossible for researcher to draw a conclusion that it is valid for all students in this particular college. Thus, it may be uncertain whether the findings may generalize to other population.

Secondly, there is possibility that present study could interfered by extraneous variables. Extraneous variables are variables that are unrelated or not variables intended to be studied by researchers (McLeod, 2008), and thereby considered to be insignificance variables. Anyhow, existence of it might control over the variable that researcher wish to identify. It will make researcher unable to make conclusions that whether there is causal relationship between IV and DV, even though the result showed that both variables are associated. This is because IV might caused by third variable to associate with DV, yet without causal relationship between them.

These variables could influence the results of the study and hence lead to outcomes that may be inaccurate and bias. Subjects might be affected by either situational variables or participant variables, or both of these. In this case, the atmosphere of environment, condition of lights, temperature and weather might affect subjects’ attitude when responding to the questionnaire. Apart from situational variables, subjects’ responses could also affect by their emotion such as anxiety, nervousness, happiness and so on (McLeod, 2008).

Other than that, good-subject tendency is also considered as one of the limitations. The term ‘good-subject tendency’ refers to tendency of respondents to perform something or answering the set of questionnaire according to what they think the researcher wants from them. For example, when subjects know the purpose of the study, they might respond to the questionnaire or behave in a way In accordance to their belief on researcher’s expectation (McBurney, & White, 2010).

1.6 Definition of Variables
1.6.1 Conceptual Definition

Academic procrastination is a problem emphasized on delaying tasks which leads to severe consequences for students, resulting in poor performance (Solomon & Rothblum, 1984). On the other hand, Tuckman (2002) in reporting Ellis and Knaus, regarded academic procrastination as an avoidance behavior. For instance, due to unpleasant tasks, a student delay doing his assignment until the deadline is near.

Gender comprised of male and female is categorized as sex. Sex is an individual’s biological status which typically differentiated between male or female. A person’s biological sex is dependent on their sex chromosomes, gonads, internal reproductive organs, and external genitalia (American Psychological Association, 2011).

Motivation serves as a drive that initiates or directs a person to do certain tasks in order to satisfy needs (Aderman, 1999; Maslow, 1954; Murray, Poole, & Jones, 2006) (as cited in Goodman, Jaffer, Keresztesi, Mamdani, Mokgatle, Musariri, Pires, & Schlechter, 2011). Human beings are being motivated by a need. It contributes to drive which is the physiological expression of need. Once need leads drive to develop, it motivates individuals to respond and hence attain a goal (Coon & Mitterer, 2010)

Perfectionism is an interesting factor to look for upon the basis of procrastination. According to American Psychiatric Association (APA, 1994), perfectionism is the criteria for psychiatrists to determine whether a person is diagnose with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and being classified as maladaptive (as cited in Dishon-Berkovits, 2011). It can be defined as a variable that impede a person from task completion due to his or her overly strict standards. Concisely, an individual unable to finish a task when fail to meet expectations or standards that innately established within them. In addition, Kilbert, Langhinrichsen-Rohling and Satio (2005) noted that perfectionism can have either aspects of adaptive or maladaptive, or even both (as cited in Dishon-Berkovits, 2011).

Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief on one’s capacity to produce a desirable outcome (Coon & Mitterer, 2010). It carries the effect of motivating a person to engage in a particular activity or behavior. Generally, higher sense of self-efficacy might able to motivate an individual to exert greater amount of effort and persistence when encounter with obstacles. Conversely, the lower the perceived self-efficacy is, the higher the tendency to procrastinate. It might lead to emergence of negative thought in a person mind which obstruct them from perform a task, as they developed a perspective of being not efficacious. Hence, lack of perceived self-efficacy lends an avoidance behavior towards tasks or assignment appointed to them (Delamater & Myers, 2007).

1.6.2 Operational Definition

The research underlined the relationship between self-efficacy, motivation, perfectionism and level of academic procrastination. In order to convert these variables into measurable ones, self-efficacy should be clarified as perceived self-efficacy of subjects. On the other hand, the operational definition of independent variable is how researchers define self-efficacy. In this study, self-efficacy of Tunku Abdul Rahman College students (TARCian) is contingent upon subjects’ respond on Sherer et al.’s General Self-efficacy Scale (GSE) that consisted of 17 items. The response format of each item is based on a 5-point Likert scale, from “1” representing strongly disagree to “5” representing strongly agree. Researchers will add on the scores of each item, and hence, it provides an indication of TARCian’s general self-efficacy. Briefly, the higher the total score is, the more the perceived self-efficacy is developed by TARCian (Imam, 2007).

The operational definition of motivation in the study appears as being highly motivated or less motivated. Researchers identify levels of being motivated by summing up the score of respondents given to the 28 items in Academic Motivation Scale (AMS-C 28). Shortly, those with higher score reveal that they are more highly motivated than others and vice versa. Specifically, the way of operationally defining motivation based on the AMS-C 28 will be as follows:

Intrinsic motivation: Responses to 12 items emphasized on intrinsic of the 28 items.

Extrinsic motivation: Responses to 12 items emphasized on extrinsic of the 28 items.

Amotivation: Responses to four items that emphasized neither intrinsic nor extrinsic.

On other hand, the operational definition of perfectionism will measure how much of a perfectionist subjects are. Level of perfectionism depends on the respondents’ score achieve from the Frost’s Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (FMPS). The FMPS has 35 items, using a 5-point Likert scale format to measure perfectionism: 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree). Subjects whom achieve high score mean they are prone to the personality of high perfectionism. Contrarily, subjects are believed to less likely be a perfectionist if they attain a lower score.

It is important to make sure that all of the variables are not overlap and needed to be mutually exclusive. The level of academic procrastination would differentiate from occasional procrastination to severe procrastination. It would depend on the score a subject obtains in the Procrastination Scale for student populations developed by Lay (1986). For the purpose of this research. academic procrastination may be defined as any academic task that is delayed or avoided as a result of the discrepancy between intention and actual behavior to the extent that it produces negative affect in the procrastinator.

Gender will operate as either male or female which is the biological status of the college students that were in this study.

1.7 Significance of Study

Procrastination has become the most common issue that cause interference on individual’s daily life, especially within context of academic. Students who procrastinate usually unable to complete important academic task on time, and may cause significant distress on their academic functioning. The aim of present study is to pinpoint causes of procrastination, for example self-efficacy, perfectionism, and motivational level are variables of great concern for researcher. If the present study proved that there were significant relationship between these variables and procrastination, it provides reliable information about students’ procrastination, and may beneficial to several parties: students, instructors, parents, and Ministry of Education.

Firstly, even if there were not much of studies emphasized on whether instructors play an important role in influencing students’ level of procrastination. Still, there were study indicated that tasks’ characteristics control by instructor are tied with procrastination (Ackerman, & Gross, 2005). As an example, unclear directions from instructors tend to increase the level of procrastination. If students did not receive precise and detail information on particular course, most of them will be frustrated and delay their works (Schraw et al., 2007). Students were also more likely to procrastinate when assigned to academic tasks they characterize as unpleasant (Milgram, Marshevsky, & Sadeh, 1995).

By identify if academic motivation and self-efficacy are associated with procrastination, it enable instructors to gain insight on students’ procrastination problem, on that account, they will try to improve their teaching skills or plan lessons that helpful in boost up their motivation and self-efficacy. For example, instructors could provide them with an interesting topic and reinforce their behavior with rewards. They are more likely to begin working on academic tasks earlier when rewards are given to them (Humphrey, & Harbin, 2010). Students are also more motivated to work when they perceive the tasks as pleasant and favorable, thereby procrastinate lesser. Besides that, instructors can learn from the study and provide students with clear instructions. In short words, students understand what they needed to do and what was the instructors’ expectation. Therefore, they tend to be more motivated, and in this way, procrastination decreased (Humphrey, & Harbin, 2010).

Secondly, upon knowing the result of study, it encourage students to be aware of their procrastination problems and the negative consequences of procrastinate, example includes decreased subjective well-being, weak performance, and reduce achievements (Schouwenburg, Lay, Pychyl, & Ferrari, 2004). It enable students to gain a deeper understanding on factors that heighten procrastination. In other words, for students with perfectionism attitude, it can help students to recognize their problems, understand why they are procrastinating, and in the end, motivate them to make commitment to change. Students could improve their problems by setting a deadline for themselves, because perfectionist will delay work endlessly until the last minute due to constantly criticizing on works. Through the study, students will be more attentive on the factors contribute to their procrastination behavior.

Next, it helps parents of children to be more aware of their problems in college. It stated that parenting style plays significant role on those who procrastinate due to perfectionistic thinking (Pychyl, Coplan, & Reid, 2002). Research indicated that parents’ high expectations and criticism were positively associated with socially-prescribed perfectionism and is indirectly related to high level of procrastination (Frost et al., 1990; Frost, Lahart, & Rosenblate, 1991). Constantly criticizing by parents will also cause them lack of motivation in doing things. Therefore, the present study help them to create consciousness that parenting styles have a primary effect on students’ development of procrastination. Throughout the study, it help parents to understand importance of supportive behavior on their children in order to increase their motivation and thus, make changes on their parenting styles.

Lastly, study on contributing factors of academic procrastination provide suggestion for Ministry of Education (MOE) which in turn would filter down to improve the quality of education provided to students, and to the extent of reducing procrastination. Since instructors play role in students’ procrastination, MOE should develop some specialized courses, seminars or training which required instructors to involve in it. The courses should teach instructors on skills of how to help students setting a behavioral goals to achieve, as setting behavioral goals appear to be a good start to defeat procrastination (Burka & Yuen, 1983). MOE may be able to encourage instructors to set up a reward system for students who completing tasks on time. Though, by rewarding students on what they should do is not the best way, but at least it can motivate students to try to work to achieve desirable goals (Parrott, n.d. ). Courses for instructors should also train them on effective and proper teaching styles, and make them aware of the importance of a clear expectations for what and how material is to be learned for students (Meeks & Austin, 2003). By giving students a detailed guidance on what should do, it can prevent them from delaying work as they need not to figure out what instructors want from them, and thus they can spend their time to fully concentrate on academic tasks or assignments (Meeks & Austin, 2003).


In this section, it will review previous studies that emphasized on variables such as self-efficacy, motivation, and perfectionism, and the relationship with procrastination. Research study on association between gender differences and procrastination are also included. This chapter will involved theoretical and conceptual framework which able to establish a more in-depth understanding on this present study.

2.1 Relationship between Self-efficacy and Procrastination

Self-efficacy indicates whether an individual believes that they are capable to accomplish assignment successfully or task assigned to them on time (Bandura, 1997). Krawchuk & Klassen (Bandura, 1997) stated that self-efficacy play role in determine individual choice of action, amount of persistence and effort allocate by them when faced difficulties. In short word, individual with low self-efficacy whom does not believe on their own more prone to develop avoidance behavior or delaying task (Krawchuk & Klassen, 2010).

Bandura (1997) stated that students with adequate self-efficacy would positively affect the amount of persistence and initiation individual willing to exert in completing a task while those reported with low self-efficacy is in high risk to engage in avoidance behavior (as cited in Seo, 2008). Seo (2008), in reporting a study conducted by Ferrari and his colleagues, emphasized on self-efficacy for daily tasks yet without self-efficacy for academic tasks and the probability to procrastinate. The findings suggested that students whom had higher level of self-efficacy are less likely to contribute to avoidance behavior, thus less frequent of procrastination compared with others (Seo, 2008).

On the other hand, self efficacy for self-regulated learning was believed to had close relationship with procrastination, because in some degree, procrastination can be defined as failure of self-regulatory (Steel, 2007). Zimmerman, Bandura and Martinez-Pons (1992) mentioned that students who displayed adequate self-efficacy for self-regulated learning are effective in performing tasks, setting SMART goals; apply appropriate strategies and effort, also being persistent. Generally, students whom are self-regulated learners tend to develop greater sense of self-efficacy; in contrast, students with low levels of self-efficacy were likely to be labeled as non self-regulated learners. It shows that students with low sense of self-efficacy might not being persistent throughout the process of accomplishing tasks. Therefore, low self-efficacy believed to correspond to the characteristics of procrastination such as delay or avoid in the face of difficulty.

Wolters’s study (as cited in Seo, 2008) was also conducted to examine on relationship between procrastination and self-efficacy for self-regulated learning among college students. The findings suggested that procrastination was both positively and negatively related to self-efficacy (as cited in Tan et al., 2008). Meanwhile, Tuckman (1991) and Haycock, McCarthy, and Skay (1998) states that self-efficacy tend to had a significant inversely relationship with procrastination.

Other than that, a study conducted by Zimmerman et al. (1992) on self-motivation for academic attainment upon the basis of self-efficacy beliefs and personal goal-setting proposed that greater sense of self-efficacy leads to higher goal setting which hence contribute to a strong negative relationship between self-efficacy and academic procrastination. In short, highly perceived self-efficacy causes low rate of procrastination among college students (Tan et al., 2008).

2.2 Relationship between Motivation and Procrastination

Motivation is an internal process that will affect human’s effort in doing or accomplishing certain tasks. It can be categorized into intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation indicated that a person tend to do something because of innate desire to enjoy or they perceive the task as provide them with opportunity to learn, explore and actualize their potentials (Coon & Mitterer, 2010). By contrast with intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation defined as people willing to exert effort in doing something because of some attractive outcome (Coon, & Mitterer, 2010). Examples of external rewards include pay, social status, obligations, and others.

A study conducted by Brownlow and Reasinger (2000) on the impact of intrinsically and extrinsically motivated on several variables including academic procrastination revealed that men who tend to procrastinate school works are less intrinsically motivated. There is no significant relationship between the level of procrastination and the women who were intrinsically motivated.

Senecal, Koestner, and Vallerand (1995) discovered that procrastination was least common to occur among students with intrinsic reasons compared with students who were driven by less autonomous reasons such as external regulation or amotivation. Their finding yielded similar results with past findings, indicating that less autonomous form of self-regulation or motivation were linked with three factors that leads to procrastination: lower persistence, inconsistency in attitudes and behaviors, and negative emotions (Senecal et al., 1995).

Senecal, Julien, and Guay (2003) conducted a study on the relationship between self-determined motivation in both school and interpersonal relationship and academic procrastination with role conflict as the mediator. Their initial belief is that students who are intrinsically motivated will less likely to experience role conflict between school and interpersonal relationship thus lowering the level of academic performance. The final results revealed that self-determined academic motivation and self-determined interpersonal motivation is negatively related with role conflict. Role conflict was positively correlated with academic procrastination (Senecal et al., 2003). This concludes that despite self-determined motivation will affect an individual’s level of procrastination; it does not directly caused the procrastination. Procrastination is mediated by the role conflict variable that is influenced by the self-determined motivation of both academic and interpersonal relationship.

The study of Conti (2000) on work procrastination between intrinsically and extrinsically motivated individuals has a contradicting result indicating that individuals who “have to do” (extrinsic motivation) started and finished a project earlier compared to those who “wanted to do” (intrinsic motivation).

Buelna, Wells, and Scollay (2006) conducted a research to determine whether motivation or validation is a better factor in determining an individual’s procrastination. Their findings revealed that there appears to be no significant relationship between the forms of motivation with procrastination. Apparently, validation turned out to be a better form of predictor in determining procrastination compared to motivation (Buelna et al., 2006).

Study by Lee (2005) on the relationship of motivation and flow experience with academic procrastination yielded results that indicated low level of self-determined motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic) and inci

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