A quantitative and qualitative inquiry into the relationship between self-esteem and coping processes of university students
Hartigan O'Reilly, Pauline
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University life brings with it many stressful events, which place varying demands on students. During this time many students leave home for the first time, have a new found social life, a parttime job and also have to contend with the academic expectations associated with third level education. Some individuals are able to deal more readily with these stresses than others. This study set out to identify the relationship between levels of self-esteem and coping processes, utilised by students, with factors such as, age, gender, university programme and the year of programme from an Irish perspective. The research design followed an Explanatory Sequential Mixed Method Design. The study comprised of two phases, phase one quantitative followed by phase two qualitative on a study group of 1200 students, 300 chosen randomly from each annual cohort of University of Limerick undergraduates. Using a cross-sectional correlational design, two published questionnaires namely Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Folkman and Lazarus Ways of Coping Questionnaire plus a demographic questionnaire were posted to the selected students. A descriptive qualitative design, using semi-structured interviews with eight students, was used to augment and further explain the quantitative findings arising from phase one of the study. The response rate was 40% (n = 479). The quantitative data were analysed using both parametric and non-parametric methods. Significant associations were found between self-esteem and coping; self-esteem and gender; coping and age; coping and year of university programme, as well as coping and programme title. Using thematic analysis, the quantitative findings were further explored in phase two of the study. The arising themes were the Experiences of Stress, Social Supports and Coping, and Explaining Self-Esteem and Gender and these are discussed in the light of the quantitative results. The conclusions and findings from both phases of the study are discussed collectively and a range of recommendations, including policy implications and topics for further research, are provided.
KeywordsUniversity students and stress
Rosenberg self-esteem scale
Stress and students