Epigenetic Activity in Adolescents 4

A Working Hypothesis for Student Development and Enhanced Academic Performance


First submitted for publication: 25 November 2008

Geoff M. Ayling Qianhuang International College, No.6 Guang Dian Dong Road, Changzhou City, Jiangsu, 213161, China;
email address: geoff.ayling@theforrestproject.org



Chinese students commence studies for places in overseas universities, often so handicapped by their English, that they cannot understand what is said in class. Many cannot read the textbooks prescribed for western schools. Here a working hypothesis is described, which has been used since 2007 at a school in China, to assist students to enhance their adolescent development and academic performance. The students were assisted through exposure to apparently epigenetic factors in the learning and teaching process. It is thought that learning and memory functions of the hippocampus may be involved. The school has each year had 99 percent of its students pass overseas matriculation examinations. As well, 40 to 60 percent of students became high achievers, obtaining marks of 90 percent or more. Such a level of performance is otherwise only found among the top few schools of western countries. Means of testing the hypothesis are proposed.

KeywordsAcademic performance, adolescent development, behavioural, education, epigenetic, hippocampus, learning and memory, stress response

Since the late 1990s, Chinese students have increasingly sought to study for degrees at overseas universities. By this means they can access professions and highly paid employment anywhere in the world.

Schools have as a result appeared throughout China, which employ overseas teachers of subjects to enable students to be accepted to study for university degrees in engineering, science, medicine, economics, languages and business. Each school accepts students with the offer, to assist them to pass examinations conducted externally by overseas education authorities in Australia, England, Canada or the United States.

Chinese students are in effect competing under a severe handicap against overseas students who are also seeking places in the same universities. Fees of from RMB80,000 to 120,000 have been charged for teaching a student for one year.

The students have however experienced fundamental difficulties, shared by 18-year olds of all countries. Most have still not developed the necessary self-esteem and internal locus of control, needed to undertake a course of study which will affect their whole lives. Students appear unaware before arriving at university, that they are in control of their own futures and that their success or otherwise will result from the actions they take. Neither the Chinese middle school system nor high schools of other countries, appear to instil the necessary level of self-esteem and internal locus of control.

Chinese students have a further disadvantage, in that they have usually come through the middle school system having learnt insufficient English. Most are not yet ready to participate in classes conducted in their new language. Even though they will often be provided with six months of intensive lessons in English, a significant proportion of students commence studying physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology and business, without being able to understand what is being said in class. As well, many are unable to read the textbooks prescribed for students in an overseas country. The rarefied language of physics and chemistry is as a result completely unintelligible to many upon commencement of a course of study.

A large percentage of students have also not been able to pass examinations in subjects required as pre-requisites for particular degrees. The success rate has as a result been low. The schools have not surprisingly suffered from well-justified scepticism of their effectiveness. Parents have been particularly critical of many non-educator owners of these schools, who fraudulently pass off untrained people as teachers. Across China the industry reached a peak in 2002.

In overseas countries schools that prepare students to go to university are often selective, admitting only those who appear to be capable of passing the examinations at the end of the year. However, in Changzhou in Jiangsu Province, there is a further factor which might be described as selectivity in reverse. Principals of local middle schools have conflicts of interest and encourage their most promising students to enrol at particular schools. Teachers of local schools assist this campaign and actively discourage students from attending the Qianhuang International College in favour of a preferred school. Those students who appear to be the most talented in Changzhou are in this way deterred each year from enrolling.

A need clearly existed for a working hypothesis, which would enable still-developing adolescent students to study in their second language. As well, it needed to enable students to excel in a range of subjects, which are the pre-requisites for degree courses of overseas universities.

It appeared that one of the avenues from which a working hypothesis might be derived, could result from the principles of epigenetics. It is known that exposure to specific epigenetic factors can result in key aspects of development occurring at particular stages of the human life cycle.

The other avenue was the utilisation of Shindler’s behavioural science approach to enhancing the self-esteem and internal locus of control of students. Self-esteem and internal locus of control have been researched over five decades and shown to be intimately associated with the enhancement of academic performance.

A combination of these two avenues was considered, in which the behavioural science approach might be found to be equivalent to an epigenetic environmental factor. It was speculated that exposure of students might in time lead to epigenetically-induced developmental changes.


History of Development of Epigenetics:

Epigenetics has become the newest field of science. By 2005 it was freely acknowledged as being at the epicentre of medicine. Although the concept originated many decades ago, epigenetics culminated in the 1990s from a number of intersecting lines of research. Its origin has been credited to Conrad Waddington (1905-1975), Professor of Animal Genetics at the University of Edinburgh, who showed in 1933 that chemical messengers from certain tissues in the chick embryo could encourage other tissues to grow. Waddington defined epigenetics as ‘the branch of biology which studies the causal interactions between genes and their products, which bring the phenotype into being’.

In 1994 there were two independent and converging lines of research, which in that year led to the realisation that Waddington’s fundamental finding had implications in medicine and many other fields. There was the research of Plomin, Reiss and co-workers, which showed that aspects of adolescent development and health could be socially induced. Wolf Reik and coworkers on the other hand, showed that molecular mechanisms were responsible for the transmission of gene characteristics. These mechanisms needed to be activated and if not, then a gene could remain silent, i.e. an inherited characteristic might not be expressed.

Plomin and Reiss had in 1994 gone beyond what anyone had ever done before in trying to bridge family research and genetics. Based upon studies of hundreds of families, it was shown that children of abusive parents could often become antisocial and sometimes delinquent, while children of cold parents could struggle to form emotional bonds. Their findings to some extent reconciled nature and nurture, by explaining how genetic tendencies are encouraged or stifled by specific parental responses. In The Relationship Code Reiss concluded ‘many genetic factors, powerful as they may be in psychological development, exert their influence only through the good offices of the family.’ How parents raised their children actually did matter.

Reik et al carried out pioneering investigations between 1987 and 1992. By 1994, it was clearly evident that important insights would be provided from genome imprinting in human genetics, which would connect evolutionary understanding with physiology, genetic disease and human behaviour. These workers had established properties of the imprinting mechanism. In particular, some of the effects of imprinting on mammalian development could be explained by the expressions of a number of specific genes. These included major foetal growth factors. As well, some of the molecular mechanisms of imprinting were identified, including modification of DNA and chromosomes in the form of DNA methylation and possibly heritable chromatin structures.

One of the most significant findings by Reik et al was that loss of imprinting or altered imprinting, appeared to be implicated in a large number of genetic diseases and cancers. This has since led to the now accepted developmental (perinatal) origin of health and disease, largely researched by Hanson and Gluckman, following earlier research by their colleague Professor Barker at Southampton University. In response to the work of these investigators, institutions around the world have since sought to identify dietary factors which may influence the developmental origins of diseases that manifest in adult life.

In 1998 there was a preoccupation with the theoretical possibilities of cloning. Edwards and Beard, in response to the media fuelling public fears of cloning, showed that cloned children were very unlikely to develop identically because of the prevalence of environmental factors. Superficially they might closely resemble one another, but when raised in different environments and undergoing a range of possible life experiences, they could develop quite differently. In the period before epigenetics was better understood, it was widely believed that humans could have themselves cloned through replication of the genome.

There were other researchers who played key roles between the 1980s and early 2000s. Meaney, Szyf and others conclusively demonstrated the epigenetic nature of the social relationship between a mother and her baby. The pattern of behaviour of a mother was shown to induce the expression of genes that modulated the stress response. Romeo and McEwen showed, as adolescents developed, that there were changes that needed to occur in brain components before entering adulthood.

Finally, Skinner demonstrated conclusively, that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemical compounds could not only induce disease-causing changes in the epigenome, but that the reprogramming which occurred could be transmitted intergenerationally.

The epigenome is now recognised to be a dynamic interface between an individual’s DNA and his environment, whereas the genome constitutes an almost static record of genes. The epigenome is as a result, constantly reprogrammed in response to exposures to epigenetic environmental factors, which occur throughout the developmental life cycle.

A further line of research has developed in human behavioural science. Between 1999 and 2005, Pruessner and others reported that self-esteem and internal locus of control were associated with modulation of the stress response. These characteristics had long been recognised for their positive correlation with academic performance (see below). Behavioural science theory has furthermore held that the maintenance of a classroom atmosphere, which fosters high self-esteem, should also result in enhanced academic performance.

It appeared then from this still-emerging field, that a working hypothesis for still-developing adolescents, could perhaps be found from the principles of epigenetics.


Human Behavioural Enhancement of Self-esteem and Internal Locus of Control:

Shindler has thoroughly reviewed research in the behavioural science field concerning self-esteem and internal locus of control. He has been particularly interested in these developmental characteristics as the means of creating a learning atmosphere in which students may develop enhanced academic performance.

Self-esteem was considered by Shindler to be understood in different ways, each pointing in the same direction. He noted in particular that the feelings of a student had very little to do with self-esteem. It could best be described as a set of unconscious self-beliefs formed over a lifetime. They reflect perceptions of one’s abilities and how cause is understood. This decides events in a person’s life. Such unconscious perceptions are so deeply engrained, that they can only be altered by significant reconditioning of the heart and mind.

He proposed that self-esteem should be defined in terms of a practical meaning, which relied upon a student responding to the three behaviours: internal locus of control, acceptance/belonging and self-efficacy. In addition there was a component that arose from the actions of a teacher, who was in a position to either manufacture or detract from his students’ self-esteem.

Self-esteem is otherwise a well known concept, having been studied over several decades and shown to be directly related to academic performance. There was therefore very good reason why self-esteem should be encouraged to develop in students, i.e. in addition to its role in mediating the stress response.

Internal locus of control was described as being achieved through the teacher promoting a clear understanding of cause and effect within a student. Each individual needs to see for himself, that an achievement for which he is accountable, is directly related to his level of effort. This is in contrast to another orientation that views cause as an external factor, where things ‘happen to us.’ An internal locus of control results from a causal understanding of behaviour and effect. It is learned from freely making choices and taking responsibility for the consequences of those choices. Through responsible action and accountability for those actions, a young person learns within himself to attribute the cause of success or failure.

Internal locus of control has, like self-esteem, been studied over many years. It has as a result been shown by a number of researchers, that internal locus of control correlates with level of academic achievement. It has even been shown to be a more significant indicator of academic performance than intelligence or socioeconomic status.

One of the most effective methods of promoting internal locus of control in a student, is through emphasizing that he has a free choice in applying himself to a clearly defined study process. The method relies upon providing the student with a choice and a consequence. When the student finds that upon having not applied himself, he receives the expected test mark or a teacher’s offer to assist him to overcome his difficulty. On the next occasion he may then prefer to take the alternate choice, which avoids the embarrassment that he knows will result from having made little effort.

It is essential that the student learns to make this choice himself, without coercion or fear. Punishment only delays the day when he will make a choice of his own will. It helps if a nonjudgmental atmosphere is established where there are no excuses. The student needs in this way to learn that any excuse should be to himself. After all, he is the one doing the work for his own benefit, not that of the teacher. Excuses are as a result unnecessary in this learning atmosphere. The student needs to see that his achievement is directly related to his level of effort. He can in this way learn the meaning of accountability.

Problem solving in physics, chemistry or mathematics affords an excellent discipline through which to learn about study effort and consequence. Coupled with regular testing, a student can get into a daily routine as each new study topic is introduced. The tests provide the measure of accountability, particularly if they are known to count toward the end of year final examination result.

Acceptance and belonging are fostered among students through the behaviours that are accepted, assessed and managed, together with the attitudes and values that create reality in classes. In an environment where there is emotional support and a minimum of destructive criticism, students can feel empowered to take risks, express themselves and persist in the face of difficulty.

A student who has never studied physics before, needs to feel that despite the difficulties which sometimes occur, there will be help available to show the right path to pursue toward success. A student who has for example, been earlier diverted to study the humanities because physics was considered to be beyond his capabilities, will find in a classroom atmosphere of acceptance and belonging, that he can successfully face apparently insurmountable study difficulties. He has in this way been relieved of the negative effects of the stress response.

Without experiencing the acceptance and feeling that one belongs, a student can find it difficult to feel the self-acceptance he needs, which is a foundation for self-esteem. It has been shown that a relationship exists between a sense of acceptance and belonging and self-esteem.

As well, building a sense of self- and peer-acceptance, together with a sense of classroom belonging, has been shown to promote academic performance.

The climate of a classroom can otherwise be one of the most destructive inhibitors of self-esteem. All of the possible interpersonal interactions contribute, i.e. the strong oppress the weak and the popular oppress the unpopular.

A classroom is then an environment that is very much a result of management. Without management it can deteriorate into an atmosphere of hostility, fear and social alienation. Cooperation can be fostered between all members of the class, not just between friends within a clique.

Sense of self-efficacy is generated from evidence that confirms to a student that he has done something well. When a young person obtains sensory feedback that he has succeeded in a given task or demonstrated a talent, he will be confident in applying that ability in the future.

It is important for a teacher to remember that self-efficacy derives from first-hand evidence, not praise or verbal compliments. The exhortation before an event that ‘you can do it’ does not fool a student, who will make his own assessment based upon previous experience.

Self-efficacy has also been described as the degree of expectancy that a particular task can be performed successfully. A student who lacks confidence will as a result view his actions with self-doubts. On the other hand, a confident student possesses subconscious concrete images that support his ability to perform a particular task.

Students who lack confidence, competence or self-efficacy can display a wide range of behaviours, from introverted doubt to extroverted braggart or displays of showing-off.

Self-efficacy has not only been positively correlated with self-esteem and internal locus of control, but most importantly with academic performance.

A teacher can contribute directly to a student’s self-efficacy by providing clear feedback on the results of his efforts, whether in compiling private study notes, writing reports or helping analyse his performances in tests. A student needs to know specifically what he did well, what was incorrect and how to remedy weaknesses.

If a student has performed well, it is important for the teacher to let him know when this has happened. Targets need to be established and the student’s preparations to reach a target need to be confirmed as being realistic. If the preparations are not realistic, then the teacher can advise the student, recheck and confirm that he is on the right track. A teacher who assists his student to build self-efficacy is then far more than a deliverer of lessons who stands remotely in a classroom.

The role of the teacher was described by Shindler as critical to the process. Too often many teachers’ practices destroy the foundations of self-esteem without being aware. Unhelpful practices may be ‘working’ on some level, but in essence they are working against the teacher’s ability to teach and students’ ability to achieve long-term growth.

The teacher can directly contribute to classroom acceptance of students through his own behaviour. A sense of cooperation can easily be established, whether between students or between students and the teacher. The teacher has the opportunity to demonstrate this each day.

Acceptance can be particularly generated through respect demonstrated by the teacher toward each member of the class. This behaviour requires that negative talk and ‘putting a student in his place’ are unacceptable. The atmosphere is therefore non-judgmental.

The differences between students’ abilities need to be appreciated, with recognition given for unique effort or achievement, whether a leader of the class or a genuine ‘tryer’.

Above all, the teacher needs to establish that he is caring, approachable, genuine and able to support the feelings and sentiments of individual students. In this respect, he needs to demonstrate to his students that he understands their needs and pressures, with repeated effort to assist individually, privately and at any time. Checking drafts of work being done, providing comment on how to improve private study notes and particularly, checking assessment work before being handed in (advising on how to improve upon the likely marking result), will all contribute significantly to acceptance and belonging. Providing an email address, through which to receive and send checked work, has been found to result in a group of students approaching their teacher, who might otherwise not do this in front of others.

From the above discussion it is clear that in order for a teacher to be effective in enhancing his students’ self-esteem, he needs to:

  • Provide exercises such as practice problems and testing on a regular basis, which will enable a student to get into a daily routine with each new study topic, performing tasks for which he will be accountable for the end results
  • Demonstrate daily that there will be help available for each student to understand that he will be shown the right path to pursue, which will lead to success
  • Provide clear feedback on the results of each student’s efforts, so that he knows specifically what he did well, what was incorrect and how to remedy weaknesses.


On the other hand the teacher who habitually puts students in their place, treats them with lack of respect, finds ways of demeaning their efforts by marking down their work for petty reasons, shames those who have not responded with the necessary study effort, remains aloof from opportunities to put a student on the right track or who leaves students unsure about where they missed out on earning marks, will not contribute to their self-esteem.


The Working Hypothesis as an Epigenetic Intervention:

The working hypothesis, in which adolescent students were guided and maintained on an assumed developmental path, was intended to be an epigenetic intervention. The aim was to achieve a transition in self-esteem and internal locus of control. The resulting benefit for students may have been an increase in learning and memory skills, which could theoretically lead to enhancement of their academic performance.

As a result of the study undertaken at Qianhuang in both 2007 and 2008, with 90 adolescent students, it was demonstrated that self-esteem and internal locus of control are dynamic, not static. As well, their enhanced academic performance may have been induced as a consequence.

Enhancement for some students occurred as a well-defined transition over a period of less than a month, while for others, it happened as a gradual change over several months.

The transition measured for more than 90 percent of students in 2007, appeared to agree with the epigenetic development component of the hypothesis. The change that occurred was however not necessarily due to the intervention, because it was not possible under the circumstances to include experimental controls. The transition may well have been going to occur anyway, because these students at the age of 18 years were in an age range when developmental changes are to be expected.

As an experimental procedure, there were too many independent variables which could have affected the result of a trial designed to test the working hypothesis. It would for example, have been unacceptable to test a number of students, who had not received the same exposure to the working hypothesis as the majority of students. In any event, other independent variables which may have entered into the equation for students held as controls, could have been: the effect of the teachers who actually taught them during the period, the stages of development already reached by these students and their pre-existing academic performance abilities.

Perhaps the best indication of the existence of a beneficial change having occurred for these students, might be obtained from a comparison of the school performance among a population of many schools undertaking similar university-entrance examinations.

Figure 1 shows the results for 595 schools across an Australian State, in which percentages of students who scored 90 percent or more in their university-entrance examinations are shown against the numbers of schools containing these high achievers. Less than a handful of schools are shown in which the percentages of high achiever students was more than 40 percent. The vast majority of schools had less than five percent of students’ exam papers marked 90 percent or more. The Qianhuang school, with a majority of students apparently high achievers, was clearly equivalent to the handful of most successful schools in Australia.

The relatively successful academic performance of Qianhuang students from 2007 to 2009, in their newly-acquired second language, would suggest that the working hypothesis needs to be better understood.

Teachers at this school in China now feel comfortable with the knowledge, upon starting a new class each year, that 99 percent will obtain the South Australian Certificate of Education and from 40 to 60 percent will be high achievers.

Likewise, families in Changzhou and other cities of Jiangsu Province are confident that in sending their student children to Qianhuang, their ordinary grades at Chinese middle schools may in many instances become those of high achievers. Their student children will as a result be welcomed by universities of all western countries.

If the working hypothesis can be shown to be the principal reason for students having such success, then this approach to education would be of economic value to not only China but all western countries.


Studies Needed to Better Understand How Students are Able to Benefit:

The significance of such a working hypothesis suggests that trials should be conducted, particularly to learn how to most effectively use it to benefit students. These need to be undertaken independently of efforts by medical researchers to confirm the hypothesis.

In 2007, self-esteem and internal locus of control were monitored for all 90 students and it was clear that at least 90 percent were on paths of progression, which would culminate in an apparently similar plateau for these characteristics. Every student was progressing at his own rate, although a small number (less than ten percent) were identified who exhibited no change at all. No effort was made to establish and manage a school-wide climate for learning as advocated by Shindler. An atmosphere for optimal learning was entirely at the discretion of individual teachers.

In 2008 it was found that a significant number appeared, after four to six months, to have reached an individual plateau of self-esteem and internal locus of control. A significant number of students were unfortunately still developing after eight months, the time when they would sit for their university-entrance examinations. This group would not reach their plateau until after the academic year ended. Overall, testing in that year still recorded about 40 percent high-achievers. The reasons for the delay were unclear. It has been speculated that there were subtle effects from the ways teachers treated students. As in 2007, there was no effort made as above to establish and manage a school-wide climate for learning. The necessary learning atmosphere occurred on the initiative of individual teachers.

The most recent group of students in 2009, appeared to have responded much earlier, with nearly all having achieved the plateau well in time for their examinations. For reasons which need to be studied, this group appeared to respond to the learning and teaching techniques within the first two months, i.e. about three months ahead of those in 2008. Comparative observations were made in 2009 by students from 2008, who considered that in the previous year, students did not immediately accept the study regime and procrastinated for two to three months before beginning to study seriously. Again, in 2009 there was no effort to establish a school-wide climate for learning. The enhanced academic performances that occurred were the result of initiatives by individual teachers.

A study of responses to the intervention was also undertaken in 2009, for sub-groups of apparently different levels of academic ability, identified at the outset of the course. This distinguished those at the top of a class, from those in the middle quartiles and others at the bottom of a class. It was found that the initial distinction changed completely during the year, with many middle- and apparently lower-ability students, rising to become high-achievers. This preliminary finding disagrees with the beliefs of many teachers, that student abilities are static. It needs to be studied further.

Although in routine use, the intervention needs to be much better understood, particularly for students who present with special needs. It has been found to be particularly useful for students with limited self-esteem, who initially showed little or no apparent prospect of success in studies, which might gain entrance to a university degree course and a professional career.

The intervention is now being found to identify students with learning difficulties, some of whom have been found to achieve a cinderella-like recovery. Others have been identified for whom specialist assistance could be required. This early finding suggests that there is scope for specialists to use the approach as the means of identifying students who have remediable handicaps.

There is now a growing perception, that exposure to the intervention could enable perhaps a majority of students to attain the necessary development to successfully undertake a university degree. Such a perception needs to be thoroughly studied in order to avert speculative claims which could foster misunderstanding in a community.


Testing Needed to Reject or Confirm the Hypothesis:

It is proposed that upon the working hypothesis being shown to offer the opportunity for students to be significantly assisted, then a case could be made for medical researchers to once and for all put it to the test.

This may be done through bisulphite sequencing analysis of changes due to reprogramming of the epigenomes of students, correlated with the appearance of a transition. White blood cells might be used, with the assumption that important genes that express cytokines that interact with the brain, will be epigenetically modified in peripheral tissue.

Studies of a correlation with the appearance of the transition could be undertaken utilising magnetic resonance imaging. This type of study may indicate structural and functional changes in relevant brain structures, such as the hippocampus, hypothalamus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Such a study would be of widespread interest in the field of neurology.

Correlation with the stress response, a function of the hippocampus, could be obtained through measurements of concentrations of salivary cortisol. In this study, cortisol concentrations could be correlated with the appearance of a transition in self-esteem and internal locus of control. As a result of these measurements, the progression of each student’s adolescent stress response could be indicated, as he moves toward young adulthood. Fundamental differences have been reported to occur in the adolescent and adult stress response, the result of developmental changes.

Should the hypothesis be confirmed that it is in fact an epigenetic intervention, this would signify to educators, medical researchers and specialists in human development and child care, that new thinking is required in all of these fields. That is, there would be a need to reconsider the need in the development of young people, for them to receive the necessary exposures to particular epigenetic developmental factors. Otherwise, developmental genes needed in adult life may continue without being switched on.

Community Understanding of Development Through Education:

There are indications that students and their families welcome the knowledge that a student child, who had previously experienced middle to lower grades throughout high school, may now have the opportunity to undertake a course of study to the limits of his potential.

Such an understanding was independently concluded by students at Qianhuang, in classes where widespread change appeared to be occurring throughout the nine month study period. This in itself appeared to provide a further positive stimulus toward enhancement of self-esteem. When students began to realise that change was occurring, some began encouraging others with noticeably lower levels of self-esteem. A general awareness began, that it was necessary to persevere with the study program and await an anticipated enhancement of academic performance.

Parents and family members in the community were as a result happy, in many instances at the unexpected success of their student children.


A working hypothesis is described which might in the future be shown to be an epigenetic intervention. It appears to enhance the self-esteem and internal locus of control of students and thereby, increase their academic performance. It has been used from 2007 to 2009 at the Qianhuang International College, at Changzhou in Jiangsu Province, China.

The students were assisted to develop through exposure to apparently epigenetic factors in the learning and teaching process. It is thought that learning and memory functions of the hippocampus may be involved. The school has each year had 99 percent of its students pass overseas matriculation examinations. As well, 40 to 60 percent of students obtained marks of 90 percent or more. Such a level of performance is otherwise only found among the top few schools of western countries.

Such an intervention if confirmed, would appear to be of economic importance. It needs to be studied further in order to learn how to most effectively assist students to achieve the necessary self-esteem and internal locus of control, which are needed in order to study for a university degree.

Testing the hypothesis would involve bisulphite sequencing analysis studies of the epigenomes of students, as found in white blood cells. Magnetic resonance imaging of structural and functional changes of the hippocampus, hypothalamus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex should be undertaken to indicate any developmental changes which might also occur in the brain. Physiological changes in the stress response as an adolescent develops, may also be indicated by changes in concentrations of salivary cortisol, associated with the appearance of a transition in self-esteem and internal locus of control.

Figure 1 Graph of number of schools with students recording 90 percent or better for all exam papers marked for the 2004 Higher School Certificate, NSW, Australia



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