Open Journal of Modern Linguistics
2013. Vol.3, No.4, 337-343
Published Online December 2013 in SciRes (
Open Access 337
The Role of Religious Orientation, Psychological Well-Being, and
Self-Esteem in Iranian EFL Learners’ Language Achievement
Elham Moradi, Jahanbakhsh Langroudi
Foreign Languages Department, Shahid Bahonar University, Kerman, Iran
Received June 13th, 2013; revised July 14th, 2013; accepted July 23rd, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Elham Moradi, Jahanbakhsh Langroudi. This is an open access article distributed under the
Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
The present study aimed at finding the relationship of religious orientation (RO), psychological well-be-
ing (PWB), and self-esteem (SE) with language achievement (LA) among Iranian EFL learners. Further-
more, it investigated the predictability of dependent variable (LA) using all independent and predictor
variables (RO, PWB, and SE). 126 senior and junior students majoring in English Translation and English
Literature at Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman participated in the study. To obtain the required data,
three questionnaires were utilized: Allport and Ross’s (1967) Intrinsic-Extrinsic Religious Orientation
Scale (IEROS) to measure extrinsic and intrinsic religious orientations, Short Measurement of Psycho-
logical Well-Being by Clarke, Marshall, Ryff, and Wheaton (2001) to measure psychological well-being,
and finally, The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale by Rosenberg (1965) to assess self-esteem. Moreover, par-
ticipants’ GPAs in major courses were used as indicators of their language achievement. For analysis of
data, Pearson Product Moment Correlation and Regression analysis were used. The results revealed that
there was a significant positive relationship between IRO, PWB, and SE with LA and a significant nega-
tive relationship between ERO and LA. Additionally, all the independent variables together could predict
LA and accounted for 95 percent of variability of students’ GPA.
Keywords: Religious Orientation (RO); Extrinsic Religious Orientation (ERO); Intrinsic Religious
Orientation (IRO); Psychological Well-Being (PWB); Self-Esteem (SE)
Increasing interest toward language learning has made the
parameters determining language achievement more signifi-
cant. If effective and successful language learning is to be
achieved, one solution would be Stevick’s (1980) claim about
how successful language learning relies less on learning ma-
terials, methods, tasks and language study and more on what
is within and between learners and teachers. Many factors,
internal and external to the learners, could affect their per-
formance. This sheds more light on the significance of pa-
rameters resulting in individual differences among learners.
Rode et al. (2005) claimed that broader contextual and attitu-
dinal variables might influence student’s achievement. Scho-
lars, including psychologists, have conducted many research
studies to identify the factors associated with academic per-
formance, among which religious orientation (RO), psycho-
logical well-being (PWB), and self-esteem (SE) have been
found recognizably important (Chamorro-Premuzic & Furn-
ham, 2005; Smetana, Campione-Barr, & Metzger, 2006; Stei-
nberg & Morris, 2001).
Religion has been reported to be effective in the daily
functioning of the behavior (Shafranske, 1996) and it plays
an important role in understanding a person’s psychological
makeup (Maltby & Lewis, 1996). Moreover, religion has
been shown to influence human decisions, choices, and ac-
tions (Giddens, 2002) and to be significant in the develop-
ment of competence and achievement (Hathaway & Parga-
ment, 1990). A study by Astin and Astin (2004) showed that
religious factors affect academic performance in college.
Jeynes (2002) also reported that religious internalization and
schooling are positively effective in academic achievement
and also contribute to how one behaves in school.
The well-being of college students has also been reported
to be critical to their academic success. Those students with
higher psychological well-being typically receive higher
grades and are unlikely to experience academic failure (An-
drews & Wilding, 2004; Daugherty & Lane, 1999; DeBerard,
Speilmans, & Julka, 2004). Many studies have reported that
university students’ psychological wellbeing is of paramount
importance (El Ansari & Stock, 2010; Mikolajczyk et al.,
Self-esteem is perceived as a crucial factor in one’s social
and cognitive development and is regarded as a predictor of
academic performance (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, &
Vohs, 2003; Berndt, 2002; Peterson & Barrett, 1987; Peterson
& Steen, 2002; Pulkkinen, Nygren, & Kokko, 2002; Wigfield,
Battle, Keller, & Eccles, 2002). Researchers such as Coop-
ersmith (1967) and Reasoner (1982) believed that a very im-
portant trend in education has been shown to be a consideration
of self-esteem. McCroskey, Daly, Richmond, and Falcione
(1977) claim that both research and theory confirm that one’s
perceptions of self have a significant effect on “… attitudes,
Open Access
behaviors, evaluations, and cognitive processes” (p. 269). They
point out the important role that one’s self-concept plays in
classroom research.
The importance of self-esteem can be viewed in regard to
learning generally and language learning specifically. Brown
(2000) claimed that learner’s belief in her/his ability to accom-
plish a task is central to all learning. Oxford and Ehrman (1995)
also stated that learners’ positive/negative beliefs about them-
selves and their learning ability definitely contribute to their
success/failure in learning.
Regarding the importance of self-esteem in the process of
language learning specifically, Brown (1977) mentioned that a
person with high self-esteem is able to act more freely and to be
less reserved while learning a language. Such a person, because
of his self strength, sees the indispensable mistakes in the proc-
ess of learning not a threat to his identity and self.
Religious Orientation
It was since the time of Freud when the religious concept has
been presented in the realm of psychology but psychology of
religion has been studied empirically only since the mid fifties.
From then on, psychologists began to acknowledge the crucial
role of religion in “historical, cultural, social and psychological
realities that humans confront in their lives” (Hood, Spilka,
Hunsberger, & Gorsuch, 1996: p. 2). Early works on religiosity
viewed it as a unidimensional concept (Freud, 1907; James,
1902; Jung, 1952; Pratt, 1920) and the ideas about it were
reached only by the retrospective observation of isolated and
extreme individuals, and were not supported empirically.
But in the latter half of the twentieth century, the psychology
of religion became a salient subject of study and developed by
empirical evaluation. In all these studies religiosity as a multi-
dimensional concept has its own dimensions and components
(Hills, Francis, Argyle, & Jackson, 2004: pp. 62-63). Included
here are the work of Fukuyama (1960) four dimensions, Lenski
(1961) four dimensions, King (1967) ten dimensions, Allport’s
intrinsic-extrinsic typology (Allport & Ross, 1967), and Glock’s
(1972) five dimensional typology. Although some researchers
such as Clayton and Gladden (1974) still argue against multi-
dimensionality of religiosity, many others strongly support it
(Faulkner & DeJong, 1966; Glock & Stark, 1965; King & Hunt,
1972a, 1972b, 1975; Lenski, 1961).
As mentioned before, Allport (1959) introduced two dimen-
sions for religiosity. At first, Allport (1950) called them “im-
mature” and “mature”, but later on he used the terms “extrin-
sic” and “intrinsic”, which are the focuses of the current study.
To put the distinction in a nutshell, Allport and Ross (1967)
stated that Extrinsics use their religion, while Intrinsics live
their religion.
Extrinsics see religion as a source of “security and solace,
sociability and distraction, status and self justification” (Rodri-
guez & Henderson, 2010: p. 85). For extrinsically oriented
individuals, religion acts as a means to achieve some self-
serving end.
In contrast, individuals with intrinsic religious orientation
view their needs and wants as of less significance and make
them compatible with their own religious beliefs and directions.
Intrinsics’ find their master motive in religion (Rodriguez &
Henderson, 2010: p. 85). For the intrinsically inclined, religion
itself is the eventual end and guideline of life (Allport, 1966).
Psychological Well-Being
Concept of well-being has long been under investigation since
ancient Greece by philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aris-
totle who attempted to define the essential constituents of positive
human experience leading to the furtherance of pleasure and
happiness. Aristotle, one of those philosophers, was the first one
who mentioned two distinct dimensions of wellbeing (Ryan &
Deci, 2001). In his view, well-being can be divided into two
components; Hedonistic and Eudaimonic. Recently, hedonism is
operationalized as subjective well-being (SWB), and eudaimon-
ism as psychological well-being (PWB).
Keyes, Shmotkin, and Ryff (2002) elaborate on the distinction
between SWB and PWB and state although both evaluate
well-being, they highlight different characteristics of well-being.
“SWB involves more global evaluations of affect and life quality,
whereas PWB examines perceived thriving vis-à-vis the existen-
tial challenges of life” (Keyes et al., 2002: p. 1007). The second
conceptualization of well-being is the focus of the current study.
PWB pertains to a constructive and socially beneficial function-
ing which leads to personal growth.
In eudaimonism, well-being is a result of an endeavor for be-
ing perfect which is to fulfill one’s true potential (Ryff, 1995: p.
100). In other words, happiness or well-being is a product of full
engagement and optimal performance in existential challenges of
life (Keyes et al., 2002). Ryan and Deci (2001) state that eudai-
monim well-being constitutes the realization of one’s daimon or
true nature.
Ryff’s (1989b) psychological well-being model (PWB) was
among the first to adopt the concept of eudaimonia. In his model,
PWB includes six dimensions: Self-acceptance, Positive Rela-
tions with Others, Autonomy, Environmental Mastery, Purpose
in Life, and Personal Growth.
Self-esteem is one of those factors internal to the learner and
crucial to the learning process. It is viewed as the image one
forms of himself or the way he perceives himself. One’s
self-esteem is determined by evaluation of that self (either
negatively or positively). Self-esteem refers to the way indi-
viduals assess their various capabilities and characteristics.
Rubio (2007) describes self-esteem as “a psychological and
social phenomenon” (p. 5) in which one assesses his/her com-
petence and own self based on some principle. This evaluation
may lead to various emotional states, and becomes growingly
stable but still subject to change depending on personal condi-
Rosenberg’s (1965) definition of self-esteem is the most
broad and frequently cited one which described it as a favorable
or unfavorable attitude toward the self. Coopersmith (1967)
described self esteem in this way:
By self-esteem we refer to the evaluation which the individ-
ual makes and customarily maintains with regard to himself; it
expresses an attitude of approval or disapproval, and indicates
the extent to which the individual believes himself to be capa-
ble, significant, successful, and worthy (pp. 4-5).
He added that self-esteem shows how a person judges his
worthiness and what attitudes he has towards himself. Self-
esteem as a subjective experience is conveyed by the individual
to others through verbal and nonverbal behavior.
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Literature Review
Religious Orientation and Language Achievement
Researchers have found that religiosity is positively corre-
lated with language achievement. For example, Hathaway and
Pargament (1990), using a largely middle-aged sample, point
out the important role that religiosity plays in the development
of competence and achievement. Researchers have found that
religiosity is positively correlated with grade point average
(Walker & Dixon, 2002; Zern, 1989). Many other studies con-
firm these findings (Abar, Carter, & Winsler, 2009; Brown,
Ndubuisi, & Gary, 1990; Gary, 1990; Jeynes, 1999; Muller &
Ellison, 2001; Trusty & Watts, 1999; Sikkink & Hernandez,
Psychological Well-Being and Language Achievement
Concept of well-being has been reported as critical to aca-
demic success. Researches show that students with high sense
of well-being receive better grades and are unlikely to drop out
of college (Hysenbegasi, Hass, & Rowland, 2005; Pekrun,
Goetz, Titz, & Perry, 2002).
While some claim that more proficient people experience
well-being during their life (Bowling & Windsor, 2001; Saun-
ders, 1996), many others show the exact opposite (e.g. Tsou &
Liu, 2001). Recently, lots of studies have detected that profi-
ciency has a small and positive partial effect on well-being
(Chow, 2005; Easterlin, 2001; Rode et al., 2005; Steinberg &
Darling, 1994).
Self-Esteem and Language Achievement
A considerable amount of research has studied the role of
self-esteem in the process of language learning and it has been
found to be related to academic performance (Beane & Lipka,
1984; Chapman, 1988; Hansford & Hattie, 1982; Harter, 1983;
Marsh, Byrne, & Shavelson, 1988; Wylie, 1979). Many studies
show that Self-esteem influences achievement; and a positive
correlation is found (Byrne, 1984; Covington, 1989; Klein &
Keller, 1990; Solley & Stagner, 1956). Oxford and Ehrman
(1995) asserted that learner’s positive beliefs about himself and
his learning ability would definitely contribute to learning suc-
Conversely, other studies view self-esteem as the result of
achievement (Calysn, 1971; Hoge, Smit, & Crist 1995; Ross &
Broh, 2000; Schmidt & Padilla, 2003). Notably, Helmke and
Van Aken (1995) acknowledge that academic achievement is
more a cause of self-esteem than its outcome.
However, some researchers report a negative or no correla-
tion (Mecca, Smelser, & Vasconcellos, 1989). Baumeister et al.
(2003) concluded that self-esteem has no relationship with
subsequent achievement. Additionally, Crocker and Luhtanen
(2003) reported that self-esteem cannot be a reliable predictor
of academic achievement among college students.
The participants of this study were 126 male and female jun-
ior and senior students majoring in English Literature and Eng-
lish Translation at Shahid Bahonar university of Kerman. Ran-
dom sampling was employed in the present study as in this
procedure “all members of the population have an equal and
independent chance of being included in the sample” (Ary,
Jacobs, & Razavieh, 1972: p. 162).
In order to obtain data on the variables, three questionnaires
were administered:
1) Intrinsic-Extrinsic Religious Orientation Scale (IEROS,
Allport & Ross, 1967).
2) Short Measurement of Psychological Well-Being (Clarke
et al., 2001).
3) The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965).
Intrinsic-Extrinsic Religious Orientation Scale
(IEROS, Allport & Ross, 1967)
Intrinsic-Extrinsic Religious Orientation Scale was devel-
oped by Allport and Ross (1967). There are two distinctive
subscales in this questionnaire, namely extrinsic orientation and
intrinsic orientation. This instrument consists of 20 items and
based on its original construction, nine items are related to in-
trinsic and 11 items represent the extrinsic subscale. IEROS is
based on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 5
(strongly disagree). The separate summation of scale items
yields score ranges of 11 - 55 and 9 - 45 for the extrinsic and
intrinsic subscales, respectively.
The Religious Orientation Scale has demonstrated good psy-
chometric properties, with high internal consistency for both
subscales (Hill & Hood, 1999). Hill and Hood (1999) noted that
the intrinsic subscale has been found to be more internally con-
sistent than the extrinsic, with α > 0.80 and α > 0.70, respec-
tively. Validity and reliability in this self-report scale were
acceptable by Taylor and Mac Donald (1999).
Short Mea surement of Psy chological Wel l- Bei ng
(Clarke et al., 20 01)
PWB was operationalized with a short version (18 items, 3
for each construct) of Ryff’s (1989a) Measure of Psychological
Well-being. Items are rated on a 1 (strongly disagree) to 7
(strongly agree) Likert scale. The scale is presently regarded as
the best objective measure of psychological well-being (Con-
way & Macleod, 2002) and has received extensive cross-cul-
tural validation (Staudinger, Baltes, & Fleeson, 1999).
The combined scores can also provide an overall well-being
total. Higher values for the whole scale correspond to higher
levels of well-being, the values ranging between 18 and 126. Its
validity and reliability were extensively measured and accepted
in a study by Sirigatti et al. (2009).
The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale
(RSES, Rosenberg, 1965)
Self-esteem was assessed by the Rosenberg Self-esteem
Scale (Rosenberg, 1965), which is a 10-item self-report meas-
ure of global self-esteem thereby providing good indication of
general rather than specific views of the self (Baumeister et al.,
2003). Each item is answered on a 4-point Likert type scale
ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). The
scores can range from 10 (low level of self-esteem) to 40 (high
level of self-esteem). The scale consists of five positively-
worded and five negatively-worded items.
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The RSES has good levels of reliability and validity (Kong
& You, 2011; Zhao, Kong, & Wang, 2012). The reliability
index of the scale is α = 0.79. This scale has been used in vari-
ous populations and has excellent reliability and validity (Bau-
meister et al., 2003; Corcoran & Fischer, 1987). It “has re-
ceived more psychometric analysis and empirical validation
than any other self-esteem measure” (Robins, Hendin, &
Trzesniewski, 2001: p. 151).
Additionally, In order to evaluate the participants’ language
achievement, their GPAs were used based on their major
courses, not counting the general courses. Rolfhus and Acker-
man (1999) have pointed out that grades represent a better pre-
dictor of knowledge acquisition than any ability test. Therefore,
they should be considered a variable and valid measure of po-
tential achievement.
The present study was carried out during the class time in the
second semester of the academic year (2012). The question-
naires for the measurement of RO, PWB, and SE were given to
the subjects, simultaneously. During the completion process of
the questionnaires, the researcher was present physically to
monitor and also to provide the respondents with accompany-
ing instructions whenever needed. Respondents were informed
that the information they gave would be kept confidential and
be used for research purposes only.
Pearson Product Moment Correlation analysis was used to
seek any meaningful relations between the independent vari-
ables and dependent variable. Moreover, Regression Analysis
was used to measure the predictability of LA using ERO, IRO,
PWB, and SE.
Descriptive Statistics of the Variables
The descriptive statistics of the variables of the study, name-
ly extrinsic and intrinsic orientations, psychological well-being,
self-esteem, and language achievement (GPA) have been pre-
sented in Table 1.
In order to find any possible relationship between each of
independent variables (ERO, IRO, PWB, and SE) and the de-
pendent variable (GPA), Pearson Product-Moment Correlation
Coefficient was conducted (Table 2).
According to Table 2, there is a significant negative rela-
tionship between ERO and LA (r = .619). Concerning the
relationship between IRO and GPA, a significant positive rela-
tionship was found (r = .774). There is also a significant posi-
tive relationship between PWB and GPA (r = .934). Finally,
Table 1.
The descriptive statistics of the variables.
N Range Min Max Mean SD
ERO 126 21 22 43 34.19 7.42
IRO 126 18 12 40 23.45 10.21
PWB 126 55 55 110 84.74 20.80
SE 126 23 14 37 24.63 8.76
GPA 126 6.02 13 19.02 16.56 2.13
Table 2.
Correlations of the dependent variables and language achievement.
Pearson Correlation.619** .774** .934** .962**
Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .000 .000 .000
N 126 126 126 126
Note: **Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
concerning SE and GPA, a significant positive relationship was
found (r = .962).
In order to answer the second research question, concerning
the predictability of GPA by using predictor variables (ERO,
IRO, PWB, and SE), Regression Analysis was used.
The regression variance analysis of GPA in relation with pre-
dictor variables (Table 3) showed that R2 = .959 (R2 is the
common variance between GPA and independent variables)
and P = .000. Since R2 > 0and P < .05, the Multiple Linear
Regression is significant. The R-squared is .959, meaning that
approximately 95% of the variability of GPA is accounted for
by all other variables.
With regard to the linear relationship between the independ-
ent variables and the dependent variable, the regression coeffi-
cient for each variable of ERO, IRO, PWB, and SE has been
presented in Table 3. The coefficients for each of the variables
indicates the amount of change one could expect in GPA given
a one-unit change in the value of that variable, given that all
other variables in the model are held constant. For example,
considering the variable SE, we would expect a decrease
of .282 in the GPA score for every one unit increase in SE,
assuming that all other variables in the model are held constant.
In order to compare the strength of coefficient of one vari-
able to the coefficient for another variable, we can refer to the
column of Beta coefficients, also known as standardized re-
gression coefficients. The beta coefficients are used to compare
the relative strength of the various predictors. In a descending
order, SE (β = .282), IRO (β = .108), ERO (β = .052), and
PWB (β = .018) have the largest to the smallest Beta coeffi-
The aim of the present study was to examine the relationship
of extrinsic and intrinsic religious orientation, psychological
well-being, and self-esteem with language achievement among
EFL learners in Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman.
Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients suggest that
there are a negative relationship between ERO and LA and a
positive significant relationship between IRO and LA. This can
be explained by the fact that Intrinsics may benefit from ex-
periencing less academic stress and better well-being while
attending college. So they can perform better academically in
comparison with extrinsic counterparts. Along the same way,
Jeynes (2003) found that urban high school students reporting
high religiosity achieved higher performance on standardized
academic measures. This is in line with findings by Lehrer
(1999), Regenerus and Elder (2003), and Loury (2004).
Moreover, a positive significant relationship between PWB
Open Access 341
Table 3.
Regression analysis for GPA using each of the predictor variables.
Unstandardized Coefficients
B Std. Error
Standardized Coefficientst Sig. F P R R2
Constant 12.017 .926 - 12.974 .000
ERO .041 .021 .142 1.960 .052
IRO .108 .020 .515 5.425 .000
PWB .018 .007 .170 2.717 .008
SE .282 .019 1.156 14.628 .000
716.059 .000 .980 .959
and LA was found. Findings by Gilman and Huebner (2006),
Quinn and Duckworth (2007), Yasin and Dzulkifli (2009), and
Yasin and Dzulkifli (2009) support the importance of psycho-
logical well-being in academic achievement.
Concerning the relationship between SE and LA, a positive
relationship was found. Many studies confirm this finding
(Aryana, 2010; Heyde, 1979; Oxford & Ehrman, 1993). Rastegar
(2002, 2003) in two separate studies on Iranian EFL students
found a substantial relationship between global or trait self-
esteem and FL achievement.
The Multiple Regression also suggested that ERO, IRO,
PWB, and SE account for unique variance in higher GPA. On
the whole, all the independent together variables explained 95
percent of variability of students’ GPA.
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