Hardiness and College Adaptation
by Elizabeth Gonnella



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Title
Abstract
Acknowledgements
Table of Contents
Introduction
Methods
Results
Discussion
References


 
 

Hardiness and College Adaptation

Elizabeth Gonnella
November 23, 1999
Senior Thesis
 
 
 

A Thesis Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in the Department of Psychology at Saint Anselm College, Manchester New Hampshire.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Running Head: HARDINESS AND ADJUSTMENT
 



Abstract
 
 

 Many studies have been conducted to understand the relationship between hardiness and cognitive affects and behavioral functions.  Hardiness has a direct connection with how well an individual will cope with life situations and stressors, and wellness therapy has been demonstrated to show this connection.
 Given these findings, this research investigated the relationship of hardiness and college adaptation, in general.  The relationship was assessed via the Hardiness Scale and the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire.  There was a moderate correlation between hardiness and college adaptation, suggesting more hardy individuals have higher adjustment scores.  Results are discussed in the context of suggestions for further research on hardiness.
 
 
 



Acknowledgements
 
 
 
 

 I would like to take this opportunity to thank those people who have guided me through my senior thesis.  Professor Finn, my advisor, thank you for making yourself available for my many “quick questions” and for talking me through frustrating times.  To my parents who listened and gave advice when I needed it.
 The Psychology Department, all of the faculty, thank you for always showing your dedication and passion for the field of psychology, it kept me focused and driven to strive and accomplish.
 All of my roommates deserve a big thank you for putting up with me and my thesis and for understanding its importance to me.  Also, I would like to thank my roommate, Julie, for letting me use her computer, and to the computer, thanks for not dying on me.
 



Table of Contents
 
 

I Title……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 1
 

II Abstract ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 2
 

III Acknowledgements ………………………………………………………………………………… 3
 

III Table of Contents ……………………………………………………………………………… 4
 

V Introduction ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 5

1. Hardiness and Stress……………………………………………………………… 7
2. Hardiness, Personality, and Stress……………………… 10
3. Hypothesis……………………………………………………………………………………… 14

VI Methods ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 15
 

VII Results ……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 19
 

VIII Discussion …………………………………………………………………………………………… 21
 

IX Appendix………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 24

1. Informed Consent……………………………………………………………………… 24
2. Debriefing Statement…………………………………………………………… 25
3. Questionnaire 1………………………………………………………………………… 26
4. Questionnaire 2………………………………………………………………………… 31

XIV References ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 33
 



 Introduction

Dealing with stressful circumstances in an effective manner is an area of interest to many.  Past research has shown certain characteristics of a personality promote more effective ways of managing stressful circumstances.  For example, Maddi and Kobasa (1984), found hardiness encompasses interrelated self-perceptions of commitment, control, and challenge.
 Based on Maddi and Kobasa (1984), research indicates that people with a strong sense of commitment rely on themselves to find various ways of turning a stressful circumstance into something that is important.  People with a strong sense of control believe that through effort they can alter the course of events rather than perceiving themselves as victims of circumstance.  People strong in challenge believe in continual growth through wisdom of what is learned from experience.  Together, all three constitute courage and resiliency in facing life’s tasks.
   College life, for many, becomes a prime time for stressful circumstances to arise.  For example, Dixon, Heppner, and Anderson (1991), examines the link between problem-solving skills to suicide by investigating the role of problem-solving appraisal among students enrolled in introductory psychology courses.  The results indicated that problem-solving appraisal, and negative life stress are significant independent predictors of suicide ideation and hopelessness.  College is a time where people further develop their personalities, abilities, and well-being.
  Ryff and Heidrich (1997), looked at the causes of variations in psychological well-being, with regards to different domains of life.  This study showed that for young adults, activities outside of school, and family were the more powerful predictor of variation in well-being.  These variations in well-being are prominent among freshmen college students.       As adaptation progresses, an individuals well-being will either be affected in a positive or negative way.  This will also depend upon the individuals perception of the stressor.  A study conducted by Muhar (1974) examines the effects of stress on perception.  This research tested the hypothesis that there is a positive relationship between stress and the resistance to perceptual change.  Results shows that the second measure for resistance to perceptual change, which is the time, required for achieving stabilization was inconclusive.   However, the sample size in this study was small, and further research using a larger sample size may yield conclusive evidence of this relationship.

Hardiness and Stress

Past research has linked stress to many different personality traits as well as different life events or situations.  Cooper, Cary L.(ED); Payne, Roy(ED) (1991), explored the relationship between certain personality characteristics and coping with stress.  Related research by Carpenter, Bruce N.(ED) (1992), discusses coping models, which is mostly a recent phenomenon.  Their research presented current models of coping described the coping process, and related the coping process to environmental factors, personal variables, and desirable outcomes.
Mathis, Michele; Lecci, and Len (1999), examined whether hardiness can be used in identifying students who have difficulties with academic, social, emotional, and attachment adjustment.  Results showed that hardiness, overall, was a better predictor of mental rather than physical health.  Other research by Uehara, Toru; Sakado, Miwako; Sato, Tetsuya; Someya, and Toshiyuki (1999), investigated the relationship between coping strategies and personality traits.  The results indicated that personality traits such as neuroticism were associated with emotional oriented coping in major depressive disorder.
College being a time where stress is often evident, health status is likely to be affected.  A five-year study, by Kobasa and editors (1982), examined the role of hardiness and its interaction with stressful life events in relation to present health status.  Hardiness is shown to be indirectly related to less illness development in the presence of stressful life events, supporting the concept of hardiness as a resistance resource.
Testing by Rhodevault and Agustodttir (1984), revealed that hardy individuals report more positive self-statements than low hardy subjects do.  Physiologically, high hardy individuals displayed higher levels of systolic blood pressure during the experimental period, indicating more active coping efforts.
Another study, conducted by Weidner, Kohlmann, Dotzauer, and Burns (1996), looked at the effects of academic stress on health behaviors in young adults.  It specifically examined changes in health behaviors as a function of academic stress.  One hundred and thirty-three college undergraduate students participated and completed measures of stress, affect, and health behaviors during times of low and high academic demands.  Results suggested those emotional responses to stress as linked to health behavior changes.  When individuals did not exercise and self-care, it resulted in a decrease in positive affect.  Poor nutrition was also linked to a decrease in positive and increase in negative affect.  While college is a time where freshman students will be adapting to academic and social demands, it is also a time where mental and physical well-being changes.  Those students with a strong sense of commitment, control, and challenge may adapt better to college in terms of how they perceive life stressors.

Hardiness, Personality, and Stress

 Past research has demonstrated a direct relationship between hardiness, personality, and stress.  Stokes and Arlene (1998) examined the effect of hardiness in the stress-health relationship using a longitudinal design.  It specifically assessed the specific role of hardiness by measuring the relations of hardiness to the functionally similar constructs of optimism and pessimism and coping style.  Assessments were completed at two points in time and comparisons were made between those data.  Relationships were found among hardiness, optimism, pessimism, and disengaged coping.  Hardiness was significantly related to two mental health measures, psychological well-being and psychological distress but not to the physical health variable, health perception.
Dillon and Trotten (1989), demonstrated hardiness is positively related to maternal coping, humor, and age, and inversely related to upper respiratory infection incidence in infants.  Research in the field of hardiness has led to understanding of Wellness therapy.  Wellness therapy focuses on treating various physical and mental illnesses by examining personalities that may or may not exhibit characteristics of hardiness.  Maddi, Kahn, Maddi (1992), suggests that hardiness protects wellness and stimulates effective functioning despite stressful circumstances.  In evaluating the effectiveness of hardiness training, results show that hardiness training is more effective than the other types of training.  There existed an increase in self-reported hardiness, job satisfaction, and social support, while self-reported strain and illnesses severity decreased.  This suggests hardiness is important in stress management.
Skirka (1997) investigated the moderating effects of personality (hardiness and sense of coherence), sports participation, and gender on the relationship between perceived stress and psychological symptoms.  Results showed a significant positive correlation between perceived stress and psychological symptoms among college varsity athletes  as well as with college non-athletes.  There was also a significant positive correlation between the personality scales of Hardiness and sense of coherence for both college varsity athletes and college non-athletes.  When controlling for gender, college varsity athletes, on the average, scored significantly higher on hardiness, significantly higher on sense of coherence, and reported significantly less perceived stress and significantly fewer psychological symptoms than the college non-athletes.
 The effects of hardiness have also been linked to the drug field in regards to coping with addiction.  A study conducted by Hirky (1998) interviewed injection drug users in an urban methadone program to examine whether coping serves as a mediator of the relationship between social support, personality hardiness, and psychological distress.  Results indicated the relationship between hardiness and distress was fully mediated through lower levels of a latent construct measured by behavioral disengagement  and denial coping.  The path from hardiness to coping was significant, as was the path from coping to distress.  Direct effects to distress were found for social support, life events, and gender.  Whether stress is a direct result from a biological dependency or social environments, people who exhibit characteristics of a hardy personality will better cope with that stress.
 Kolbo (1996) examined risk and resilience among children exposed to family violence.  Resilience, vulnerability, and protective factors were expected to mediate the effects of exposure to family violence on children's emotional and behavioral development.  Results showed that the effects of exposure to family violence were related to children’s self-worth, and behavior problems.  The effects of exposure to family violence was positively correlated with behavioral problems among girls and negatively correlated with self-worth among boys.  High levels of support protected only boys from the effects of exposure to family violence.
Hypothesis
 Based on the research cited above, there are clear relationships between athletes, gender, and hardiness and adjustment.  Given this research it is hypothesized that there will be a relationship between hardiness and college adjustment, while the data are not clear as to gender, this will be investigated further.
 


Methods

 

Participants
 Data was collected from twenty-eight freshman college students (16 females, 12 males) these students were volunteer participants in various senior undergraduate thesis for credit.

Procedures
 The twenty-eight freshman college students participated in filling out both the Hardiness Scale and the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire.  Questionnaires were completed in the presence of this investigator at students’ residences.

Materials
Materials include a Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (Baker @ Siryk, 1989) and a Hardiness Scale (Bartone, Ursano, Wright, @ Ingraham, 1989).
The Hardiness Scale is designed to measure dispositional resilience, the hardiness of one’s personality.  Hardiness is considered to relate to how one approaches and interprets experiences.  Three components of hardiness serve as sub-scales for the Hardiness Scale: commitment, which refers to imputed meaning and purpose to self, others, and work; control, a sense of autonomy and influence on one’s future; and challenge, a zest and excitement for life which is perceived as opportunities for growth.  Hardiness has been shown to relate to how people process and cope with stressful events.  In stressful situations, hardiness has been shown to be associated with high levels of well-being.  Hardiness scale scores were predictive of mental and physical health.  Scores are sensitive to measuring change due to the level of stressful events.
The Student Adaptation to College questionnaire assesses how well students are able to adapt to the college environment considering the many types of stressors that will arise.  The Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire focuses on the quality of the student’s adjustment to-rather than an evaluation of-that environment.  The essential interest is in assessing how the student is adjusting to that environment.  The Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire is divided into four principle sub-scales that focus on certain aspects of adjustment to college.  The academic adjustment sub-scale refers to various educational demands characteristic of the
college experience.  The social adjustment is relevant to the interpersonal societal demands inherent in adjustment to college.  The personal-emotional adjustment sub-scale determines how the student is feeling psychologically and physically.  The goal commitment/institutional attachment sub-scale is designed to explore the student’s feelings about being in college, in general, and the college he or she is attending, in particular.



Results
 

 Those students who adapt well to college will exhibit a stronger sense of commitment, control, and challenge.  The study conducted, consisted of twenty-eight fist semester, white college freshman students.  There were sixteen females and twelve males.  All the students ranged from ages eighteen to twenty.  All students participated in filling out a Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire along with a Hardiness Scale.
 The Adaptation to College Questionnaire was used to evaluate the levels of adaptation in freshman college students.  The mean score was 48.5 with a maximum score of 75.0, a minimum score of 33.0, and a standard deviation of 9.0.  The mean score for the females was 41.2 and the mean score for the males was 45.1.
 The Hardiness Scale measured levels of hardiness by breaking it into three sub-scales: commitment, control, and challenge.  The mean score was 109.1 with a maximum score of 124.0, a minimum score of 83.1, and  a standard deviation of 9.3.  The mean scores for each of the sub-scales is as follows: Commitment 29.0, control 27.0, and challenge 25.1.  The mean scores for the females and the males were not obtained and is discussed further in the discussion.
 After conducting a pearson correlation, results showed relationship between the overall hardiness score and the overall adaptation to college score.  This relationship was approaching significance, p<.35.
 


Discussion

 This study has revealed significant results in different components of the hypothesis.  The hypothesis of this study postulated that those students with higher levels commitment, control, and challenge, which make up hardiness, will also exhibit higher levels of college adaptation.  Two different forms of assessments was used to examine the participants perceived understanding of life stressors and adaptation to college.
The normative data for the Hardiness Scale are currently being developed by Paul Bartone, however the Hardiness Scale was studied originally with 164 military disaster assistance officers, 93% of whom were male, 85% white, with a median age of 34. The internal consistency coefficients were .62, .66, and .82 for the challenge, commitment, and control sub-scales.  The total summated of the Hardiness Scale had an alpha of .85.  The validity of the Hardiness Scale scores, which were developed from a pool of seventy-six items, correlated with the seventy-six item version’s total scores, p=.93.
The normative data for the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire are calculated for both the females and the males due to significant sex and semester effects on at least some of the SACQ variables.  The standard scores utilized for the Full Scale and each of the sub-scales is the T-score which had a mean of 50 and a standard deviation of 10.  The reliability for the sixty-seven item version used, had coefficient alpha values for each sub-scale: .81 to .90 for Academic Adjustment, .83 to.91 for Social Adjustment, .77 to .86 for Personal-Emotional Adjustment, .85 to .91 for Attachment, and .92 to .95 for the Full Scale.  The validity for the SACQ consists of, Academic Adjustment/Social Adjustment .45 and .39; Academic Adjustment/Personal-Emotional Adjustment .60 and .55; and Social Adjustment/Personal-Emotional Adjustment .49 and .42.
The results from the two forms of assessment demonstrates a positive correlative relationship between the overall hardiness score and the overall score of the student adaptation to college questionnaire.  This suggests that freshman college students with a strong sense of commitment, control, and challenge do adapt better to college life.  Although this study did not examine gender differences specifically, further research in this area would be interesting.  The sub-scales of the two assessments used were also correlated, however a significant relationship was not found.
 Future research in this area may want to distinguish between athletes and non-athletes and also look at adjustment over four years to look for trends over time.  A bigger sample size may also aid  research in this area to obtain more conclusive data regarding hardiness and adaptation.  Although gender was not specifically examined due to attempts to preserve confidentiality, it also is suggested for further research.



 Appendix 1

Informed Consent and Rights of Research Participants in the Department of Psychology at Saint Anselm College

All psychological research at Saint Anselm College is conducted according to strict ethical principles outlined by the American Psychological Association and is in full compliance with the federal Law.  The Department of Health and Human Services, for example, specifies that informed consent must be given prior to research studies, that is, “…the knowing consent of an individual or legally authorized representative so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice without undue inducement or any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, or other form of constraint or coercion”.

Simply put, this means when you practice in any research study, you will be given a clear explanation of the procedures involved.  You may ask for clarification either before or during the procedure, and you may terminate the procedures at any time.

This project includes two paper and pencil tasks and will require about a half an hour of your time to complete.  Both tasks are assessment questionnaires addressing issues related to you and your functioning in college.  Results will be presented without any reference to your identity.  That is, your work will remain confidential between me and my supervisor.

After having carefully read and considered the foregoing, I consent to participate in research activities according to the terms heretofore enumerated.
 

Date________________    Signature_________________

Class/Student I.D.# _____________  Other___________



 Appendix 2

Debriefing Statement: The relationship between Hardiness and College Adaptation
 
 
 

This study examined how individuals, specifically freshman college students, adapt to stresors that accompany college characteristics that aids adaptation to college life.  Your participation in my thesis experiment will help find and understand the relationship between stress related to college life and associated personality characteristics.  If you have any questions, or would like to obtain the results, please do not hesitate to contact me: Elizabeth Gonnella, Saint Anselm College, 100 Saint Anselm College Drive, Manchester New Hampshire 03102, PO Box 602, phone # (1-603-656-6113), egonnell@anselm.edu.
 
 
 

Date___________________   Signature________________
 

 Appendix 3
 
 Appendix 4



References
 
 

Carpenter, Bruce N.(ED)(1992). Personal Coping:
Theory, research, and application.  Westport, CT, USA: Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc viii, 268pp.

Cooper, Cary L. (ED); Payne, Roy (ED) (1991).  Personality and stress: Individual differences in the stress process.  Wiley series on studies in occupational stress.  Chichester, England UK: John Wiley @ Sons viii,289pp.

Dillon, K. M., @ Trotten, M. C. (1989).  Psychological factors, immunocompetence, and health of breast feeding mothers and their infants.  Journal of General Psychology, 150(2), 155-162pp.

Dixon, Wayne A., Heppner, Paul P., Anderson, Wayne P. (1991).  Problem-Solving Appraisal, Stress, Hopelessness, and Suicide Ideation in a College Population.  Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol.38, No.1, 51-56pp.

Hirky, Anne Elizabeth (1998).  Hardiness, Social support, and coping among injection drug users.  Dissertation Abstracts International Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, Vol.59 (5-B):2419pp.

Kobasa, S. (1982).  The hardy personality: Towards a social psychology of stress and health.  In J. Suls @ G. Senders (Eds.), Social psychology of health and illnesses (pp.3-33).  Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Kolbo, Jerome R. (1996).  Risk and Resilience among children exposed to family violence.  Violence and Victims, Vol11 (2):113-128pp.

Maddi, Salvatore R., Kahn, Stephen, Maddi, Karen L. (1992).  The Effectiveness of Hardiness Training.  Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol.50, No.2, 78-86pp.

Maddi, S. R., @ Kobasa, S. (1984).  The hardy executive: Health under stress.  Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin.

Mathis, Michele; Lecci, Len (1999).  Hardiness and College Adjustment: Identifying students in need of services.  Journal of College Student Development, Vol.40(3) 305-309pp.

Muhar, I.S. (1974).  Effect of stress on perception.  Indian Journal of Psychology, Vol.49(4) 291-297pp.

Rhodewalt, F., @ Aguatsdottir, S. (1984).  On the relationship of hardiness to the type A behavior pattern:  Perception of life events versus coping with life events.  Journal of Research in Personality, 18, 212-223pp.

Ryff, Carol D., Heidrich, Susan M. (1997).  Experience and Well-being: Explorations on Domains of Life and How they Matter.  The International Journal of Behavioral Development,20(2), 193-206pp.

Stokes, Crowe, Arlene, Linda (1998).  Hardiness, one of the several personality constructs thought to affect health.  Dissertation Abstracts International Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, Vol. 59(5-B):2438pp.

Uehara, Toru; Sakado, Kaoru; Sakado, Miwako; Sato, Tetsuya; Someya, Toshiyuki (1999).  Relationship between stress coping and personality in patients with major depressive disorder.  Psychotherapy @ Psychosomatics, Vol. 68(1) 26-30pp.

Weidner, Gerdi; Elke Dotzauer, Carl-Walter Kohlmann; Burns, Lawrence R. (1996).  The Effects of Academic Stress on Health Behaviors in Young Adults.  Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, Vol. 9, 123-133pp.
 
 

E-mail me at egonnell@anselm.edu