Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Proactive Behaviour towards Strength Use and Deficit Improvement, Hope and Efficacy as Predictors of Life Satisfaction Amongst First-Year University Students

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Proactive Behaviour towards Strength Use and Deficit Improvement, Hope and Efficacy as Predictors of Life Satisfaction Amongst First-Year University Students

Article excerpt


It is well documented that first-year university students often find themselves inadequately prepared for the challenges that face them at tertiary educational level (Mouton, Louw & Strydom, 2013). In South Africa, this is of particular relevance as various dynamics influence the probability of academic success of first-year intakes (Petersen, Louw & Dumont, 2009). This poses a unique challenge to the higher educational fraternity as there is increasing pressure to provide access to quality higher education to a larger portion of the country's population (Vandeyar, 2010). These pressures have emerged amidst a process of transformation and change in the higher education landscape and must be navigated cautiously (Le Grange, 2011).

The challenges that first-year university students face are many and varied. Salanova, Schaufeli, Martínez and Bresó (2009) argue that the first year of study at university poses a difficult trial as it can be considered unfamiliar terrain. Students often find that they lack the required resources to effectively deal with the challenges facing them at tertiary educational level (Reeve, Shumaker, Yearwood, Crowell & Riley, 2013). In South Africa, first-year students are the products of a secondary educational system that has undergone significant changes in recent years, including new policy directions and structures (Steenkamp, Baard & Frick, 2009). Access, funding, and quality of teaching and learning are other stressors that South African first-year students face (Mouton et al., 2013). These stressors inevitably influence the graduation rate of students in South Africa, which stands at only 15% (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2013).

The array of challenges that students have to deal with in a complex learning environment can potentially influence their levels of life satisfaction, an important component of well-being (Van Zyl & Rothmann, 2012). Bakker, Albrecht and Leiter (2011) postulate that it is important to investigate factors that influence student well-being as a means of developing interventions that could assist in the development of this part of their lives.

This study will investigate the influence of proactive behaviour towards strength use (PBSU), proactive behaviour towards deficit improvement (PBDI) and two psychological capital constructs (hope and efficacy) on the satisfaction with life levels of first-year students at a South African university.

Proactive behaviour towards strengths use and deficit improvement

PBSU and PBDI approaches form part of a modern school of thought known as positive psychology. This branch of psychology is focused on ascertaining insight into the potentialities and virtues of individuals (Linley, Joseph, Harrington & Wood, 2006; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Wood, Linley, Maltby, Kashdan & Hurling, 2011). It supplements the premise of traditional psychology approaches that have been concentrated on rectifying human flaw, abnormality or deficiency (Cravens, Oliver & Stewart, 2010). Positive psychology is organised around understanding what people are good at, rather than what they may be doing wrong (Compton, 2005).

PBSU can be described as the proactive behaviour that people utilise to accomplish goals (Van Woerkom, Mostert, Els, Rothmann & Bakker, in press). Moreover, it can be viewed as the inclination of not merely accepting the status quo, but actively capitalising on one's areas of strength, virtue and potentiality, mobilising one's inherent capitals of forte to ensure that development ensues (Van Woerkom et al., in press). Crant (2000) describes this as being crucial in reaching workplace and personal goals. Frese and Fay (2001) label proactive behaviour as essential in dealing with challenges and persevering, regardless of obstacles. PBSU implies pre-emptive behaviour on the part of the individual, such that this person would be positively inclined to make active use of their talents rather than accepting in a passive manner that they do not have control over a set of circumstances (Botha & Mostert, 2014). …

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