Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Stress and Gender in Relation to Self-Esteem of University Business Students

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Stress and Gender in Relation to Self-Esteem of University Business Students

Article excerpt


Some previous investigations argued for and against the fact that stress affects self-esteem of postsecondary students. This study investigated the effects of stress and gender on students' self-esteem. One hundred and fifteen students stratified by level of study, ethnicity, age and gender completed standardized measures of traditional student stress scale and self esteem. The 2x3 (ANOVA) was used to analyse the two independent variables - stress and gender to determine their effect on self-esteem. Results showed neither significant differences on the main effects of stress and gender nor the interaction effect. This however, does not mean that differences in stress levels do not exist among students. Recommendations are given for educational stakeholders to take stress serious and the need for student support services in university settings.


Stress is an unpleasant state of emotional and physiological arousal that people experience in situations that they perceive as dangerous or threatening to their well-being (Auerbach and Gramling, 2008). In simple terms, the daily circumstances or demands of life; whether it is decisions or events that tax our personal resources to the extent that it causes us strain is considered as stress, while self-esteem is the measure of oneself in terms of competence and sense of self worth. According to Lazarus and Folkman (1984) stress is a particular person- environment relationship in which people appraise the demands of a situation as taxing or exceeding coping resources. From this perspective, the key to understanding stress and self esteem is individual's perceptions of demands and the sufficiency of self-esteem to respond to demands. It is generally believed that people with high self-esteem may be better able to handle stressful situations. This seems plausible because the perception of events either as stressful or a challenge is greatly determined by positive evaluation of our abilities to cope. Certain aspects of stress are normal and essential in providing the means to express talents, energies and pursue happiness. When this obtains, stress becomes a positive motivator for bolstering self-esteem. It may be reasonable also to believe that when demands made on an individual is perceived as overwhelming that the body cannot cope, self-esteem will be attacked. When this happens, stress can cause exhaustion and illness, both physical and or psychological, such as heart attacks and accidents.

Post secondary education environment undoubtedly places many demands on students. These demands include among others; role overload - assignment deadlines, tests, term papers and examinations. There are students who apart from role overload at school have to combine busy lives and demands of work or study while trying to also balance time for friends, leisure and family. Some also have to deal with pressures related to finding a job or a potential life partner, make important decisions that affects their future, such as choice of a profession and so on.

Many researchers (Ghaderi, Kumar and Kumar, 2009; Misra and McKlean, 2000; Ross, Neibling and Heckert, 1999; Arthur, 1993) have confirmed postsecondary school level of education as a stressful environment. To lend merit to this position is the view of researcher Garrett (2001) who opined that college students have a unique cluster of stressful experiences or stressors. The general consensus among researchers in this area is that these stressors apart from being individually experienced do not cause anxiety or tension in themselves, but negative effects result from the interaction between them and the individual's perception as well as response.

The transition to postsecondary school creates an unfamiliar environment where regular contact with family and old friends may be reduced. The ability of social support to mediate the effect of exposure to stress cannot be overemphasized. New systems of social support must be sought and created. …

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