Critique of “The Joint Contribution of Sleep, Intelligence and Motivation to School Performance” by Meijer and Wittenboer

free essaySleep is of crucial importance for human beings starting from early days of life till the aged years. Due to the small number of studies on the relationship between good sleep and school performance, Meijer and Wittenboer attempted to research the particular phenomenon more meticulously. The aim of this essay is to evaluate critically the article “The Joint Contribution of Sleep, Intelligence and Motivation to School Performance”, where two scholars investigate the effect duration and quality of sleep has on children’s academic performance. In fact, the analyzed article focuses on the research of the impact of chronic sleep reduction and sleep quality on academic performance of elementary school children, specifically those who are studying in the last two grades (Meijer and Wittenboer). To investigate the particular issue, Meijer and Wittenboer used a structural equation model (Bollen). To critically observe this work, it is necessary to provide the audience with a summary of the article before evaluating in more depth on its topic area, intentions, methodology, and findings, as well as strengths of the article. In conclusion, it will be shown that although the article has some limitations, it remains an informative and thought-provoking research on the theme of contribution of sleep to academic performance among elementary school children.

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Background and Summary of Article

The study “The Joint Contribution of Sleep, Intelligence and Motivation to School Performance” belongs to two scholars of the University of Amsterdam – Anne Marie Meijer and Godfried L.H. van den Wittenboer. In their article, Meijer and Wittenboer investigate the phenomenon of chronic sleep reduction, specifically the connection between sleep length and quality and academic progress of elementary school children. To examine particular issue, Meijer and Wittenboer use structural equation model (Bollen). The study involves 153 elementary school children, specifically 81 boys and 72 girls who have participated in it. The age of the children varies from 10 years to 13 years (Meijer and Wittenboer). In most cases, one or two parents of the subjects are employed while only in four families parents are unemployed. In addition, the researchers have gathered all the necessary information through the questionnaires.

The authors of the article underline the three variables that indicate a sleep reduction. They include the usual time when children go to sleep during school days, time when they fall asleep on weekends, and permission of parents to chose their bedtime (Totterdell et al.). Moreover, Meijer and Wittenboer (97) also investigate the interrelation between anxiety (Vincent and Walker) and stress (Haynes et al.; Kataria et al.; Wolfson et al.), as well as focused attention (Dahl) and school functioning of children (Meijer et al.) emphasizing that anxiety promote decline of the sleep quality and, in turn, academic performance (Steenari et al.). Moreover, it has been shown that intelligence is connected positively to academic progress (Lassiter and Bardos). As a result, intelligence is one of the investigated components that positively impact school performance. Furthermore, the achievement motivation studied by the researchers show the tendency to be exceptionally good at the specific school activity or in the eyes of the schoolmates. In addition, Meijer and Wittenboer underline that low degree of anxiety may be advantageous for performance, while over-anxiety may decrease academic progress of students (McDonald).

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Taking into consideration the results of sleep restriction studies, Meijer and Wittenboer argue that there is a possibility of deterioration of academic performance provoked by chronic sleep reduction. The authors emphasize that sleep reduction has a direct impact on intelligence, achievement motivation, and anxiety among elementary school children. Thus, worse sleep quality may be a reason for lower academic performance.

Evaluation of Topic Area

Topic area of the article is chronic sleep reduction and the contribution it makes in academic performance of children in the last two classes of elementary school. At the same time, the authors also refer to sleep restriction studies to make the research more informative and meaningful.

Evaluation of Intentions of the Article

The main purpose of the article is to examine the impact of the sleep duration and quality on children’s school performance. To be precise, the scholars investigate the chronic sleep reduction and its relation to academic performance. Moreover, the researchers also test intelligence, motivation, and anxiety regarding sleep reduction and its impact on students’ school achievements. Although intentions of the article are specifically set and clearly described, they can be viewed as limited aims that prevent the scholars from the deeper and more extensive examination of the phenomenon.

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Evaluation of Methodology and Findings

In their article, Meijer and Wittenboer refer to a structural equation model to examine the relationship between the sleep length and quality on children’s academic performance. A structural equation model can be regarded as an appropriate method chosen by the scholars for their investigation. Analyzing contribution of the sleep duration and quality to school performance, the specific method allows observing the findings in numbers that are quite clear and understandable for the audience. Furthermore, the researchers use the Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM) to measure intelligence (Raven, Court, and Raven).

The SPM is defined as:

a test of a person’s capacity at the time of the test to apprehend meaningless figures presented for his observation, see the relations between them, conceive the nature of the figure completing each system of relations presented, and, by so doing, develop a systematic method of reasoning (Raven et al. 2).

The scale of SPM includes 60 problems that, in turn, are subdivided into 12 sets. Each set contains a problem that is almost evident, but in the next sets it becomes more difficult to analyze. The scholars also measure the achievement motivation using the achievement motivation test that consists of 34 closed questions (Fortier et al., Hermans). In addition, the final findings are presented in tables, as well as a figure that conveys the results of the investigation using structural equation model. Eventually, it should be noted that the methodology and representation of the findings are informative and reliable.

How It Works

Evaluation of Strengths of the Article

The article has the following strengths: appliance of a structural equation model and the Standard Progressive Matrices, subjects from families with two, one or none working parents, and appropriately chosen factors dependent on the sleep length and quality. The use of a structural equation model and SPM is very beneficial for the following reasons. A structural equation model allows combining all the received data and materials and calculates the exact results of the study. SPM is also beneficial because it can be used both for studying of elementary school children and adults.  It is a useful method of examining relationship between intelligence and sleep. Regardless of education, physical health, or person’s nationality, SPM is equally applicable for people of different ages. In this respect, it is profitably to use such flexible method that opens new areas for further research. At the same time, students from different families allow making the investigation more efficient. Moreover, the researchers perfectly singled out the criteria dependent on the sleep reduction. In fact, the received final results supported scholars opinion on the impact of lower sleep duration and sleep quality on the intelligence, achievement motivation, eagerness, and overall school performance.

Evaluation of Limitations of the Article and Problems

The study is limited by the subjects, specifically the age frameworks of the students. The research examines only elementary school children who are studying in the last two grades. Moreover, most of the subjects who participated in the researcher “were white and lived in families with two parents” (Meijer and Wittenboer 97). Thus, the study does not take into consideration children of different races, religion, and family income. Moreover, psychosocial and physiological factors are not analyzed by the authors. It should be noted that the mentioned above factors can greatly impact bedtime of children, as well as length and quality of sleeping time. In this respect, the possible suggestion for further research is to expand age limits of the subjects, as well as subdivide them into groups where their living conditions or physical peculiarities will be equal.

Furthermore, the problem the researchers face with is the inability to check whether the responses of subjects are correct and faithful or not that, in turn, doubts the reliability of the study results. To ensure confidence in the received materials, it is recommended to conduct a personal interview with respondents instead of using questionnaires. Although it will take more time and be more intensive, gathered information may be recorded and then looked through with the psychologists to check its veracity.

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Having a number of significant effects upon a human body, sleep has become a vital part of person’s everyday life. The article of Meijer and Wittenboer presents the results of studies mainly based on the phenomenon of sleep length and quality that is directly connected to students’ achievements in school. The study argues that the connection between chronic sleep reduction, intelligence, achievement motivation, moderate anxiety, and academic performance shows that the longer sleep length and better sleep quality the greater eagerness, achievement motivation, and eventually school performance will be. Although 153 elementary school children become the participants of the study and the methodology the researchers use proves to be reliable and effective, there are still some limitations that are recommended to be eliminated in the further studies.

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