Academic journal article Education

Stress and the College Student

Academic journal article Education

Stress and the College Student

Article excerpt

Stress is a part of everyone's life. A certain amount of stress is to be expected in daily life, but too much stress may be harmful. A great deal of research has examined the effects of stress on variables such as adaptational outcomes (e.g. Lazarus, DeLongis, Folkman, & Gruen, 1985). The authors questioned a new theory that stress should be measured independent of psychological response variables such as appraisals or perceptions. In particular, they suggested that an individual's perceptions of a situation is a critical mediating variable. Further, the authors stated that self perceptions may have a role in the relation between stress and psychological well being. Thus, Lazarus et. al. (1985) concluded that appraisal process (i.e. personal perceptions of the events) should not be removed in the measurement of psychological stress. This idea has been supported by Varni, Katz, Colegrove & Dolgin (1994). They state that the meaning derived from the stressful event, not necessarily the event itself, may result in the perception of the event as being stressful.

Maio-Esteves (1990) in related work, found that self perceptions mediated the effects of stress on perceived health status. Using path analysis, the author found a significant negative relationship between stress as it relates to perceived health status through the variables of introspection and problem-focused behavior. Specifically, when stress increased, problem-focused coping ability decreased while emotion-focused coping ability increased. The author also found a significant direct effect of introspectiveness on perceived health status. In other words, the more one focuses on a problem, the more it affects one's health. The path analysis also indicated that the more the participants felt they were able to handle the everyday problems they faced, the better they felt physically. Maio-Esteves (1990) findings support earlier work done by Lazarus in 1966. Lazarus (1966) proposed that the appraisal processes, such as introspection and coping are intermediary in the relationship between stress and specific outcomes (e.g. well-being, social functioning, and somatic health). Thus, although Maio-Esteves' (1990) work does not directly examine the relation between stress, self esteem and self concept, it does support the importance of self perceptions in mediating the effects of stress.

Stress and Self Esteem

Although changes in self esteem among college students has received some empirical attention, no work has specifically examined the relation between stress and self esteem. However, there is some indirect work. Loeb & Magee (1992) reported on college students during the first two years of school and on the changes associated with the transition to the new roles associated with being a college student. The authors found self esteem declined in the first year, then recovered during the second year. The aspects of self that recovered by late in the second year included: self esteem, self confidence-importance, seeing oneself as not being average, being energetic, being reliable, and viewing oneself as intelligent. The aspects that did not rebound were those of interpersonal relations, being friendly and trusting. Likewise, past research has concluded that students developed a more positive self image over time, specifically, a greater sense of intellectual ability (Astin, 1977). In other research, Waterman (1982) found that the college years were of utmost importance for the development of a positive identity. Finally, other studies have concluded that the during the college years, students become more introspective and independent, (Corbin-Sicoli, as cited in Loeb & Magee, 1992) and exhibit greater autonomy, impulse expression, and personal integration (Chickering, 1974). The results of these studies suggests that perhaps as students acclimate to college and experience less stress, they have more positive self perceptions (Loeb & Magee, 1992), although no one has specifically examined this relation. …

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