Scholarly article on topic 'Coping Strategies, Self-criticism and Gender Factor in Relation to Quality of Life'

Coping Strategies, Self-criticism and Gender Factor in Relation to Quality of Life Academic research paper on "Psychology"

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Abstract of research paper on Psychology, author of scientific article — Barbara Crăciun

Abstract The main objective of the study is to identify the relation between the perceived stress level, coping strategies and reported self-criticism. The second objective is to investigate the relationship between gender, coping strategies, level of self-criticism and the quality of life. A total of 228 students in psychology and law were investigated and they completed a perceived stress scale, a stress coping instrument, a Self-Criticism scale and Quality of Life scale. Results found significant differences between males and females in the selection of coping strategies. Results showed also that the variables coping strategies - task oriented and emotion, gender and self-criticism were significantly related to quality of life.

Academic research paper on topic "Coping Strategies, Self-criticism and Gender Factor in Relation to Quality of Life"

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Procedía

Social and Behavioral Sciences

ELSEVIER Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 78 (2013) 466 - 470

PSIWORLD 2012

Coping Strategies, Self-Criticism and Gender Factor in Relation to

Quality of Life

a Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Bucharest University, §os. Panduri nr. 90, sector 5, Bucharest, 050656,Romania

The main objective of the study is to identify the relation between the perceived stress level, coping strategies and reported self-criticism. The second objective is to investigate the relationship between gender, coping strategies, level of self-criticism and the quality of life. A total of 228 students in psychology and law were investigated and they completed a perceived stress scale, a stress coping instrument, a Self-Criticism scale and Quality of Life scale. Results found significant differences between males and females in the selection of coping strategies. Results showed also that the variables coping strategies - task oriented and emotion, gender and self-criticism were significantly related to quality of life.

© 20)13 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Selection and/or peereeveew under responsibility of PSIWORLD 2012

Keywords: Coping strategies, gender, self-criticism, quality of life;

1. Introduction

Stress represents a complex psychological reaction and is an unavoidable part of daily life (Myers, 1995). Stress can be represented by lower functioning of homeostatic normality. The complexity of today's society and the multitude of factors that daily interfere with human relations generate phenomena such as stress. An important role in the appearance and growth of mental stress is played by cognitive, affective and motivational particularities of each person, shaped by one's experience (personal biography). An important specific aspect of mental stress reported to the causing stress agent, is the anticipatory feature towards the impact of a certain event or circumstances generating consequences that threaten the patient's mental balance. It is noticed that these stimuli generate negative stress to some people or positive stress to others, while other people might remain indifferent.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +40-721-261.281. E-mail address: barbaracraciun@yahoo.com

Barbara Craciuna*

Abstract

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of PSIWORLD 2012 doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.04.332

Self-criticism is a frequent factor among people who report a high level of stress and more negative affect and less positive affect on a daily basis (Mongrain & Zuroff, 1995). Self-criticism is a personality trait associated with numerous maladaptive outcomes. A theoretic and experimental model proposed by Zuroff, Santor, and Mongrain (2005) claims that the motivational, cognitive, and interpersonal features of self-criticism interact dynamically with environmental factors to increase and maintain vulnerability to psychopathology.

Research in both clinical and non-clinical samples has shown that in the face of a stressful life event, the maladaptive traits of self-criticism and dependency are associated with increased depressive symptomatology and increased risk for an episode of depression (Zuroff, Santor, and Mongrain, 2005).

Coping represents an individual's cognitive, affective and behavioural efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands (Lazarus, 1999). During the stress reactions, cognitive and affective evaluating processes might intervene with a role of mediation.

Models of coping identify two distinct categories based on the intention and function of coping efforts: problem focused and emotion focused (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984). Problem focused coping refers to cognitive and behavioural efforts used to change the problem, and includes such strategies as problem solving, planning and effort.

Emotion focused coping involves strategies that help control emotional arousal and distress that are caused by the stressor without addressing the problem, and includes avoidance, detachment and suppression (Kashden et al., 2006). Avoiding strategies lead to orienting the individual towards behavioural or cognitive substitution strategies to eliminate emotional tension.

In the area of study related to stress and coping strategies the literature suggest that coping strategies may be gender-related. Gender differences in the selection of coping strategies have been identified, with males adopting more problem focused strategies and females adopting a more emotion focused approach (Ptacek et al., 1994).

We must say that there are many disputes on this subject and it hasn't been yet clarified through experimental studies. Thus, the results of a 1995 study of Porter & Stone shows that a part of the men who adopt a direct action style in stressful situations, while women mostly use avoidance as a punctual strategy.

Another study from 2004 indicated that the women scored significantly higher than the men in chronic stress and minor daily stressors. The women scored significantly higher than the men on the emotional and avoidance coping styles and lower on rational and detachment coping. The men were found to have more emotional inhibition than the women. And the women scored significantly higher than the men on somatic symptoms and psychological distress (Matud, 2004).

Quality of life is a multidimensional construct integrating an individual's subjective perceptions of physical, social, emotional and cognitive functioning (Koot, 2001).

Life satisfaction is defined as how one feels one's important needs, goales and wishes are being met in important life domains (Bailey & Miller, 1998). Operationally an overall life satisfaction is computed as the sum of satisfactions in important life domains (Sirgy, 2002).

The concept of quality of life is defined in psychology (Diener, 2003) as a subjective view of the extent to which happiness and satisfaction have been achieved, or as a sense of personal, subjective view that has also been considered closely related to certain biological, economic, psychological and social factors. Research shows that there exists a connection between health related quality of life and stress (Dusselier et al., 2005; Misra & McKean, 2000). In a study from 2001 Dwyer and Cummings reported that stress was the most common health factor impacting academic performance in a population of students. Also in the same study gender differences were found, with women reporting more social support from friends than men.

The aim of the present study was to identify the relation between the perceived stress level, coping strategies and reported self-criticism. The second objective is to investigate the relationship between gender, coping strategies, level of self-criticism and the quality of life.

2. Method, participants and procedure

A sample of 228 individuals was selected by random sampling, students, men and women aged between 22 and 35, the mean age being 28.2 (SD= 7.18), sampled in two groups according to their gender. The participants were students of Psychology and Law school from Titu Maiorescu University in Bucharest. The research was made between September 2011 and January 2012.

As demographic characteristics show other sample characteristics were: Marital status: 32.3% married, 8.8% divorced, 27% living in consensual union and 31.9% never married. Employment status: state-owned companies or private sector employees (64.2%), college and master-level students (35.8%).

The participants were informed about the purpose on which the research was based. The participants completed the three questionnaires and were instructed to respond to the questions as honestly and seriously as possible, being assured of the confidentiality of their data. The instructions mentioned that there were no right or wrong answers.

2.1. Measures

The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS, Cohen, Kamarck and Mermelstein, 1983) is a self-report questionnaire used for measuring the perception of stress. It is a measure of the degree to which situations in one's life are appraised as stressful. Items of the PSS were designed to tap how unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloaded respondents find their lives. The PSS-10 scores are obtained by reversing the scores on the four positively stated items, e.g. 0=4, 1=3, 2=2, 3=1 and 4=0 and then sum across all 10 items.

Items 4, 5, 7 and 8 are the positively stated items. The higher the PSS score, the more likely it is that the individual will perceive that environmental demands exceed their ability to cope. In the current study for this instrument the Cronbach's alpha reliability was .77.

The Quality of Life Scale (QOLS, Flanagan, 1978) contained 15 items representing 5 conceptual domains of QOL: physical and material well being, relationships with other people, social and civic activities, personal development, and recreation. This instrument is used to evaluate both clinical and non-clinical population.

The Quality of Life Scale used a five-point likert-type scale that measured "satisfaction with needs met." No reliability of this scaling was reported at the time. Andrews and Crandall (1976) had suggested that a 7-point scale anchored with the words "delighted" and "terrible" was more sensitive and less negatively skewed than a 5-point satisfaction scale for quality of life assessment. The seven responses were "delighted" (7), "pleased" (6), "mostly satisfied" (5), "mixed" (4), "mostly dissatisfied" (3), "unhappy" (2), "terrible" (1). In the current study was used a five point Lickert version and the Cronbach's alpha reliability was .81.

The Levels of Self-Criticism (LOSC, Thompson and Zuroff, 2002). This scale consisted of the 22 items and was designed to measure two dysfunctional forms of negative self evaluation: Comparative Self-Criticism (CSC) and Internalized Self-Criticism (ISC). Coefficient alpha for the CSC was 0.59 and for the ISC was 0.87. The answers are scored on a 7-point Likert scale from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much). For this scale the Cronbach's alpha reliability was .71.

The Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations (CISS, Endler & Parker, 1988) is a 48-item self-report inventory that evaluates the coping strategies normally used in a stressful situation. The items are divided into 3 separate coping scales, which measure task-oriented coping, emotion-oriented coping, and avoidance-oriented coping. The avoidance-oriented scale is divided into two subscales - distraction and social diversion.

Respondents indicate the frequency of use of several coping behaviors while in stressful situations, from 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much). The CISS has been shown to have high internal reliability (alphas generally ranging from .76 to .92) for college students and adults (Endler & Parker, 1990a, 1994). In the current study, the coping responses have good internal reliability as measured by Cronbach's alpha and it was .79.

3. Results

Data were analyzed by SPSS-16. The distribution was normal. To examine the relationships among students' experience of perceived stress, the type of coping responses used (task-oriented coping, emotion, avoidance, distraction and social diversion) and the reported level of self-criticism, correlational analysis were conducted. These correlations are found in Table 1. Correlation analysis showed statistically significant relations among the perceived stress level and coping strategies. The level of self-criticism was also correlated to perceived stress level

Table 1. Score correlations (N=228)

PSS LOSC CISS

task emotion avoidance distraction social diversion

LOSC .487* -

CISS task .244* .419* -

emotion .307* .447** .401* -

avoidance .229* .374* .503** .531** -

distraction .344* .471* .462** .498** .511** -

social diversion .330* .408* .455** .506** .542** .501** -

* Correlations significant at p<.05 ** Correlations significant at p<.01

The chi-square test %2=6.845; p<0,001 confirmed that there is a significant difference found in coping strategies used between both genders. Results demonstrated that women prefer coping strategies oriented towards emotions (42.6%) whereas men prefer coping strategies oriented to task (35.8%).

To examine the relationships between the coping strategies, gender, self-criticism to quality of life a multiple regression analysis was performed. The dependent variable was the quality of life and the independent variables were the coping strategies (the subscales), gender and the LOSC score. The analysis resulted in a significant model (F (1, 227) = 7.626, p < 0,001. Adjusted R square = .445), which accounted for 44.5 % of the variance in quality of life. It showed that coping strategies - task oriented and emotion oriented (t (228) = 3.398, p < .001), gender (t (228) = 3.327, p = .012), and self-criticism (t (228) = -3.187, p = .026) were significantly related to quality of life.

4. Discussion and conclusion

The obtained results reflect show a significant relantionship between the students' experience of perceived stress assessed with PSS and the type of coping responses used (task-oriented coping, emotion, avoidance, distraction and social diversion). This findings are consistent with past studies (Eaton & Bradely, 2008). Also, the results revealed significant differences between males and females in the selection of coping strategies which is in line with the studies showing a relationship between gender and coping responses (Ptacek, Smith, & Dodge, 1994; Larson, 2006).

There are few studies that investigated using coping strategies by men and women reported to the level of perceived stress, self-criticism evaluation and predicting the quality of life. The results obtained in this study revealed also that the variables coping strategies - task oriented and emotion, gender and self-criticism were the best predict for the dependent variable quality of life. We observed that those variables were significantly related

to quality of life. This is consistent with the results from the medical studies that showed the role of coping strategies as conscious efforts to manage or reduce the stressful experiences and improving the quality of life (Elfström et al., 2005).

A limit of this study is firstly related to the number of participants, too few to allow a generalization of the data. Secondly, a student population was investigated. We think that our results must be carefully evaluated. Overall, this study offers information on the way perceived stress, self-criticism and the quality of life are presented next to gender differences and coping strategies that people use.

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