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Defining Personality

Discuss About the Personality and Coping?

People are often defined by the nature of their personalities. These personality traits are identified by temperaments that determine the proceeds of a person’s actions. Normally our behaviors are centered on the environmental challenges that we are faced with. These challenges define the coping mechanism that we employ to try and overcome or better still live with these challenges. This essay, therefore, is dedicated to outline the proceeds of what personality is, to give an understanding of personality defining theory: the five factor model of personality, and to outlining the different coping strategies as it try to decipher the relationship between personality and the proactive coping mechanism employed by university student. This argument will be based on the support from arguments in the past research evidence linking these two constructs. This issue is of significance to psychology as it helps psychologists to determine the likely coping mechanism that an individual will most likely apply as is predicted by their personality traits.

Personality can be described as the distinctive differences in individual’s acts that are determined and shaped by the environment an individual developed in. The set of “values, attitudes, personal memories, social relationships, habits, and skills” (Mischel et al, 2004) acquired in the course of development are the key determinants of an individual’s personality traits. These traits are firm personal characteristics that are portrayed in the specific pattern of behavior that an individual showcases in varying situations. Many proceeds have been made in trying to define what personality is and what it entails but, the measuring of personality is still a poorly defined discipline in psychology. Personality has no distinctive measuring scale but makes use of personality tests such as personality inventory and the varying personality questionnaires. This implies that it cannot be quantified as being a distinctive figure on a predetermined scale but, personality can only be qualified by the various personality tests. Personality is different from temperaments as it is a product of socio-cultural concept whereas temperament is mainly designed by the biochemical systems at work in an individuals’ body and cannot be easily changed by mere socialization (Trofimova, 2016). This implies that personality is dynamic and the personality traits can be altered to accommodate change in an individuals’ life.


Many psychologists possess different definitions of the term ‘personality’ depending on the theories they tend to put forward as the best exploration of the basis of personality. One such theory determined to develop on the basis of personality is the Five-Factor Model of personality. The Five-Factor Model of personality is an attempt by personality psychologists to interpret the dimensions of personality traits in the population. It presents the personality traits in a hierarchical organization that is formed initially by five basic dimensions: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness (McCrae and John, 1997). These five dimensions are indicated by the use of roman numbers thought to be neutral and carry various classes of possible personality traits from which the personality of an individual could be discerned. An extrovert is basically an active, assertive, energetic, enthusiastic, outgoing and talkative individual. An agreeable person tends to be appreciative, forgiving, generous, kind, sympathetic and trusting. A conscientious person can be defined as being efficient, organized, planful, reliable, and responsible and thorough. A neurotic individual is often anxious, self-prying, tense, touchy, unstable and worrying. Finally, an open person is artistic, curious, imaginative, insightful, and original and prides themselves in wide interests. This Five-Factor Model of personality has been a key guide for the personality psychologists in the analysis of the personality traits of individuals and the main reason why different individuals tend to take on different approaches when faced by the same challenges.

The Five-Factor Model of Personality

The kind of approaches that individuals prefer to take when faced with varying challenges is what is referred to as their coping mechanism. When we speak of coping, we are broadly referring to the act of adapting to a different way of life or situation. In psychology, coping refers to the means that people use to include their conscious effort in solving both the personal and interpersonal problems in order to tolerate stress and conflicts (Weiten and Lloyd, 2008). Stress in this case is the challenge that confines one to desire change and hence take on a certain coping mechanism. The coping mechanism employed by an individual could involve an array of coping strategies also referred to as the categories of coping. 

The term coping basically describes the reactive coping strategy that uses the action-reaction mechanism of action. This implies that a stressor has to occur for the coping response, the reactions, to follow. This is different from the coping strategy referred to as proactive coping. In proactive coping, the coping response is initiated without the occurrence of the prior stressor and is designed to counter or curtail the occurrence of future stressors (Snyder, 1999).The effectiveness portrayed by any coping effort is determined by the nature of the stressor, the nature of the person, and the circumstances that surround the individual at the time of devising a good coping strategy. When we say that the coping effort depends on the nature of the individual, this basically implies that the coping responses employed by different people are depended on the nature of their personalities (Carver and Connor, 2010).


Personality is related to coping by way of it being the determining factor that influences the type of coping style adopted by individuals. It can be used to predict the coping style likely to be adopted by an individual. The three basic coping styles include problem –focused coping style, positive emotional-focused coping style and the negative emotional-focused coping style. The problem-focused coping style includes the reactive and the proactive coping styles that also fall in the positive emotional-focused coping style as they are designed to reduce the stress levels of a stressor experienced by the individual.  

Various personality traits have since been associated with various coping styles by first analyzing the implication of the personality dimensions. Agreeableness and Conscientiousness are associated with the positive problem focused coping strategy with agreeableness also being associated with the positive emotion-focused coping strategy together with openness. Neuroticism, Extraversion and Conscientiousness are associated with negative emotion-focused coping strategies. This has further been proven by various research studies an example being a study conducted on three hundred students, with half the number being girls and half the study population being boys, that deciphered that indeed, personality influences the coping strategies used by various individuals (Atefe and Mohammad, 2011).

Coping Strategies

This research made use of correlation studies to carefully analyze the sample size that was representative of the population being investigated. This methodology applied was suitable for the research question that was dedicated to decoding the relation between personality and coping. The hypothesis: personality determines the coping strategies used by an individual, is correct based on the evidence reviewed by the researchers. The conclusions of the research followed logically from the results reported by the researchers. In a nutshell, the research showed that “neuroticism and extraversion can predict stress and coping” (Atefe and Mohammad, 2011) as high neuroticism is associated with the experience of more stressful events and the susceptibility to negative emotions and frustration, and high extraversion is associated with both higher stressful and enjoyable events, with the experience of positive emotions. This implies that the neurotic individuals will tend to use inadaptable coping styles while the extraverts will employ active coping strategies and seek positive social support. The inadaptable coping strategies employed by neurotic individuals will mainly be emotion-focused coping strategy such as escape and avoidance. Conscientious individuals will employ negative emotion-focused coping strategies as avoidance, for example, by being the bigger person and taking the fault for something they did not do so as to avoid confrontations while open individuals will prefer positive emotion-focused coping strategies as relaxation and recurrent appraisal. Highly agreeable individuals will employ positive emotion-focused coping strategies like seeking positive support and together with conscientious individual will also use positive problem-focused coping strategies such as planning. The researchers in this study, however, did not acknowledge the limitations of their research and did not suggest any alternative ways of researching the topic that might overcome the possible limitations.


With the evolution in science, technology and in the world systems as a whole, education platforms have seen grave changes in their proceeds. People are now travelling far and wide to attend school in different parts of the world and with ever changing curriculum.  This exposure to new environment and dynamic curriculum are among the top stressors for university students. The students are expected to adapt to the new environment and quickly in order to keep up with the changing dynamics of their curriculum and achieve excellent academic results. This proves challenging for some of the students and for some, it is quite easy. The difference in the adaption capabilities of the different students can be attributed to the differences in their personalities. This is also true for the academic performance.

Personality and Coping

Many research studies have shown that the personality of an individual defines their academic performance. One such study is the analysis of the relationship between personality and academic performance by one Arthur E. Poropat that showed that academic performance correlates significantly with agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness (Arthur, 2009). This study was conducted on a sample size of close to seventy thousand students from the tertiary level of education with minimal sample size contribution from the students in secondary and primary levels of education (Arthur, 2009). The analysis was aimed at discerning the relationship between personality and academic performance. The predictions of the analysis makes sense, however, the methodology is not well defined. This analysis used a very large sample size that adequately represented the population being investigated. The conclusions follow logically from the results reported by the analyst as it outline that academic performance is depended on personality, age, level of education and to some extent the intelligence of the individual in question. The analyst also outlined the recommendations for future research in the topic.

The hypothesis propagated by this analyst is practical and easily passes as a fact since, a neurotic student in their adaptation to the new environment and the changing curriculum will be inclined more to the negative emotion-focused coping mechanisms such as avoidance that will see to it that they are removed from the studying experience and hence perform quite poorly. The same applies to high extroverts who experience high stressful events and do not seek positive social support.  However, agreeable, open and conscientious students will tend to apply both positive emotion-focused coping strategies such as relaxation and positive appraisal, and positive problem-focused coping mechanism as planning. This will enable them to effectively outline their study schedules to accommodate any change in the curriculum and hence positive and proactive coping. This will enable them to cover the semester’s course work in time, leaving them with enough time for revision and hence, good academic performance.


It is of particular importance to understand how personality relates to coping especially for psychologists as this forms the foundation that will guide the psychologist on discerning the reason behind the behavior of a patient when faced with specific stressful situations. This will guide the psychologist to predict the possible outcome or patterns of behavior of an individual based on their personality and offer the appropriate advice and therapy where needed. This will contribute to the effective examination and hence positive and effective interventions for the case studies being interviewed by the psychologist.

Research Evidence

Therefore, coping refers to the adaption and responses to challenging situations in life with proactive coping referring to the coping mechanisms that are employed by individuals to curtail the proceeds of future stressors. Personality is the pattern of behavior that shapes an individual’s character and is depended and/or determined by the socio-cultural environment that an individual is exposed to during their development. Personality cannot be measured but can be qualified and defined based on the personality and psychological theory that one identifies well with. One such theory is the Five-Factor Model of personality that presents the dimensions of personality to be within a hierarchy of five determinants: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness and Openness. People’s personality often defines and determines the coping strategies that they are likely to employ when faced by various stressors and hence, by understanding the personality of an individual, one can easily predict the coping mechanism that that particular individual is likely to use in dealing with their stressors. This also applies in the education forum with a practical application in academic performance especially for the university students. University students are faced by many stressors, the key ones being, the need to accommodate to a new environment and the dynamic nature of the tertiary level curriculum. These stressors define the coping mechanism based on the personality of the student and hence reflect on the academic performance of the student. Hence, personality determines the proactive coping mechanisms that will be used by the university students in their proceeds

References

Arthur, E. P. (2009). A Meta-Analysis of the Five-Factor Model of Personality and Academic Performance. Griffith University. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 135, No. 2, 322-338

Atefe, K., and Mohammad, Ali B. (2011). An Investigation of the Relationship between Personality Dimensions and Stress Coping Styles. Iran: Thran University.  Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences 30(2011) 797-802

Carver, C. S. and Connor-S, J. (2010). Personality and Coping. Annual Review of Psychology. 61: 679-704

McCrae, R. R., and John, O. P. (1997). An Introduction to the Five-Factor Model and Its Application

Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., and Smith, R. E. (2004). Introduction to Personality: Toward Integration. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Snyder, C. R. (1999). Coping: The Psychology of What Works. New York: Oxford University Press.

Trofimova, I. N. (2016). The Interlocking between Functional Aspects of Activities and a Neurochemical Model of Adult Temperament. In Arnold, M. C., Temperaments: Individual Differences, Social and Environmental Influences and Impact on Quality of Life. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. 77-147

Weiten, W. and Lloyd, M. A. (2008). Psychology Applied to Modern Life. 9th Edition. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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