Research Articles

Benefit finding in the COVID-19 pandemic: College students’ positive coping strategies

Rachel August, Adam Dapkewicz

Journal of Positive School Psychology , No. FirstView articles, , Page 1-14

The ability of college students to cope effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing concern which could have implications for a generation of students’ health and well-being. Although adaptive coping styles have been explored with reference to other large-scale crises, little is known from an empirical standpoint about whether college students are engaging in such coping strategies during the pandemic. The current study focuses on meaning-focused coping, a coping style often seen in response to significant trauma or adversity, and in particular the process of benefit finding. Qualitative data were collected from a sample of 63 college students who were living under county-issued shelter-in-place orders for seven weeks during the pandemic in an academic semester. Benefit finding was a common strategy expressed by students during that time. They identified several self-related benefits including learning to be grateful, unexpected personal growth, and new clarity about the future. They also described various societal-related benefits of the pandemic, including people acting selflessly, focusing on what matters, developing creative solutions and teamwork, and also noted improvements in the natural environment. The self-related benefits had a particularly potent impact, as those who reported them were also less likely to express fear, anxiety, or stress. The results suggest that benefit finding is an important coping strategy during the pandemic; moreover, it seems helpful to continue exploring such positive models of adaptation as students navigate the pandemic over time.

Exploring academic and character strengths in students with sex chromosome aneuploidies

Talia Thompson, Shanlee Davis, Stephanie Takamatsu, Susan Howell, Nicole Tartaglia

Journal of Positive School Psychology , No. FirstView articles, , Page 1-13

Children with sex chromosome aneuploidies (SCAs) are often characterized in the literature by limitations and pathologies related to the genetic diagnosis. This study aimed to broaden the SCA phenotype by describing parent reported character and academic strengths. Parents of children with SCAs ages 3-21 (N=377) responded to an electronic survey asking them to describe their child’s strengths in academic settings. Responses were coded for strengths-based content and analyzed using a mixed-methods content analysis approach. We identified overarching qualitative themes of Social Strengths and Assets for Learning. Quantitative results showed a pattern of overlapping strengths among the trisomy SCAs (perseverance and love of learning), with some significant differences between children with supernumerary X chromosomes (strengths in kindness) and those with an additional Y chromosome (strengths in curiosity, humor, and teamwork). Suggestions for future strengths-based research and educational practices to address academic, developmental, and psychosocial risks are explored.

Meaning in life and resilience among teachers

Maria Platsidou, Athena Daniilidou

Journal of Positive School Psychology , No. FirstView articles, ,

Meaning in life is a significant resource in the resilience process, supporting the use of adaptive behaviors and enhancing the feeling of wellbeing. As such, it could be critical for teachers who encounter many stressors threatening their life quality and work productivity. This study aimed to investigate how teachers' levels of meaning in life relate to their resilience. Data were collected from 299 teachers using the Meaning in Life Questionnaire (assessing presence of and search for meaning) and the Multidimensional Teacher Resilience Scale (assessing protective factors related to motivational and professional, social, and emotional resilience). As predicted, presence of meaning had medium-sized positive correlations with the resilience factors, whereas search for meaning had low correlations with social resilience and professional-motivational resilience and no correlation with emotional resilience. Using K-means cluster analysis, teachers were grouped into three clusters according to their scores in the two meaning dimensions. The cluster of teachers reporting both high presence of and high search for meaning showed the highest scores on the resilience factors, followed by the cluster including teachers with high presence and low search. In conclusion, our results emphasized the important role of presence of meaning in strengthening resilient responses; also, searching for meaning, when combined with a high sense of meaning, relates to better use of the resilience protective factors and resources. As to the study implications, a meaning-centered approach to building resilience in teachers is suggested and discussed.

Development and initial validation of the Subjective Academic Wellbeing Measure: A new tool of youth wellbeing in school

Gökmen Arslan, Murat Yıldırım, Silvia Majercakova Albertova

Journal of Positive School Psychology , No. FirstView articles, ,

The purpose of the current study was to investigate the preliminary development and validation of the Subjective Academic Wellbeing Measure (SAWM), which is a six-item self-report rating measure intended for use as a screening tool to assess the positive academic functioning of young people within the elementary and high school context. Exploratory factor analysis was performed with Sample 1 (N= 161), indicating that the SAWM was characterized by a unidimensional measurement model and had strong factor loadings. Results from confirmatory factor analysis, which was carried out with Sample 2 (N= 199), confirmed the measurement model by yielding good data-model fit statistics that were characterized by strong latent construct and internal reliability estimates. Further analyses showed that the scale had good convergent validity considering scores from several self-reported scales of student mental health problems and positive school functioning. Further analyses also showed that configural, metric, and scalar measurement invariance were observed across gender groups. These results provide initial evidence suggesting that the SAWM is a reliable and valid measure that can be used to assess the positive academic functioning of students within the school context. Implications are discussed, and some suggestions are provided for future research and practice

Social Support, Resilience and Subjective Well-being in College Students

Murat Yıldırım, Fatma Çelik Tanrıverdi

Journal of Positive School Psychology , No. FirstView articles, ,

Social support has been linked to numerous adaptive psychosocial health outcomes. The Brief Perceived Social Support Questionnaire (BPSSQ) is a newly developed measure of general social support. This study aimed to test the psychometric properties and dimensionality of the BPSSQ in Turkish language and tested the mediating effect of resilience in the relationship between social support and satisfaction with life. Participants included 202 college students (69.3% females), with a mean age of 22.58 years (SD=1.26) who completed online measures of social support, resilience, and satisfaction with life. As expected, the BPSSQ provided a one-factor structure with a satisfactory internal consistency. Social support significantly predicted resilience and satisfaction with life. Resilience also predicted satisfaction with life. Furthermore, the results supported the hypothesis of mediating role of resilience in the relationship between social support and satisfaction with life. These results are important in terms of providing evidence of the underlying mechanism between social support and satisfaction with life. Future intervention efforts aimed at increasing social support and satisfaction with life may benefit from resilience.

Coronavirus stress with the restrictions and unexpected life changes has affected individuals and their satisfaction with life. This study aimed to examine the mediating role of optimism and hope on the relationship between coronavirus stress and subjective wellbeing among young adults in Turkey. A sample of 331 (M= 20.86 and 64% females) college students participated in this study. The results demonstrated that coronavirus stress was negatively associated with the college students’ sense of hope and optimism. Moreover, coronavirus stress had an indirect effect on subjective well-being through optimism and hope. Optimism and hope mitigated the adverse impacts of stress on well-being during the pandemic. These results indicated that young adults with a high level of stress due to coronavirus have lower optimism and hope, which in turn have less subjective well-being. The study findings hence highlight that being hopeful and optimistic are the potential resources to explain how coronavirus stress is related to subjective well-being.

The impact of gratitude letters and visits on relationships, happiness, well-being, and meaning of graduate students

David R. Stefan, Erin M. Lefdahl-Davis, PhD, HSPP, ACC, Alexandra J. Alayan, Matthew Decker, MA, Josie L. Wittwer, MEd, Tracy M. Kulwicki, MA, Jeffrey S. Parsell

Journal of Positive School Psychology , No. FirstView articles, ,

In this mixed-methods research, we examined the practice of writing and delivering letters of gratitude (gratitude visits) and its impact on well-being, happiness, meaning and relationships for students in an online graduate program in psychology. Participants completed assessments and inventories relating to happiness, well-being and meaning in life, including the Satisfaction with Life Scale, Meaning in Life Questionnaire, Approaches to Happiness Questionnaire and open-ended qualitative questions before and after they wrote and delivered gratitude letters. Quantitative analyses found significant increases in meaning in life, satisfaction with life, and approaches to happiness after the gratitude visit intervention. Using a grounded theory qualitative analysis of the data, eight primary themes emerged related to the impact and meaning of gratitude letters on graduate students:  (1) the impact on the relationship; (2) positive emotions experienced; (3) experiencing a reciprocal expression of gratitude from the receiver; (4) overcoming uncomfortable emotions; (5) relief, release or liberation after sharing; (6) impact on spiritual growth; (7) unexpected responses; and (8) greater reflection on the meaning of life and a changed perspective. Overall, providing graduate students with the opportunity to engage in gratitude visit interventions was related to greater meaning and well-being. This study suggests implications and recommendations related to the use of positive psychology interventions in educational settings.