Scholarly article on topic 'The Effectiveness of Problem-solving on Coping Skills and Psychological Adjustment'

The Effectiveness of Problem-solving on Coping Skills and Psychological Adjustment Academic research paper on "Psychology"

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Abstract of research paper on Psychology, author of scientific article — Mahbobeh Chinaveh

Abstract This study aimed to examine the effects of the problem-solving to enhance effective coping skills and psychological adjustment among Iranian college students. The predictions of the present study were as follows: (a) Participants in a problem-solving program may perceive their problems to be resolved; (b) problem-solving training may increase active coping strategies; (c) after problem-solving training, scores on a psychological adjustment scale of participants in a problem-solving program may be increased. Eighty college students who reported low levels of approach coping responses and psychological adjustment were randomly allocated to either a problem-solving training group, or a non-training control group. Students in a problem-solving training group received problem-solving training for eight weeks. Their coping skills (approach and avoidance responses) and psychological adjustment evaluated on the first day and thirty days later in the program, were compared with those of a control group. The results showed that approach coping responses and psychological adjustment had increased after program for the training group. The results of this study suggest that self-appraised social problem solving ability is concerned with the way in which individuals perceive and cope with problems encountered in everyday life. These results may implicate for counseling and psychotherapy.

Academic research paper on topic "The Effectiveness of Problem-solving on Coping Skills and Psychological Adjustment"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 84 (2013) 4 - 9

3rd World Conference on Psychology, Counselling and Guidance (WCPCG-2012)

The effectiveness of problem-solving on coping Skills and Psychological Adjustment

Mahbobeh Chinaveh*

Department of Psychology, Arsenjan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Iran

Abstract

This study aimed to examine the effects of the problem-solving to enhance effective coping skills and psychological adjustment among Iranian college students. The predictions of the present study were as follows: (a) Participants in a problem-solving program may perceive their problems to be resolved; (b) problem-solving training may increase active coping strategies; (c) after problem-solving training, scores on a psychological adjustment scale of participants in a problem-solving program may be increased. Eighty college students who reported low levels of approach coping responses and psychological adjustment were randomly allocated to either a problem-solving training group, or a non-training control group. Students in a problem-solving training group received problem-solving training for eight weeks. Their coping skills (approach and avoidance responses) and psychological adjustment evaluated on the first day and thirty days later in the program, were compared with those of a control group. The results showed that approach coping responses and psychological adjustment had increased after program for the training group. The results of this study suggest that self-appraised social problem solving ability is concerned with the way in which individuals perceive and cope with problems encountered in everyday life. These results may implicate for counseling and psychotherapy.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selectionandpeer-reviewunderresponsibilityof Prof. Dr.HuseyinUzunboylu& Dr. Mukaddes Demirok,NearEastUniversity,Cyprus

1. Introduction

Social problem solving or how people solve their real-life problems has been of great relevance to a broad range of helping practitioners. Down through the ages, philosophers, educators, and psychologists have long recognized that humans are problem solvers and that there are individual differences in their problem-solving ability. These observers of human nature have generally assumed that successful problem solving reduces maladjustment and enhances positive adjustment as everyday life is replete with problems that must be solved in order to function effectively (D'Zurilla & Nezu, 2007). It has been suggested that ineffective problem solving results in stressful outcomes and psychological maladjustment. As it occurs in the natural environment, problem solving may be defined as the self-directed cognitive-behavioural process by which a person attempts to identify for discovering effective or adaptor solutions for specific problems encountered in everyday living. More specifically,

Corresponding author name: *Mahbobeh Chmaveh; Td: 0098-711-6238413 E-mail address: chinaveh@iaua.ac.ir

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu & Dr. Mukaddes Demirok, Near East University, Cyprus doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.06.499

this cognitive-behavioural process (a) makes available a variety of potentially effective solution for a particular problem, and (b) increases the probability of selecting the most effective solution from among the various alternatives (D'Zurilla & Nezu, 1999). As this definition implies, problem solving is conceived here as a conscious, rational, effortful, and purposeful activity (D'Zurilla & Nezu, 2007).

Findings in educational psychology show that expert problem solvers master a large body of easily accessible domain-specific knowledge (Brown, 1992; De Corte, 1991). This skill can serve as learning tool because students can use it in diverse subject areas and for tasks of different scope and specificity. Mastering and applying problem solving is essential critical for successful performance (Alexander, Graham, & Harris, 1998; Pressley & Hilden, 2006; RodroAguez-Fornells,& Maydeu-Olivares, 2000; Weinstein, Husman, & Dierking, 2000). Problem-solving is considered a coping strategy that increases general competence and adaptation (D'Zurilla & Nezu, 1990) in real-world settings. In order to improve problem solving to enhance effective coping skills, psychological adjustment, and prevent severe stress symptoms among students; effective problem-solving programs should be implemented. The present research addresses the influence of problem-solving dimensions on coping skills and psychological adjustment's students. 1.1. Purpose of the study and hypotheses

This study examined the effect of a problem-solving training among undergraduate students to help students learn strategies for altering potentially harmful lifestyle habits. The predictions of the present study were as follows: (a) problem-solving training may increase active coping strategies; (b) active coping strategies may also increase psychological adjustment, so after problem-solving training, scores on psychological adjustment scale of participants in a problem-solving program may be increased.

a) Researcher supposes that students who received social problem-solving training have effective coping responses than those who did not receive (first hypothesis).

b) The problem-solving training should produce psychological adjustment differences between the experimental and control students. After the intervention the experimental students should be a better psychological adjustment than the others (second hypothesis).

2. Methods

2.1. Design

An experimental design with one experimental group and one control group was set up. The experimental treatment consisted of an integrated set of instructional conditions which were operationalized in a series of sessions, practice. For the experimental group (E) researcher designed an intervention problem-solving based on the D'Zurilla and Nezu's model (2007). The control group (C) was exposed to the usual instructional.

2.2. Participants

Participants at Stage 1 were 347 Psychology undergraduate students (247women, 100 men) enrolled at a large-sized campus-based university during the period 2010-2011. Ages ranged from 18 to 36 years (M=20. 45, SD=2. 41). For the second stage of the study, 80 of the respondents took part (59 women, 21 men), with a mean age of 20.35 (SD=2.78). The experimental group consisted forty psychology students (29 women, 11 men) and control groups consisted forty psychology students (30 women, 10 men) at Marvdasht University.

2.3. Procedure

After ensuring the suitability of the instruments for the current study by computing Alpha reliability on the sample of 100 students which was approximately equal to that of the original scale, permission was sought from Marvdasht University. Questionnaires were distributed to all undergraduate psychology students during the first 2 weeks following arrival at the university. Participants were given the questionnaire during scheduled classes after having been informed about the nature and aims of the study, and assuring them that all responses were confidential. Participants completed the questionnaire during the class, and when completed returned them in a collection box. Respondents were asked to provide their student identification numbers in order to allow matching of questionnaires with Time 2 measures. 80 students were selected from the total group of psychology students (N= 347) taking into account three entering characteristics (poor psychological adjustment, coping responses and social problem-solving appraisal). Two scales, Psychological Adjustment Scale (27 items) along with coping responses inventory (39 items) were administered in a very calm atmosphere. They took almost 55minutes in completion of scales. Confidentiality

of the data was assured to the sample. The questionnaires were administered twice as pre-and post-test for two groups at the same time.

2.4. Measures

1) Psychological Adjustment Scale. Psychological Adjustment Scale was used to measure psychological adjustment. It was found to be a reliable and valid measure of psychological adjustment (a =.83). It was Likert type 5 point scale. It consists of 27 statements with 5 subscales which were factually derived e.g., Accurate perception of reality (04 items), Ability to cope with stress and anxiety (06 items), Positive self image (07 items), Ability to express full range of emotions (06 items), and Good interpersonal relationships (04 items). The alpha reliabilities of the subscales were also found to be satisfactory. Its scoring range of Psychological Adjustment Scale was 1 -5 with a cut-off score of 81. Five (05) score was given to "completely correct while one (01) was assigned to "completely incorrect". In reverse items, scoring was also reversed (Sabbir, 1999).

2) Coping Responses Inventory. The Coping Responses Inventory (CRI) developed by Moos (2004) was selected to assess participant coping responses. The validity and reliability of CRI were adjusted to use with Iranian undergraduate students (by researcher). This inventory measures two different types of coping responses related to stressful life circumstances. These responses are measured in two sections: namely, the Approach scale and the Avoidance scale. The approach scale is measured using twenty-four items and the Avoidance scale is measured using fifteen items. When responding to the CRI-Adult, individuals select and describe a recent stressor and use a four-pomt scale varying from "not at all" to "fairly often" to rate their reliance on each of 39 coping response items. The Alpha values for the two scales are .83 and .84. The validity of the scales was assessed based upon conformity factor analysis and predictive validity, were found to be acceptable.

2.5. Problem-solving training sessions

The problem-solving training was administered for 6 weeks, 2-hour per week, and there was typically a 15-person limit per session. On the first day, the instructor outlined the program. The instructor lectured on the problems. The instructor explained students that perceive a stressful situation as a "problem-to-be-solved". The instructor also attempted to help students become aware of understanding the problem and students were helped to get believes that he or she is capable of resolving the problem successfully and develop an awareness that they can cope with the problem. In the second class, students identified the signs of problems early and potential sources of problem by gathering all the facts and understanding their causes through the lecture and using worksheets. At the third class meeting, the instructor explained and practiced generating a variety of alternative "solution" (i.e. potentially effective coping responses). In this step students learned to make a plan of solution and answered these questions: "Where to start? What can I do? What should I look for?" At the fourth session, the instructor wanted students' decision making and students composed a wish list of intermediate goals and tried to reach them. In the fourth step students identified the pros and con their decision-making by worksheet. At the fifth session, students practiced to monitor and evaluate the actual success of the solution plan after it is carried out. This session in the problemsolving process suggested that students engage in the following activities: "Motivate them to carry out their solution, Implement their action plan, Observe and monitor their results, Reward themselves for their problem-solving efforts, troubleshoot areas of difficulty, and know when to get professional help". At the last session, as additional aid, the instructor provided examples of how to apply these five steps to various common problems (see table1).

Table1. The six problem-solving sessions from D'Zurilla & Nezu (2007)

Sessions_Title_

1 Enhancing Your Problem-solving Capacity

2 Defining Your Problem and Setting Realistic Goals

3 Being Creative and Generation Alternative Solutions

4 Predicting the consequences and developing a solution plan

5 Trying out your Solution Plan and Determining if it works

6_Additional Examples_

3. Results

In order to examine the effects of problem-solving training on social problem-solving appraisal, coping responses and psychological adjustment during pre-rnd post training, a 2x2 repeated-measure of ANOVA was performed. Intervention group (intervention vs. no intervention) served as the between-groups variable, whereas time of testing served as the within-groups variable (before vs. after intervention). Means and standard deviation of the measures are presented in table 2.

3.1. Hypothesis 1: the students in the experimental group have higher scores of psychological adjustment than the students of the control group.

The result showed that the main effect of the problem-solving training was significant (F [1, 78] =139.65, p<0.05). There was a significant difference in levels of psychological adjustment between those who were trained and those who were not, with those who trained having a significantly higher level of psychological adjustment (mean PSA score=95. 5) than those who did not train (mean PSA score=94. 1).

3.2. Hypothesis 2: the students in the experimental group improve more approach coping responses, and decrease avoidance coping responses than the students of the control group.

Simple main effects tests indicated that approach scores significantly improved from pre-test to post-test in the experimental group (F [1, 78] =123.3, p<.001), to a statistically large extent. Those in the intervention group (mean APC score=90. 13) were significantly higher than those in the control group (mean APC score=38. 74), with a difference of a medium magnitude. Moreover, Simple main effects tests indicated that avoidance scores significantly decrease from pre-test to post-test in the experimental group (F [1, 78] =143.2, p<.001), to a statistically large extent. Those in the intervention group (mean AVC score=26. 27) were significantly lower than those in the control group (mean AVC score=45, 37), with a difference of a medium magnitude.

Table2. Means & standard deviation between those in the PST and control group at both testing phases

PST Control

Pre-test Post-test Pre-test Post-test

PSA 93.3 (14.8) 95.5 (13.1) 94.1 (12.4) 94.2 (13.2)

APC 38.87 (2.3) 90.13 (3.94) 38.76 (2.17) 38.74 (2.7)

AVC 45.43 (2.40) 26.27 (3.06) 45.50 (2.39) 45.37(2.43)

PST=problem-solving training group, PSA=psychological adjustment, APC=approach coping, AVC=avoidance coping

4. Discussion & Conclusion

The current study examined the ability of problem solving model of D'Zurilla and Nezu (2007) to impact problemsolving skill. Furthermore, it sought to improve psychological adjustment and approach coping responses in undergraduate students. The above results indicate that we met these objects, and the researcher shall now discuss the findings.

4.1. Psychological adjustment

The first aim of the current study was to examine whether the problem solving model of D'Zurilla and Nezu (2007) improves the overall psychological adjustment of students. As predicted it was found that students who were allocated to the intervention group exhibited a significant improvement in psychological adjustment compared to control group. Elliott, Shewchuk & Richard (2001) declared that PST reduces and prevents the negative effects of stressful life events with regard to both psychological and physical well-being. According to social problem-solving theory, some variables that might problem solving training outcomes include positive affectivity, optimism, hope, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and a sense of mastery or control (D'Zurilla & Nezu, 2007). These variables are associated with psychological adjustment (D'Zurilla & Nezu, 1990; D'Zurilla et al, 2002). Similarly, in a study Chang and D'Zurilla (1996) reported that the PST was significantly related to positive trait affectivity and optimism. Positive problem orientation and problem-solving skills were also found to be linked to internal locus of control, self-esteem and life satisfaction (D'Zurilla et al, 2002; Heppner & Peterson, 1982; Heppner, Reeder & Larson, 1983). A series of more recent study by Elliot and his colleagues (2001) provide further support for the existence of a significant

relationship between social problem solving and subjective well-being. These include a study focusing on adult caregivers of individuals who suffered a stroke (Grant, Elliot, Giger, & Bartolucci, 2001), a sample of adults with diabetes (Elliot, Shewchuk, Miler, & Richards, 2001), and sample of college students (Elliot et al., 1995). In general, the results of the present study across studies are consistent with expectation based on social problem-solving training have provided support for the practice and use of problem-solving training for improving psychological adjustment.

4.2. Coping responses

Results indicate that problem solving training (PST) had a positive effect on coping responses of a group of undergraduate students. When compared to a control group, students who were randomly allocated to receive the PST scored at a high level of approach coping responses. The magnitude of this effect means that students in the PST group received a higher approach coping response scores than students in the control group. As predicted, the researcher found that positive change in approach coping response scores in the intervention group occurred because negative problem orientation and a poor judge of actual problem solving skills became more positive and strange. This change is consistent with the aim of the present study "to reduce students' negative problem orientation by providing them with active coping responses and approach tendencies that are likely to facilitate problem-solving performance". Larson, Piersel, Imao, and Allen (1990) found that more effective problem-solving was associated with increased use of active problem-engagement coping strategies and less disengagement coping behaviours. McNair and Elliot (1992) further found that positive problem-orientation and problem-solving skills were significantly associated with the use of problem-focused coping. D'Zurilla, & Chang and Sanna (2003) reported that the positive problem orientation and rational problem solving prospectively predicted the use of active problemengagement coping, whereas the negative problem orientation impulsivity style and avoidance style were related to the use of disengagement coping. The results suggested that the significant relationship between problem-solving skills and coping responses can be useful for practitioners to use problem-solving training in their therapy sessions.

4.3. Conclusion

The present study found evidence that PST improved psychological adjustment and active coping responses by increasing positive problem-solving attitudes and skills and promoting positive changes in coping performance. Social problem solving is expected to have both a direct and an indirect link to positive psychological well-being and functioning. The direct link involves overlap between problem orientation and positive psychological (cognitive and emotional) construct such as perceived internal control, optimism and positive affectivity. The indirect link is that effective social problem solving facilitates adaptive coping and general competence, which in turn, is likely to enhance positive psychological conditions, including positive affectivity, a sense of mastery and control, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. Positive well-being is an important correlate of social problem solving, because it acts as a buffer against the negative effect of stress and can attenuate or prevent symptoms of psychology. The fact that different mechanisms mediate such effects suggests that PST worked on a number of different, possibly, independent levels. More research is needed on the role of social problem solving in predicting and enhancing optimal or superior functioning that maximize the quality of life for oneself and society (D'Zurilla & Nezu, 1990; D'Zurilla & Sheedy, 1992; Rodriguez-Fornells & Maydeu-Olivares, 2000).

4.4. Limitations

Not unexpectedly with applied research of this nature, there are a number of limitations with the current study that should be considered. First, assessment of psychological adjustment and coping responses has relied entirely on self-report measures, and there is always a need for relating self-reports of psychological adjustment efficacy and strategies to actually cope with stress. Second, the participant sample used in this study was selected from one University in Iran, and included only undergraduate psychology students. It could be argued that there may be different demands placed on students in different universities within Iran, between universities and those in other countries, or between psychology and other academic disciplines, which may have had an impact on the pattern of results observed here. Caution should therefore be exercised in generalizing the current findings beyond this student population, or indeed to other wider populations.

Acknowledgements

The author thanks the teaching staff and the students of the Marvdasht University who participated in this investigation. She also appreciates the committee of WCPC.

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