Academic journal article College Student Journal

"All Work and No Play ..." Overcommitment and Personality among University and College Students

Academic journal article College Student Journal

"All Work and No Play ..." Overcommitment and Personality among University and College Students

Article excerpt

Students' traits, attitudes and behaviors can be a key factor in how they prepare for entering a career and later adapt to working life. Based on this, the aim of this study was to explore associations between personality traits and overcommitment among university and college students. Overcommitment (OC) is a pattern of attitudes, behaviours and emotions characteristic of a person who works harder than what is demanded for a given task, and is driven by a high need for approval and control. The sample consisted of 259 university students. Personality was measured by the NEO-FFI, and overcommitment was measured by a short version of the OC scale. Overcommitment was significantly related to higher scores on the personality traits Neuroticism, Conscientiousness and Openness, and lower scores on Agreeableness.

Keywords: Overcommitment, personality, five factor model, students


In the period that has been labelled "emerging adulthood," students aim at obtaining an education and entering a career (Larking, LaPort & Pines, 2007). However, some students struggle more than others with this transition. These individuals may be at risk due to certain traits and behaviors which can make them more vulnerable to career stress. Overcommitment is such a pattern of attitudes, behaviours and emotions characterizing a person who is working harder than formal requirements, often driven by a need for recognition and approval (Siegrist, 2001). This pattern is central within Siegrists' effort-reward imbalance model, often labelled the ERI model (Siegrist et al., 2004

The ERI model is often applied in organizational or occupational health psychology research and is central in research on employee populations (Rennesund & Saksvik, 2010). However, in this paper, we argue that also for university students, balance between effort and reward is a highly relevant issue. In fact, a recent study indicates that maladaptive perfectionism among students correlates with greater levels of career ambiguity stress (Park, Choi, Nam, Lee, 2011).

Some individuals are assumed to be more at risk for experiencing an imbalance between effort and reward. In fact, effort reward imbalance is postulated to be experienced more intensively by persons characterized by overcommitment. A potential imbalance between effort and reward could lead to stress experiences and strain, and could over time cause increased risk for adverse health effects and increased risk for illness and disease (Joksimovic, Starke, Knesebeck, & Siegrist, 2002; Tsutsumi, Kayaba, Theorell, & Siegrist, 2001; Siegrist, 2008; Preckel, von Kanel, Kudielka, & Fischer, 2005; Bosma, Peter, Siegrist, & Marmot, 1998; Vrijkotte, van Doornen, & de Geus, 1999; van Vegchel, de Jonge, Bosma, & Schaufeli, 2005). Both external demands and internal demands can contribute to reward effort imbalance (Siegrist et al., 2004). Internal demands are a result of a person's ambition and personal motivation, accordingly an individual's personality is of importance. Among personal factors, overcommitment could be of special interest. Overcommitted individuals are proposed to underestimate work demands and overestimate their own capacities (Siegrist et al., 2004).

Interestingly, overcommitment has been described as part of a person's character, and the five central personality traits of the five factor model (Costa & McCrae, 1992) could be important predictors of this phenomenon. These traits are Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, respectively. In this study we investigate the relationship between overcommitment and personality traits among university and college students (henceforth addressed as "students").

Personality and overcommitment

The well-established five-factor model of personality has received increasing attention within personality psychology (Costa & McCrae, 1992). …

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