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Adolescent problems and coping strategies : an investigation of stress, problems, coping, and self-esteem among Queensland secondary students preceding and following implementation of a new tertiary entrance system

By John Peter Fanshawe


This study investigated adolescent stress, problems, and coping strategies, preceding and following the implementation of a new tertiary entrance system in Queensland, Australia. Data were collected in 1988 from 1664 students (Ss) attending seven secondary schools (three state high schools, two Catholic schools, and two independent schools) in South-East Queensland, and in 1993 from an additional 1620 Ss from six of these same schools. (One of the state high schools did not participate on the second occasion.) In 1993, the views of 178 secondary teachers (Ts) on adolescent stress were also obtained, with Ts from the same six schools as the 1993 Ss agreeing to participate, and a further 59 secondary Ts who were part-time students at Queensland University of Technology also participating. A further extension in the 1993 part of the study was an investigation of the relationships between self-esteem and adolescent stress, problems, and coping strategies. The theoretical underpinnings of the study were provided through the development of an eclectic perspective on stress in which common links were established among such apparently divergent orientations as Selye's (1956) physiologically-based theory, the attributional theories of Bandura (1977), Rotter (1966), and de Charms (1968), and the transactional theories of Holmes and Rahe (1967), Lazarus (1966), Friedman and Rosenman (1974), and Kobasa (1979). The study also sought to respond to the expanding overseas and Australian literature which seemed to be pointing to increasing stress levels among many adolescents, particularly in the context of the school. Instruments used during data collection included the 68-item Australian Adolescent Problems Inventory (AAPI), the 54-item Adolescent Coping Inventory (ACI), the 12-item Self-Esteem Scale (SES), the 8-item Tertiary Entrance Questionnaire (TEQ), and Goldberg's (1972) 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). The AAPI, SES, and TEQ were especially developed for the study, while the ACI was adapted from Patterson and McCubbin's (1987) Adolescent Coping Orientation for Problem Experiences (A-COPE). Following data collection, the AAP1 and the ACI were refined using Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA). The revised problems instrument (the AAPl-R) contained 35 items and 9 subscales, while the revised coping instrument (the ACl-R) contained 26 items and 10 subscales. In addition to the CFAs, the data were analysed using simple descriptive statistics, MANOVAs, ANOVAs, t-tests, and correlational analyses. Major findings included: close similarities between 1993 and 1988 in Ss' stress levels, identification of their biggest and smallest problems, and identification of their most used and least used coping strategies; a substantial inverse relationship between self-esteem and stress; and a considerable amount of incongruence between the responses of Ss and Ts, with the Ts attributing to their students greater stress, greater intensity in their problems, and lower self-esteem than the Ss attributed to themselves, and the Ts also projecting a less positive view of adolescent coping strategies than did the Ss. In both 1988 and 1993, female Ss had significantly higher GHQ scores than male Ss, GHQ means generally increased as year levels increased, there was generally an inverse relationship between ability levels and GHQ scores, and Ss at private schools had significantly higher GHQ scores than Ss at state schools. Self esteem scores, measured only in 1993, were significantly higher among male Ss than among female Ss, among younger Ss than among older Ss, and among more able Ss than among less able Ss. In response to the literature suggesting increasing levels in adolescent stress, the present study provided little evidence for such increases, but it did support the view that stress among Queensland secondary students continues to be an important area of concern, with Ss' problems and stress levels in 1993 being comparable to what they had been prior to the implementation of the new tertiary entrance system. In addressing the educational implications of the above results, attention was given to ways of making schooling less stressful for adolescents, changes in teachers' behaviour which might help to reduce student stress, and ways of enhancing students' coping abilities. Suggestions included the pursuit of viable alternatives to the competitive academic curriculum that continues to dominate Queensland secondary education under the new tertiary entrance system, the encouragement of teachers to practice good interpersonal skills, and the suggestion that an appropriate stress management program for students could be based on the eclectic conceptualization of stress developed in Chapter 2. It was argued that self-esteem building, and the development of such positive coping orientations as hardiness, self-efficacy, internal locus of control, seeking social support, and developing good interpersonal skills would help to alleviate student stress

Topics: High school students Queensland, Adolescent psychology, thesis, doctoral
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 1994
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