Investigating student stress from a positive psychology perspective.

DENOVAN, Andrew Michael. (2010). Investigating student stress from a positive psychology perspective. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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This research project aimed to understand why some undergraduates cope better than others with stress. It adopted a positive psychology approach and a mixed methods research orientation which consisted of a quantitative and a qualitative element. The quantitative element included two studies. Study 1 assessed the contribution of psychological strengths and personality to stress levels, academic performance (assessed by Grade Point Average), and subjective well-being (SWB) using a sample of 306 undergraduates. Study 2 examined adjustment to university five months into the academic year, comparing this with the baseline data from Study 1 (N = 192). Hierarchical multiple regressions showed that across both studies strengths of optimism, self-efficacy, and positive affectivity were predictive of greater SWB. Stressor exposure had a negative relationship with strengths and SWB in both studies, as did emotion and avoidance coping. At time 1, emotional stability was positively associated with SWB, and extraversion was positively associated with SWB at time 2. In Study 1, lower stressor exposure and higher self-control were predictive of higher Grade Point Average (GPA). GPA was not significantly associated with the variables in Study 2. Self-efficacy, positive affect, and GPA significantly decreased over time; academic alienation significantly increased over time. In a follow-up qualitative study of 11 undergraduates using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, the transition, academic assessments, finances, employment, and housemate difficulty emerged as significant sources of stress. Strategies of social support, preparation, planning, positive reappraisal, and acceptance helped students cope with stress. Psychological strengths of self-efficacy, optimism, hope, and self-control facilitated adjustment and ability to cope. A positive psychology intervention was conducted, in which the Three Good Things exercise was applied to enhance SWB and reduce perceived stress (PS). The experimental and control group consisted of 63 and 49 first year undergraduates respectively. Mixed MANOVAs found no main effect of the intervention; however, SWB and PS levels significantly changed over time. Analysis with a PS cut-off showed undergraduates higher in stress had lower SWB over time. The changes in SWB and PS likely reflect heightened emotional reaction to the transition to university. Individual differences in strengths of optimism, self-efficacy, and positive affectivity, and differences in application of coping strategies and strength congruent behaviour are factors which help explain why some undergraduates cope better than others with stress. The results contribute to a limited body of knowledge on how strengths may facilitate coping, how stress affects SWB, and the utility of qualitative methods for positive psychology. The research also provides important recommendations for applying the Three Good Things exercise and is one of the first studies in the area.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Macaskill, Ann
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 2010.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:23
Last Modified: 11 Aug 2023 15:33

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