Psychological capital and orientation to happiness as protective factors in coping with stressors among first year psychology students, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa.
Psychological Capital, a recently developed, higher-order construct, and happiness applied to the environment of work have been hypothesized to aid employees cope with stressors and job satisfaction in the workplace. The current study extends these concepts to investigate their applicability in the academic environment. Psychological capital is hypothesized to empower students with the necessary mental strength to cope up with adverse circumstances. This study aims to explore the use of Psychological capital (PsyCap) and Happiness among first year students in the context of coping with stressors. University no doubt provides a platform on which academic achievements can be made, and authentic human formation realized. Its role in the growth of individuals and development of a nation cannot be underestimated. However, this life transition for the first year students can be stressful and requires some coping strategies to deal with academic stressors in order to savor a happy career and more so maintain general well-being. Drawing from the emerging field of positive organizational behaviour, and using the theoretical framework of the Broaden-and–Build Theory, this study aimed to investigate the association between Psychological capital, happiness and coping styles as well as the demographic differences on the measures. It determined the extent of students’ PsyCap, happiness and ways of coping. It also explored the predictors for productive and non-productive coping styles. The study used a quantitative research design with two hundred and seven (N=207) completed survey packages from first year psychology students of University of KwaZulu-Natal Howard College. The following measures were used namely the Demographic Survey, The Psychological Capital Questionnaire (PCQ), the Orientation to Happiness Scale (OHS) and Adolescent Coping Scale (ACS). Data analysis included exploratory factor analysis and descriptive statistics which was conducted on the statistical program SPSS 21. Independent samples T- tests were used to compare means. Correlational statistics (Pearson’s product moment) was used to explore relationships between pairs of variables. Standard multiple regression analyses were applied to assess and explain the factor(s) that predict productive and non-productive coping. The results indicated that there was a statistically significant positive relationship between PsyCap and Happiness, and productive coping. Africans reported a significant difference in mean scores of resilience and meaningful-engagement than other race groups. This was explained on the basis of “African connectedness.” The age groups showed similar results on the measures while the t-test result on gender reported statistically significant difference in resilience between male and female, with female showing a relatively higher score than male. The results of standard multiple regressions showed that psychological capital and happiness are predictors of productive coping as well as hope, pleasure and meaningful-engagement, while resilience was a predictor of non-productive. In essence, a more positively oriented appraisal of the psychological capital resources and happiness along with productive coping styles may shield protective effects of well-being on students who might be facing stressors on campus. This provides important windows of action for prevention and intervention programs to foster students’ well-being. This study has furthered our insight into the role of positive psychology constructs such as the role of PsyCap and happiness in adapting a constructive coping style in dealing with stressors, an important finding not previously explored. There seems thus a need to begin to cultivate psychological capital and positive emotions i.e. feelings of happiness in fostering academic progress and general well-being among students.
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