In 2016, Abdollahi et al. published a study revolving around the role of hardiness in relieving stress among undergraduate students, which was published in the Journal of Health Psychology. Stress is commonly recognized as an obstacle to problem-solving skills, which undoubtedly affects the process of learning. Undergraduate students often have to face various sources of pressure, including different academic and personal demands. As a result, it increases the risk of them being trapped in a stressful developmental environment, which, in turn, affects their mental health and physiological well-being.
Background and Purpose
This study is based on the idea that effective problem-solving skills have a positive impact on mental health and reduce the level of stress experienced by an individual perpetrated by other scholars. Thus, it is assumed that these skills influence the detrimental effect of a stressful environment on undergraduate students. The researchers also examine the issue of academic and personal pressures in the context of their impact on each of the students’ developmental phases, which include complacency, idealism, and realism. Students can either approach the problems complacently (how they have always done them), idealistically (hoping for a positive outcome), or realistically. If university students possess psychological hardiness, they can reduce or even alleviate their stress. As they move from one phase to another, they increase their hardiness attitudes, including commitment, control, and change. Thus, hardiness enables them to have a greater sense of having everything under control, to feel less alienated, and to view change as an opportunity for growth. In fact, hardiness has a moderating influence on the relationship between stress levels and problem-solving skills.
The chosen study is unique as apart from addressing the connection between stress and a lack of effective problem-solving skills, its purpose is the examination of psychological attitudes affecting this association. Abdollahi et al. (2016) present hypotheses, which acknowledge the role of hardiness in moderating the relationship between the levels of stress and the quality of problem-solving skills. Using a group of Malaysian university students, researchers sought to prove that poor problem-solving skills are associated with high levels of stress. They also argue that hardiness reduces stress and moderates the relationship between stress and problem-solving skills.
The first step in ensuring the researchers follow the ethical code and legal procedures was to obtain permission from the Malaysian Ministry of Science. After they were granted the license to collect data from two public universities, they specified that participation was voluntary and completely anonymous. They also made it clear to the students that they can withdraw at any time. The participants had to sign a consent form before completing the questionnaire.
Participants and Procedures
This study implied the participation of 500 undergraduate students attending two of Malaysia’s public universities. The inclusion criteria for the participants implied that they had to be undergraduate students aged 18-24. In terms of demographics, 52% of the participants were female with an average age of all the students taking part in the project being 19.28 years (Abdollahi et al., 2016). The majority of the students were Malay (43.7%), but other ethnicities included Chinese (28.2%), Indian (20.3%), and others (7.8%) (Abdollahi et al., 2016). Researchers collected data over the course of 4 months, from February until May 2013. They chose a random faculty from each field and then selected a random class in those faculties while taking into consideration the grade year as well. The team distributed 576 questionnaires, of which only 500 were completed.
Researchers used a number of measures, including a perceived stress scale, a personal views survey, and a problem-solving inventory. The scale includes 10 items aimed at measuring the degree of stressful conditions and the attitudes of the participants regarding unpredictable scenarios. The survey comprises 18 items to evaluate commitment, challenge, and control, which constitute hardiness. The inventory, includes 32 items to “measure the perceptions of one’s problem-solving beliefs and skills in facing problems and difficulties in one’s daily life” (Abdollahi et al., 2016, p. 1325). The researchers based the questions on a 6-point Likert scale, with 1 being “strongly agree,” and 6 referring to “strongly disagree.”
The findings showed that hardiness, in fact, moderated the relationship between perceived stress and problem-solving skills by demonstrating how lower hardiness and less effective problem-solving skills contributed to stress among the participants. Thus, the researchers concluded that “hardy individuals were less likely to experience stress even at the highest levels of ineffective problem-solving skills” (Abdollahi et al., 2016, p. 1328). The United States and other Western nations are usually the focus of stress studies, which makes the present research conducted in Malaysia an example of the successful application of the stress theory in a different culture.
Implications for Further Research and Limitations
This study proves that problem-solving skills are not the only determinants of perceived stress, but that hardiness plays a crucial role as well. Research is needed to examine the potential effect of hardiness training on building commitment, challenge, and control. As for the study’s limitations, the most obvious one is its overreliance on the self-reported data such as the questionnaires distributed among the participants. The findings may lack incremental validity since the study used non-objective measures. Moreover, the results cannot be applied to the whole population of Malaysia because the project is specific to the Selangor state only.
Abdollahi, A., Abu Talib, M., Carlbring, P., Harvey, R., Yaacob, S. N., & Ismail, Z. (2016). Problem-solving skills and perceived stress among undergraduate students: The moderating role of hardiness. Journal of Health Psychology, 23(10), 1321–1331.