Academic journal article The Psychological Record

The Sequential Model of Future-Oriented Coping and Adjustment to University Life: The Role of Attitudes as Further Evidence

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

The Sequential Model of Future-Oriented Coping and Adjustment to University Life: The Role of Attitudes as Further Evidence

Article excerpt


The transition to university life is important in personal development, especially because many students may lack the coping skills necessary for this transition. Coping and attitudes are among the most important factors that are necessary for this transition. The present study attempted to understand this transition and the adjustment to university life by examining future-oriented coping and explicit and implicit attitudes toward university life. Adjustment to University Life

Many studies have shown that the transition to higher education settings can be challenging. Freshman students must overcome the unfamiliarity of university life (B1- g and Miltenberger 1981) and confusion related to emerging adulthood (Arnett 2000). Consequently, 86.6 % of first-year Chinese students reported high stress in their academic life, 55.3 % in their social life, and 32.5 % in their financial affairs (Fan 2000). These academic, interpersonal, and financial challenges require adequate coping responses to avoid maladjustment, which is a major cause of poor academic performance and withdrawal from school (e.g., Baker and Siryk 1984). Furthermore, research suggests that future-oriented coping and students' attitudes toward university life are crucial elements of their adjustment (Gan et al. 2010; Cote and Levine 2000). Although there is extensive literature on university adjustment, previous researchers in this area have relied almost exclusively on self-reporting measures. In this study, we measured implicit attitudes to further verify and enrich the sequential model of future-oriented coping proposed by Hu and Gan (2011).

Future-Oriented Coping

Aspinwall and Taylor (1997) were the first to propose the concept of proactive coping, which they defined as an individual's efforts to prepare for difficult changes and events that could potentially threaten his or her personal goals related to general wellbeing. They further constructed a five-stage model of proactive coping. Each of these five stages has a distinctive function: resource accumulation, attention recognition, initial appraisal, preliminary coping, and eliciting and utilizing feedback. These five stages are interrelated and function together as the coping process.

Schwarzer and Taubert (2002) identified two types of proactive coping. They defined the first type, proactive coping, as "efforts to build up general resources that facilitate promotion toward challenging goals and personal growth." The second type, preventive coping, referred to individuals' efforts to prepare for future events and/or minimize the severity of these events before they occur (Schwarzer 2000). According to Schwarzcr and Taubcrt (2002), proactive and preventive coping differ in two ways. First, proactive coping is based on challenge appraisal, whereas preventive coping is based on threat appraisal. Second, in proactive coping, individuals engage in more constructive and purposeful actions (Greenglass et al. 1999), whereas preventive coping employs more defensive and general strategies (e.g., saving resources for future needs). In other words, proactive coping can be considered as "goal management" and preventive coping as "risk management" (Schwarzer and Taubert 2002).

To avoid confusion stemming from the use of "proactive coping" as a general term and as a specific type, Gan et al. (2007) proposed the term "future-oriented coping" to describe both types of coping.

In the context of job hunting among Chinese university graduates, Hu and Gan (2011) differentiated two possible models that depict the relationship between proactive and preventive coping: the parallel model and the sequential model. The parallel model is characterized by treating proactive coping and preventive coping as two distinct and parallel processes. In this model, the two types of coping occur simultaneously. In contrast, the sequential model describes preventive coping and proactive coping as occurring in sequential order. …

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