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Write an essay on how personality relates to coping among university students with reference to the five factor model of personality.

Stressors are part of a day to day experience for all individuals and/or groups. In particular, college students face different stressors while at school and may choose which type of coping they can choose to apply in order to feel adequate psychologically. Coping refers to the utilization of one’s own attributes, personal skills and social support to overcome stressful and/or challenging events in life (Dewe et al, 2010). However the rising numbers of stressors in institutions require proactive coping mechanisms and this implies the use of future-oriented strategies in order to prevent and reduce negative impacts of potential while considering them as chances for personal growth according to Erin & David (2010). It is upon this background that this discussion will bring out the different definitions of proactive coping, highlight the five factor model of personality and the procedures involved in measuring them and also bring out the relationship between proactive coping and personality. However, the main focus of the discussion is to outline the different stressors that university students normally face and how personality influences their way of coping with the prevailing stressors.

Coping refers to the act of successfully calmly facing and dealing with responsibilities and/or problems that present in an in individual’s life. It can also be defined as the process of investing individual conscious efforts in solving personal and/or interpersonal problems so as to minimize related stress and/or conflict (Erin & David, 2010). Proactive coping on the other hand involves the process in which and individual anticipates potential stressing factors and acts in advance in order to prevent them and/or to minimize their effect on them. Despite the individual personality differences among people in regard to the way they proactively cope with situations, it is well known that proactive coping strategies can be taught to them (Gan et al, 2010). Proactivity in coping enables individuals to regulate themselves in the face of problems and situations such as aging, discrimination, health problems, stigma, negative genetic conditions, and medical decision-making, among others.

Measuring of proactive coping is done using the Proactive Coping Inventory (PCI), in most related studies. The PCI was developed with an aim of assessing the different proactive coping approach dimensions (Gan et al, 2010). In particular it is a scale that consists of seven main subscales and these include; 1. Proactive coping; 2. Reflective coping; 3. Emotional support seeking; 4. Strategic planning; 5 avoidance coping; 6. Instrumental support seeking and; 7. Preventive coping. The proactive Coping Inventory was developed particularly to measure and/or assess and individual’s coping skills in different circumstances such as distress, and those which promote their own greater well-being while at the same time bringing about greater life satisfaction. The PCI is usually administered by an interviewer as a questionnaire but can also be done by self, within an estimated 15-20 minute period (Hu & Gan, 2011). It has been translated into different languages for ease of use and therefore individuals can administer it in regard to their own preference and for the convenience of the participants in a given study.

The responses in each subscale are assigned scores on a scale of 1-4. In essence 1 =Not at all true; 2=barely true; 3=somewhat true and; 4= completely true. However some items such under Proactive Coping subscale should be reverse scored (Wu et al, 2008). In this regard, a score of 1 should be recoded to a score of 4, 2 recorded as 3, 3 recorded as 2, and 4 recorded as 1. A sum of the responses will give collective score of all the 7 subscales.  The seven subscales have the following ranges of scores; Instrumental Support Seeking 8-32; Reflective Coping 11-44; Proactive Coping 14-56; Strategic Planning 4-16; Preventive Coping 10-40; Avoidance Coping 3-12; and Emotional Support Seeking 5-20.

Personality refers to the different characteristics and qualities that combine and thus giving a distinctive character to an individual. It can also be defined as a set of different set of distinctive traits and/or characteristics based on an individual’s emotions and behavior (Dewe et al, 2010). The Five Factor Model refers to a set of five major dimensions of traits which are usually known as the “big five” personality traits. These trait dimensions include Neuroticism, Extraversion, Conscientiousness, individual Emotional Stability, and intellect (usually referred to as individual openness to experience. By description, individuals who are highly extraverted are usually assertive and/or sociable (Hu & Gan, 2011). Agreeable people are mainly cooperative and polite instead of being antagonistic and/or rude. A conscientious person is one who is usually task-focused while at the same time maintains order instead of being disorganized and easily distracted (Gan et al, 2010). Individuals who present with neuroticism are those who are very prone to negative emotions including irritability, anxiety and depression instead of embracing emotional resilience. Further, individuals who are open by nature broad range of interests instead of having a narrow interest range. They are sensitive to art instead of being indifferent to both art and beauty. In addition, open individuals also prefer novelty and or creativity to routine.  In terms of measurement, the Big Five Inventory (BFI) is the reliable tool in determining the scores of an individual in regard to the five personalities (Greenglass & Fiksenbaum, 2009). It is a 44-item tool that mainly utilizes self-reporting on neuroticism, agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, and individual openness to experience. This inventory has items rated on a 5-point scale which ranges between 1 (strongly disagree) and 5 (strongly agree).

Different researchers emphasize that an individual’s personality determine their copying approaches to different situations in life. In a study carried out by Erin P Hambrick & David M. McCord (2010), there exists a correlation of more than 7 between Adaptive Coping subscale score and conscientiousness. It was established that there is also a strong relationship between strategic planning of an individual and conscientiousness as a personality. Strategic planning correlates also strongly with the rest of the 7 subscales of proactive coping (Greenglass & Fiksenbaum, 2009). The strong and/or high correlations with personality traits particularly such as Conscientiousness, the strong and differentially directed relationships existing between an individual’s adaptive coping score and neuroticism agreeableness, extraversion and the lack of any relationship between an individual’s proactive coping and their openness to experience as a trait strongly indicates that some people manage their lives better than others. In essence people with exceptional abilities of coping are highly conscientious, extraverted, agreeable and low in regard to neuroticism (Gan et al, 2010). A person who strives to succeed is usually cheerful, able to accept change, and they are not depressed easily. Such a person remains motivated and sets challenging goals for themselves and thus are effective in terms of minimizing emotional effect of life stressors and their incidence. On the other hand high positive emotion levels which are an extraversion facet contribute to an individual’s emotional resilience to stressors.

The Relationship between Personality and Proactive Copying

It is important to understand the link between personality and coping in order to help individuals and groups in solving stressing issues in their lives. Psychologists must have a basic understanding of this particular relationship in order to know how the different personalities of their clients can be enhanced or changed to enable them cope with stressors (Greenglass & Fiksenbaum, 2009).  Institutional managers tasked with the role of ensuring wellness and psychological health of students for instance must be aware of how personality influences individual and group behavior, to know how to handle those (Gan et al, 2010). Different studies have established correlations between personality and proactive coping and have conclude that there is need to counsel and guide individuals out of their psychological stresses only when there personality traits have been identified. It is thus paramount that since personality and coping can both be measured using special inventories, the relationship between the two variables need to be useful in coming up with further interventions in solving distress and depression among people.

Recent studies indicate that university students undergo different stressing situations during which they experience distress and depression. In particular a study conducted in the UK concluded that 75% of university students undergo some form of emotional distress (Erin & David, 2010). The most common complaint among these students includes stress which was reported among 65% of them. This was followed by other emotional distress factors such as anxiety, individual loneliness and the feeling of inability to cope with different stressors.  Long term studies which have focused on the psychology of university students indicate that the levels of anxiety among them have been rising since the 1950s (Gan et al, 2010). This means that there are more contributing factors to emotional distresses among university students today as compared to the previous years. In particular however, the first common stressor facing university students include the greater demands upon them in terms of academic work. These academic demands coupled up with the ever changing methods of learning and teaching increase their stress levels.  Secondly, university students find it stressful to be on their own and making decisions that are crucial to them without the support of their family members who usually are not around. It is thus difficult for some to stay away from their homes and take up their own individual responsibility to ensure that they are adequately living and learning at the same time.

Financial responsibility is another independent stressor (Hu & Gan, 2011). University students strive to solicit for funds for their own use from parents and from available school or government bursaries. However, it is always tough to allocate such funds for different uses especially when they are limited, ending up stressing students (Erin & David, 2010). It has also been established that university students find it difficult to cope with being exposed to new people. A stressor in this regard includes the fact that majority of the students find a lot of pressure while trying to fit in with the new peers. Drugs and Substance abuse also contributes to not only anxiety among university students but also leads to stress while at the same time lowering an individual’s coping mechanisms. A student’s awareness of their sexual orientation and identity has also been pointed out to be among the stressors in colleges (Gan et al, 2010). Further, it is normally stressful at the times students start to prepare and contemplate on life after graduation including possible prospects in their future career. All the stressors present with different physical and emotional symptoms among students and thus the need to emphasize proactive coping among them.

The importance of Understanding the Relationship between Personality and Coping

Different researchers indicate that there exists a relationship between personality and proactive coping among university students. In fact, the five major personalities under the FFM have direct and indirect link to the 7 sub scales of proactive coping. Whether learnt or innate, proactive coping approaches are used by students to cope with the above stressors (Erin & David, 2010). Firstly, neurotic students are usually anxious, angry, depressed, impulsive and moody in the face of different stressors. Neuroticism also brings about negative emotions and fear among university students who have developed this kind of personality. To such students, reality is not only difficult and threatening but also harmful. They can also engage avoidance coping where they elude necessary actions that can enable them cope well with stressors (Gan et al, 2010). This is because of the resultant self-blame and wishful thoughts. Avoidance coping and negative emotional coping rather than problem-focused copying contribute to further distress and even dissatisfaction in their studies and any beneficial activities in school. A lack of financial stability and academic work pressure for instance can trigger emotional instability among students with neurotic personality.

There are students whose personality closes to extraversion and this means that they are sociable, outgoing, warm, friendly, assertive, and full of excitement and has positive emotions.  Students who embrace extraversion are less likely to be negatively affected by stressors. This is because they rely on emotional support which is a subset of proactive coping, to prevent and/or minimize the effect of stressors (Greenglass & Fiksenbaum, 2009). In addition, extraverted student usually engage instrumental support seeking behavior that helps them obtain crucial advice from their social network to solve stressors. For example, sociable individuals can share their problems with others and be assisted to cope and/or ameliorate the stressors unlike unsociable students. Research indicates that students who engage emotional support socially have strong interpersonal relationship skills and these make them to develop internal control to rid of stress. In fact, extraversion also contributes to a lowering negative emotional coping among students facing stressors.

Openness to experience as a factor of personality is paramount in determining students coping skills to stressors. Students who are open to experience are usually fascinated with a continuous search and love for new experiences (Erin & David, 2010). They thus like having a broad range of interests while keeping eager in seeking and living new life experiences with minimal fear and/or anxiety.  Such students are very imaginative, excitable, inventive and even quick in their endeavors. Such students embrace reflective coping skills which involve simulating and contemplating on various ways of behaviorally solving particular stressors (Gan et al, 2010). These students thus brainstorm, analyze the stressing factors and generate the best action plans to solve their stress. Further, students who are open to experience opt for proactive copying which involves setting autonomous goals towards regulating themselves in the wake of problems while college.

The fourth personality trait among students that influence their coping approaches to stressors is conscientiousness. Conscientious students are usually organized and persistent in their behavior (Wu et al, 2008). They also know how to control their impulses and remain anticipatory, success oriented and in good control of their circumstances. They persevere in difficulty; keep thorough in their endeavors more importantly remain respectful to laid down standards and regulations. Different studies have established the strong relationship between conscientiousness and proactive coping as a scale of measuring coping (Snyder et al, 2011). This is because proactive coping involves self-regulations and striving to achieve particular goals including finding ways to solve the stressors.  Conscientiousness also correlates with strategic planning as a component of proactive coping. Students who are conscientious generate action plans by breaking down extensive tasks into components that they can manage. With this particular personality, university students can be able to control and prevent stressors in organized, dutiful and competent way.

Further it has been established that agreeableness which is one of the factors of personality on the FFM also determines the coping approaches used by university students while facing stressors. Agreeableness describes an individual in regard to their relationship with others including their inherent interpersonal relationship quality (Gan et al, 2010). Agreeableness thus can be measured on a scale that ranges between compassion and antagonism. Students can thus be trustworthy or less trusted straight forward or complicated, complaint or stubborn and even clever or full of show off in nature. These traits influence their coping skills to stressors. Students who are compassionate and less antagonistic are most likely to seek for instrumental and emotional support from others to minimize the impact of stressors (Snyder et al, 2011). However, students who score poorly in terms of the quality of agreeableness are likely to find it difficult coping to situations. They might end up choosing avoidance and negative emotional approach in trying to settle down their stressors while at college.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the above discussion focused on bringing out the different definitions of proactive coping and the five factor model of personality traits. The measuring tools of both coping and personality have been explained and they include the PCI and the BFI. The discussion also highlighted the different stressors that face university students globally. Even so, the major focus of the discussion has been outlining the different stressors that university students face and how personality influences their way of coping with the prevailing stressors. In particular the discussion brings out the relationship between personality and proactive copying among university students.

References

Dewe, P., O’Driscoll, M., & Cooper, C.,(2010). Coping with work stress: A review and critique. Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell.

Erin, P.H., & David, M.M. (2010) Proactive Coping and its Relation to the Five-Factor Model of Personality. Individual Differences Research 8(2):67-77 · 

Gan Y., Hu Y., Zhang Y. (2010). Proactive and preventive coping in adjustment to college. The Psychological Record, 60, 643–658. 

Greenglass E., Fiksenbaum L. (2009). Proactive coping, positive affect, and well-being: Testing for mediation using path analysis. European Psychologist, 14(1), 29–39. 

Hu Y., Gan Y. (2011). Future-oriented coping and job hunting among college students. The Psychological Record, 61, 253–268. 

McCubbin, L. D., McCubbin, H., Phan, D., & Olson, N. (2012). The effects of social well-being and discrimination on health outcomes among Asian Americans. Paper presented at the American Psychological Association Conference. Orlando, Florida.

Meiring C. J. (2010). Just-world beliefs, sense of coherence and proactive coping in parents with a child with autism (Unpublished master’s dissertation). University of Pretoria, South Africa. Retrieved from https://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-06142011-105625/unrestricted/dissertation.pdf 

Renard M., Snelgar R. J. (2013). Exploring the factor structure of the Proactive Coping Inventory: A Southern African study. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 23, 519–522. 

Roesch S. C., Aldridge A. A., Huff T. L. P., Langner K., Villodas F., Bradshaw K. (2009). On the dimensionality of the Proactive Coping Inventory: 7, 5, 3 factors? Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 22, 327–339.

Snyder C. R., Lopez S. J., Pedrotti J. T. (2011). Positive psychology: The scientific and practical explorations of human strengths (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. 

Wu C., Chen K., Yao G. (2008). Validation of the Proactive Coping Scale in a sample of Chinese population. Journal of Psychology in Chinese Societies, 9(1), 103–120. 

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