Stress, coping behaviour and the psychological well–being of a group of South African teachers : the SABPA study
The aim of this study was to examine the effects of coping behaviour on the stress and psychological well-being as experienced by South African teachers. A review of relevant literature revealed that the teaching profession is an extremely stressful occupation globally. Factors contributing to the stress that teachers experience include the downsizing of the number of teachers in schools and insufficient training being provided for teachers. Exposure to these chronically stressful conditions has psychological and physical consequences for some teachers. Numerous studies, however, have also pointed out that some teachers, in the same teaching environment, experienced less stress and had better physical health than others. In an effort to gain clarity on these contradictory findings, many studies regarding the effect of various coping behaviours have been undertaken. No literature could, however, be found regarding the different coping behaviours used by African teachers and which strategies proved a success. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the effect that coping behaviour had on the level of stress, as well as psychosocial well-being, experienced by black South African teachers. The current study was conducted as part of the SABP A (Sympathetic Activity and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Africans) project conducted at the North-West University. Data for this sub study was collected through a cross-sectional design and the statistical consulting services of the university were involved in the analysis of the raw data. The Teacher Stress Inventory (TSI) (Boyle, Borg, Falzon, & Baglioni, 1995), the Coping Strategy Indicator (CSI) (Amirkhan, 1990), and the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form (MHC-SF) (Keyes, 2006) were administered to 200 urban African teachers residing in the Kenneth Kahunda district in the North West Province. The TSI was administered as a self report measure of occupational stress in teachers. The CSI was administered to all the participants in an attempt to establish what coping strategies were employed by them. It consists of three subscales (problem solving, avoidance, and seeking social support) which are independent of one another and, according to the authors, free from demographic influences. The MHC-SF was administered to all the participants as a measure of well-being. The MHC-SF places individuals on a continuum which ranges between complete mental health (flourishing) to incomplete mental health (languishing). Those who are neither flourishing nor languishing are said to be moderately mentally healthy. All the measures that were administered proved to be reliable and thus interpretable, except for the subscales of the TSI. Therefore, only the TSI total scale score was used for interpretation. Results indicated that this group of teachers were experiencing high levels of stress and were making above average use of all three coping behaviours to deal with their stressors. 70% of the teachers were reportedly moderately mentally healthy, while 2% of them were languishing, and only 28% of them were flourishing. Of these teachers, those who reported smoking and alcohol use as a coping behaviour were experiencing less stress than those who abstained. These results were, however, only of small to medium practical significance. Inter-correlational results indicated that, although stress levels were high, stress had no direct and significant relation to either coping or well-being. The use of certain coping strategies, however, correlated positively with some aspects of mental health. In order to elucidate the nature of the relationships that seemed to exist between these constructs, path analysis was conducted. Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) results revealed a strong negative path between the use of avoidance as a coping strategy and the emotional well-being of participants. A direct significant path was reported between seeking social support and the social well-being of this group of teachers. Another significant finding was the existence of a direct path between problem solving and the social and psychological well-being reported by participants. The implications of these results, as well as the possible shortcomings of the current study and its limitations, were discussed. In conclusion, the results indicated that coping behaviour had little effect on the amount of stress that the teachers experienced, although it seems that coping behaviour does have a significant effect on some aspects of mental health.
- Humanities