Self–regulation, psychopathology and gender in a group of university students
Self–regulation is a psychological skill that helps individuals to flexibly plan, execute and monitor their own behaviour. The key self–regulation processes include goal establishment, planning, the striving towards a goal and the revision thereof. Although it is clear that poor self–regulation is associated with psychopathology, the role gender plays is not well understood. Some differences between men and women suggest that gender may be a possible factor in self–regulation and the development of specific forms of psychopathology. The aim of this study was therefore to determine the relationship between self–regulation, psychopathology and gender amongst a group of university students. Participants consisted of an availability sample of 384 (284 female and 100 male) students at the NWU’s Potchefstroom Campus. Self–Regulation was measured with the Shortened Self–Regulation Questionnaire (SSRQ) of Carey, Neal and Collins (2004). In this study, the factor structure proposed by Potgieter and Botha (2009), based on a factor analysis of the SSRQ in the South–African context, was used. Psychopathology was measured with the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) of Goldberg and Hiller (1979) as well as with a selfcompiled Alcohol and Eating Risk Questionnaire (AERQ). Data were captured and analysed using SAS. The two gender groups did not differ clearly regarding either self–regulation or psychopathology. This supports other studies that found no gender differences in specific selfregulation contexts, but contradicts a number of studies which indicate gender differences related to psychopathology. Interesting tendencies were noted regarding the association between self–regulation and psychopathology, independently for male and female students. Decision making and learning from mistakes, was found to be an important self–regulatory skill for both gender groups in this study, but with practical significance for male students only. For male students, differences in self–regulation were found regarding lower and higher risk for alcohol–related problems in contrast to female students, where differences were found only regarding risk for eating–related problems. It is more acceptable for males to misuse alcohol than it is for females in many societies, and this might explain why self–regulation is important for men regarding alcohol use. Current cultural values, attitudes, and practices and social norms, with particular emphasis on the sexualisation and objectification of women and their bodies, contribute to eating disorders and body image distress in females across their life span and specifically in college women. Thus, self–regulation becomes more important for females, as they are more vulnerable to eating–related problems. It was concluded that there is an important relationship between self–regulation and psychopathology, and in this study this relationship was found to be somehow different for male and female students. The results of this study have great implications both for further research and for clinical practice.
- Humanities