Testing a structural model for demands, resources, engagement and well-being of first-year university students
The constructs of job demands, job resources as well as engagement and well-being are conceptualised well in literature. Extensive research is available on these constructs in the broader sense of the working environment. However, research is limited regarding first-year students, more especially within the South African context. The present research focused specifically on first-year students at a South African university, testing the following constructs: study demands, study resources as well as student engagement and well-being. The first year at university can often be a difficult phase where students make the transition from a secondary educational institution to the university environment. Therefore, it is vital to investigate the probable predictors of student engagement and success. Information gathered on the influence which study demands and resources have on the engagement and well-being of first-years, could help students and the university improve engagement levels, thus increasing these students’ well-being and success. The objective of this research was to determine significant demands and resources linked to fist-year students’ engagement and well-being. The research investigated how first-year students’ well-being is affected by variations of demands and resources, also when engagement is a mediating factor. Further investigations determined the strength and nature of the relationships between these constructs. The aim of this study was thus to gain a better understanding of the role these constructs play in the life of first-year students in South Africa, as well as the influence of the university environment on student engagement and well-being. A quantitative research approach was followed by using a stratified random sample design, which comprised first-year students at a tertiary institution (N = 773). Product-moment correlations were used to determine the relationships between the constructs. Structural equation modelling was used to analyse the data and test a structural model. The results indicated that study demands have a negative relationship with student engagement, although only academic results confirmed this relationship in the structural model. The findings indicated further that study resources have a positive relationship with student engagement. Through regression analysis, only lecture support and autonomy confirmed the mentioned positive relationship. Personal relationship problems with social and psychological well-being confirmed a negative relationship between study demands and well-being. A positive relationship was confirmed between study resources and well-being by friend support with the various types of well-being; family support with emotional well-being; and autonomy with psychological well-being. In the final phase, engagement was found to mediate the relationship between study demands and well-being negatively, and the relationship between study resources and well-being in a positive sense. Finally, conclusions were drawn from the findings, limitations were discussed and recommendations made for future research and practice.