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How do you perceive stress

The aim of this study is to investigate the relationships between individual’s personalities and how an individual perceives stress and their coping responses. Fifty participants consisting both male and female students, aged between 18 and 35 will be recruited from the University of Bedfordshire. Participants will be sampled through quota sampling and convenience sampling. Materials used to measure this study including questionnaires which will be Eysenk Personality Questionnaires (EPQ), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and COPE. Findings indicated that the perception of stress and neuroticism is significantly correlated. There is a significant correlation between perception of stress and maladaptive coping. Also, there is a significant correlation between extroversion and adaptive coping. Thus, hypotheses are accepted, and limitations and possible future research are discussed.

Studies have demonstrated that the experiences of stress should not be perceived as something that is “culturally specific”, but stress is felt on an individual basis: “each person sees the world “through stress-colored glasses”” (Sarros & Densten, 1989, p. 48, quoting Veninga & Spradley, 1981, p. 29; as cited in Sovic, 2008). Coping strategies for dealing with stress vary from person to person; one might treat as a challenge, another might see as a threat (Sarros & Densten, 1989; as cited in Sovic, 2008). The transition of students from one country to another is accompanied by various emotions, many aspects of the process of adaptation that students have to experience such as social, cultural and academic have a significant impact on their achievements (Sovic, 2008).

On the other hand, personality plays an important role in every aspect of stress and coping process. One model of personality that has been found particularly useful in understanding coping is the Five-Factor Model (David & Suls, 1999, p. 276; McCrae & Costa, 1985; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al. (2005). These personality dimensions are Neuroticism (N), Extraversion (E), Openness (O), Agreeableness (A) and Conscientiousness (C).

Watts, Webster, Morley, and Cohen (1993) did an expedition for studying processes of coping with a stressful situation in India. According to Watts et al. (1993), an expedition to India organized by the British Schools Exploring Society has already been reported as being accompanied by positive changes on self-report personality scales. This paper is concerned with detailed cognitive coping measures completed throughout the 6 weeks of expedition. 97 Indian participants aged between 17 and 20 were recruited. A mixture of physical and social stresses was presented. Results indicated that men enjoyed the physical experience more than women, but women enjoyed the social experience more than men. Watts et. al., (1993) reported that there was generally greater reliance on personal resources than on social support in coping with stress. It was true for men in coping with physical stress and women in coping with social stress. In addition, positive reformulations were much more widely used as coping strategies than avoidance or resignation strategies, especially for physical stresses.

Sovic (2008) conducted a study on exploring how stress is experienced by international students in the creative arts at the University of Arts, London. 141 students were interviewed in their own language by social science postgraduates from different institutions within the University of London. According to Sovic (2008), interviews were semi-structured, consisting of sixteen questions which covered topics such as reasons for studying abroad, expectations, cultural and educational differences, stress, gender issues, friendship and etc. (Sovic, 2008). Results indicated that students experienced problems with language, adaptation to the English academic system, relationships to tutors, classroom participation, group work and assessment. Findings also revealed that female students tended to deal with stress better than male students, either talking about it to their friends or by using counseling services (Sovic, 2008).

Lee-Baggley, Preece, and DeLongis (2005) did a study on examining the role of personality and of the stressful context in each of the spouse’s coping. Participants were either married or living as a common-law couple. Personality was assessed through the Five-Factor Model (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness). There are two types of stressors emerged as primary dimensions of stepfamily stress: marital conflict and child misbehavior. In addition, nine subscales of coping were examined based on three main functions of coping: problem, emotion, and relationship-focused. As reviewed, research examining the role of personality in coping strategy use has been focused on the role of Neuroticism (N) and Extraversion (E). Individuals high on N are prone to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, or anger (McCrae & Costa, 1987; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005). N has found to be related to the use of coping strategies that are typically related to poorer outcomes (Holahan & Moos, 1987; ac cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005). Furthermore, those higher on N have been found to use more passive or emotion-focused strategies such as escape avoidance, self-blame, hostile reactions, or confrontative coping (David & Suls, 1999; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005). Research suggested that Neurotics use putatively adaptive strategies such as problem (Bolger & Zuckerman, 1995; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005). Notably, findings also suggested that those higher on N reported engaging in interpersonally maladaptive ways of coping particularly in stressful situations with closer others (Lee-Baggley et al., 2005).

Extraverts, on the other hand, have a propensity to experience positive emotions and tend to be sociable, warm, energetic, and cheerful (McCrae & Costa, 1987; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005). Research suggests that those higher on E engage in higher levels of problem-focused coping (McCrae & Costa, 1986; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005) and employ less maladaptive forms of emotion-focused coping such as self-blame and avoidance (Hooker et al., 1994; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005). Individuals higher on E tend to use more adaptive forms of emotion-focused coping such as support seeking, positive thinking, reinterpretation, or restraint (McCrae & Costa, 1986; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005). Results indicated that participants were significantly more likely to report engaging in relationship-focused coping, compromise, interpersonal withdrawal, and self-blame; they were also significantly less likely to report engaging in confrontation (Lee-Baggley et al., 2005).

Another study which related to stress would be the effect of coping strategies on performance following unsolvable problems conducted by Mikulincer (1989). This study focuses on the coping strategies people use for dealing with stressful events and hypothesizes that they would influence performance following unsolvable problems. According to Lazarus and Folkman (1984; as cited in Mikulincer, 1989), coping responses fulfill two functions: problem-focused function and emotion-focused function. On the other hand, empirical evidence has shown that coping strategies are associated with psychological well-being and functioning (Folkman & Lazarus, 1986; as cited in Mikulincer, 1989). In this study, participants responded to a questionnaire tapping the use of problem-focused and emotion-focused coping strategies in dealing with failure in achievement settings. They were exposed to either no feedback or failure in four unsolvable problems. Mikulincer (1989) explained, upon completing these problems, participants performed a visual search task with a memory component. Studies of learned helplessness (LH) have demonstrated that exposure to unsolvable problems can undermine performance on a subsequent test task (Hiroto & Seligman, 1975; as cited in Mikulincer, 1989). LH theory (Maier & Seligman, 1976; as cited in Mikulincer, 1989) claims that when subjects are asked to solve a problem that is actually unsolvable, they form the expectation that outcome cannot be controlled by their actions. Results showed that failure, as compared with no-feedback, produced performance deficits among participants who habitually relied on a single coping strategy, either problem focused or emotion-focused, and among participants who did not rely on any coping response (Mikulincer, 1989).

Hoar, Crocker, Holt, and Tamminen (2010) conducted a study on examining gender differences in the types of coping strategies adolescent athletes use to manage sport-related interpersonal stress. Athletes can use a variety of specific coping responses such as acceptance, active coping, aggression, behavioral disengagement, cognitive reappraisal, focusing on and venting emotions, mental disengagement, planning, seeking social support, self-controlling activities, and spiritual support (Hoar et al., 2010). Numerous studies report that males and females employ different strategies, although the pattern of results is not consistent, still other research has not found evidence for gender differences (Pensgaard, Roberts, & Ursin, 1999; as cited in Hoar et al., 2010). Tamres et al., (2002; as cited in Hoar et al., 2010) reported no gender differences were found for denial, isolation, and self-blame strategies. Also, with respect to the eleven other coping strategies investigated (active coping, planning, seeking instrumental social support, general problem focus, avoidance, positive reappraisal, venting, wishful thinking, exercise, seeking social support—both general, and religion), there was no conclusive evidence of gender differences.

However, in the context of interpersonal stressors, Tamres et al. (2002; as cited in Hoar et al., 2010) reported that females were more likely to use the coping strategies of active coping, general problem focus, isolation, rumination, and seeking social support for emotional reasons whereas males were more likely to use venting, a coping strategy that was operationalized to include aggressive acting out behaviors in addition to the public release of emotions. The dispositional and situational gender coping hypotheses were explored in order to explain gender coping differences. Measures of stress appraisal and coping-strategy use in response to a self-selected interpersonal stress source in sport were completed by adolescent athletes from Western Canada. According to Hoar et al. (2010), results revealed gender differences, but only in select coping strategies. Across all interpersonal stress sources the most frequently reported coping strategies included active coping, and seeking social support. However, coping instances of planning, spiritual support, and venting emotions were rarely reported (Hoar, 2010). There was no significant gender differences in the number of coping instances reported to manage the self-selected interpersonal stress event.

Morrison (2008) did a study on exploring both the functions and outcomes of workplace relationships and to look at possible gender differences in the ways people utilize personal relationships at work, particularly in times of stress or job dissatisfaction. Women’s friendships have been described as communal, and tend to involve more self-disclosure, supportiveness and complexity than do friendships between men (Markiewicz et al., 2000; as cited in Morrison, 2008). While Men’s friendships can be described as instrumental; they tend to be organized around shared interests and activities, the exchange of tangible rewards and favors and be action-oriented rather than person-oriented (Markiewicz et al., 2000; as cited in Morrison, 2008). A total of four hundred and forty-five respondents from predominantly Western countries including New Zealand, Australia, and America completed an Internet based questionnaire which asked them to describe the benefits received from workplace friends, and which measured workplace friendship and organizational variables. Rachel (2008) reported that friendship prevalence and opportunities were more strongly correlated with job satisfaction for men. It was found that job satisfaction was not significantly correlated with friendship prevalence for women but was for men .Women were significantly more likely than men to describe the benefits or workplace friendship in terms of social and emotional support in times of stress, while men focused mainly on the benefits friends provided them in their career or in functional aspects of “getting the job done” (Morrison, 2008). A research done by Taylor et al. (2000; as cited in Morrison, 2008) and Turton and Campbell (2005; as cited in Morrison, 2008) suggests that women, more than men, may seek friendships and provide care to others in work environments that are stressful.

Fontaine, Manstead, and Wagner (1993) were interested in examining the ability of the expectancy-based personality dimensions dispositional optimism and perceived control over stress to predict the ways in which people characteristically attempt to cope with stress. A number of 420 undergraduate students completed the Life Orientation test, a measure of perceived control over stress, and the dispositional version of the COPE Inventory. According to Fontaine et al., (1993) the results revealed a modest but reliable positive correlation between optimism and the perceived control measure. Optimism was positively correlated with active coping and positive reinterpretation, and negatively correlated with focusing on and venting of emotion. Perceived control over stress was negatively correlated with behavioral disengagement.

Baker (2004) conducted a study on examining the relationship between motivational orientations and adjustment to university, stress, and well-being in a sample of students during their second year of university and also, assessing the predictive value of motivational orientations in determining subsequent academic performance. Controlling for gender and age, amotivated behaviors led to worse psychosocial adjustment to university, higher levels of perceived stress, and greater psychological distress while studying. Amotivation refers to behaviors are non-regulated and non-intentional. In contrast, intrinsically motivated behaviors were associated with lower levels of stress. Baker (2004) added, “in relation to academic performance, neither extrinsic nor intrinsic motivation, nor amotivation were related to subsequent academic achievement”. Studies suggest that extrinsically motivated behaviors, in general, are associated with impaired learning, poorer performance, and educational outcomes. Many factors thought to influence adjustment to university have been studied including sex, age, nationality, university entry qualifications and intellectual ability, personality variables such as shyness, extraversion and neuroticism (Halamandaris & Power, 1999; as cited in Baker, 2004) and other vulnerability factors such as, positive and negative affect and social support (Halamandaris & Power, 1999; as cited in Baker, 2004).

Materials used for the assessment are academic motivation scale (AMS; Vallerand et al., 1992; as cited in Baker, 2004), 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12; Goldberg, 1972; as cited in Baker, 2004), College Adaptation Questionnaire (CAQ; Crombag, 1968; as cited in Baker, 2004), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-4; Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983; as cited in Baker, 2004), and entry qualifications (EQ) and respondent’s grade point average (GPA). Results indicated that intrinsic motivation was positively related to adjustment (CAQ) and negatively related to self-reported stress (PSS). In relation to amotivation, indicating that higher amotivation and lower intrinsic motivation scores were associated with greater self-reported stress (PSS) and poorer adjustment to university life. In relation to well-being, greater psychological distress, as measured by the GHQ-12, was related to higher amotivation scores. There is no significant relationships emerged between extrinsic motivation and adjustment, stress, or well-being (Baker, 2004). In the present study, such amotivated behaviors were associated with a number of negative outcomes; poor psychosocial adjustment to university life, high levels of perceived stress, poor general well-being (Baker, 2004).

The aim of the present study is to investigate the relationships between individual’s personalities and how an individual perceives stress and their coping responses. There are four hypotheses outlining this study. This first hypothesis is there is a significant correlation between perception of stress and neuroticism. The second hypothesis is there is a significant correlation between perception of stress and maladaptive coping, while the third hypothesis is there is a significant correlation between extraversion and adaptive coping. The last hypothesis is that there is a significant correlation between neuroticism and maladaptive coping.

Methods

Participants

Fifty participants consisting both male and female students regardless of their course, aged between 18 and 25 will be recruited from the University of Bedfordshire. Participants will be sampled through quota sampling and convenience sampling.

Materials

Materials needed to measure this study including questionnaires which will be Eysenk Personality Questionnaires (EPQ) (Please refer to Appendix E), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) (Please refer to Appendix F), and COPE (Please refer to Appendix G). EPQ is an assessment of the personality traits of an individual. It consists of 48 items which represent Psychoticism, Extraversion, and Neuroticism. Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is a psychological instrument for measuring the perception of stress to the degree to which situations in an individual’s life are appraisal as stressful (Cohen, 1994). It consists of 14 items asking about feelings and thoughts during last month. Respondents are asked how often they felt a particular way. Whereas COPE is a 60-item questionnaire assessing coping strategies when one comes across difficult or stressful situations in their lives. However, the distinction is often made between “adaptive coping” and “maladaptive coping”. Adaptive coping includes active coping, planning, seeking emotional support, acceptance, restraint coping, seeking instrumental social support, and positive reinterpretation and growth while maladaptive coping includes focus on and venting of emotions, denial, and behavioral disengagement (Carver & Scheier, 1989).

Procedures

Participants were randomly approached in the university. Then, three different questionnaires were distributed to them. They were required to read the “Letter to Participants” Please refer to Appendix C) sign the consent form (Please refer to Appendix D) before filling up the questionnaires. Data then collected and analyzed by SPSS program. Statistical tests will be used to analyze the data are Pearson’s Correlation and multiple regression test. In addition, PPS scores were obtained by reversing responses (e.g., 0=4, 1=3, 2=2, 3=1, and 4=0) to items 4, 5, 7, and 8, and then summing across all scale items (Cohen, 1994) (Please refer to Appendix F).

Results

Cronbach’s Alpha is conducted in order to examine the reliability of the questionnaires.

Table 1

Reliability Statistics for Eysenk Personality Questionnaires (EPQ) Psychoticism, Extraversion, Neuroticism, Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Adaptive Coping, and Maladaptive.

Scales

Cronbach’s Alpha

N of Items

EPQ

0.766

48

Psychoticism

0.650

12

Extraversion

0.844

10

Neuroticism

0.774

12

PSS

0.726

14

Adaptive

0.908

31

Maladaptive

0.784

12

Cronbach’s Alpha shows 0.766 for total reliability for EPQ, which is a moderate reliability.

Cronbach’s Alpha shows 0.650 for Psychoticism, which is a moderate reliability.

Cronbach’s Alpha shows 0.844 for Extraversion, which is a high reliability.

Cronbach’s Alpha shows 0.774 for Neuroticism, which is a high reliability.

Cronbach’s Alpha shows 0.726 for PSS, which is a high reliability.

Cronbach’s Alpha shows 0.908 for Adaptive coping, which is an excellent reliability.

Cronbach’s Alpha shows 0.784 for Neuroticism, which is a high reliability.

Results were derived from the participants. Below is the descriptive data between PSS, Psychoticism, Extraversion, Neuroticism, Adaptive coping, and Maladaptive coping.

Table 2

Descriptive data on PSS, Psychoticism, Extraversion, Neuroticism, Adaptive coping, and Maladaptive coping.

Mean

Standard Deviation

N

Perceived Stress Scale

24.98

5.66943

50

Psychoticism

3.00

2.16654

50

Extraversion

7.80

3.35030

50

Neuroticism

5.66

3.17908

50

Adaptive Coping

85.54

15.34263

50

Maladaptive Coping

21.64

5.48378

50

In order to examine the correlations between PSS, Psychoticism, Extraversion, Neuroticism, Adaptive coping, and Maladaptive coping, a Pearson’s Correlation was conducted as below.

Table 3

Correlations data between PSS, Psychoticism, Extraversion, Neuroticism, Adaptive coping, and Maladaptive coping.

PSS

Psycho.

Extrav.

Neuro.

Adapt.

Maladapt.

PSS

P.Correlation

1

.111

-.026

.533**

-.011

.333

Sig. (2-tailed)

.442

.858

.000

.939

.018

N

50

50

50

50

50

Psycho.

P.Correlation

1

-.022

.092

-.146

.031

Sig. (2-tailed)

.877

.526

.313

.831

N

50

50

50

50

Extrav.

P.Correlation

1

.220

.393**

.189

Sig. (2-tailed)

.125

.005

.188

N

50

50

50

Neuro.

P.Correlation

1

.188

.495**

Sig. (2-tailed)

.192

.000

N

50

50

Adapt.

P.Correlation

1

.319*

Sig. (2-tailed)

.024

N

50

Maladapt.

P.Correlation

1

Sig. (2-tailed)

N

**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).

The scatter plot below illustrates that there is a significant perfect correlation between perception of stress (PSS) and Neuroticism, r = .000, N = 50, p < 0.01.

Chart 1: Correlation chart of perception of stress (PSS) and neuroticism.

The scatter plot below illustrates that there is a significant correlation between perception of stress (PSS) and Maladaptive Coping, r = .018, N = 50, p < 0.05.

Chart 2: Correlation chart of perception of stress (PSS) and maladaptive coping.

The scatter plot below illustrates that there is a significant correlation between Extraversion and Adaptive Coping, r = .005, N = 50, p < 0.01.

Chart 3: Correlation chart of extraversion and adaptive coping.

The scatter plot below illustrates that there is a significant perfect correlation between Neuroticism and Maladaptive Coping, r = .000, N = 50, p < 0.01.

Chart 3: Correlation chart of neuroticism and maladaptive coping.

Moreover, Multiple Regression was conducted to examine the contribution of each independent variable to the prediction. As for Adaptive Coping, the independent variables together account for 19.1% of the variance in the adaptive coping scores. Adjusted R Square is shown as 0.119 = 11.9% (Please refer to Appendix A).

Besides, an analysis of Variance (ANOVA) is produced to tests the significance of the regression model. It revealed that there is a significant amount of the variance in the dependent variable, F (4, 45) = 2.648, p <.05 (Please refer to Appendix A).

In addition, the standardized Beta coefficient shows the contribution that an individual variable make to the model. In this study, the largest influence on Adaptive coping is from the Extraversion (0.352), which is a significant predictor, p < 0.05 (Please refer to Appendix A).

On the other hand, for Maladaptive Coping, the independent variables together account for 26.2% of the variance in the maladaptive coping scores. Adjusted R Square is shown as 0.196 = 19.6% (Please refer to Appendix B).

Besides, an analysis of Variance (ANOVA) revealed that there is a significant amount of the variance in the dependent variable, F (4, 45) = 3.986, p <.05 (Please refer to Appendix B).

In addition, the standardized Beta coefficient shows the largest influence on Maladaptive coping is from the Neuroticism (0.412), which is a significant predictor, p < 0.05 (Please refer to Appendix B).

Discussion

Exploring at the pattern of the results from the current study, respondents clearly varied in their perception of stress. Findings on the measurements of the correlations between individual’s personality and one’s perception of stress, and how people respond when they confront difficult or stressful events in their lives were successful in some cases. Research done by Lee-Baggley, Preece, and DeLongis (2005) examining the role of personality and of the stressful context in each of the spouse’s coping is related to the present study and the studies found that those higher on Neuroticism have been found to use more passive or emotion-focused strategies such as escape avoidance (denial), self-blame, hostile reactions, or confrontative coping (David & Suls, 1999; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005). In the current study, these emotion-focused strategies are categorized as “maladaptive coping”, table 3 indicated that it is significantly perfect correlated, which supports the hypothesis that there is a significant correlation between neuroticism and maladaptive coping. According to McCrae & Costa (1987; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005), individuals high on Neuroticism are prone to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, or anger, which may lead to be emotion-focused on coping with difficult events.

Besides, from the same study conducted by Lee-Baggley, Preece, and DeLongis (2005) also indicated that Extraverts, in contrast, are prone to experience positive emotions and tend to be sociable, warm, energetic, and cheerful (McCrae & Costa, 1987; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005). Therefore, people who score higher on Extraversion engage in higher levels of problem-focused coping (McCrae & Costa, 1986; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005) and employ less maladaptive forms of emotion-focused coping such as self-blame and avoidance (Hooker et al., 1994; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005). Individuals higher on E tend to use more adaptive forms of emotion-focused coping such as support seeking, positive thinking, reinterpretation, or restraint (McCrae & Costa, 1986; as cited in Lee-Baggley et al., 2005). In the current study, “Adaptive coping” includes active coping, planning, seeking emotional and social support, positive reinterpretation, restraint coping, and acceptance. Table 3 indicated the significance of the correlation between Extraversion and Adaptive coping, which hypothesis is supported.

In addition, the currents findings also revealed that self-report stress (PSS) is correlated with Neuroticism and Maladaptive Coping. This could be the reason that individuals high on Neuroticism are prone to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, or anger, which may lead to be emotion-focused on coping with difficult events. These traits are categorized as “maladaptive” coping.

However, there are some confounding factors which needs to be noted. The present study was conducted by using self-report data which are EPQ, PSS, and COPE questionnaires. Self-report data often known as a confounding variable because respondent could be answering according to social desirable answers, and they could simply answer the questionnaires by indicating the same answers for the whole questionnaire. Another counding variable underlies this present study is the amount of questions to be answered by pariticipants. Some of them eventually got bored and might simply answer the questionnaires.

Limitations of the current study are essential for future research. The first limitation which outlining the paper is sample size, which is too small to be generalized to the whole population. Second limitation would be the age range and job of participants. The current study took place in the university, therefore most of the participants are full-time students, which is also could not be generalized to the whole population.

Future studies are recommended on various age range and jobs such as teenagers, university students, working adults, and pensioners. There could be differences on their perception of stress and the way they cope with difficult lives. Also, gender could be taken into account for future studies, although there was no conclusive evidence of gender differences in coping strategies (Hoar et al., 2010), but gender differences in how they perceive stress could be found.

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