public universities place academics under ever increasing burden.
The motto “publish or perish”
has posed great stress among the university teachers. Universty teachers in Pakistan are facing
Following studies mostly conducted in Western countries report the psychological
distress among university teachers. In United States (Blix, Cruise, Mitchell, & Blix, 1994;
Gmelch, Lovrich & Wilke, 1984; Gmelch, Lovrich, & Wilke, 1986; Richard & Krieshok, 1989),
Great Britain (Abouserie,1996; Bradley & Eachus, 1995; Danial & Cuppy, 1992; Wilkinson &
Joseph, 1995), Australia (Winefield & Richard, 2001) , Canada and Pakistan (Jamal, 1999)
researchers have recorded high stress among university teachers due to variety of reasons. The
general conclusion drawn is that the psychological distress related to university teachers is
largely the result of elevated work load intermixed with personality factors.
The psychological distress experienced by the university teachers emerges and effects in
several ways in these studies. Fisher (1994) reported a study done on 85 academic staff that
used the Middlesex Hospital Questionnaire (Crown & Crips, 1966) to check the level of
psychoneurotic symptoms. The result showed that the professors scored higher regarding
anxiety, depression and obsession than the general population. Psychological distress also
appeared in the form of professional burnout among university teachers. The predictors of
burnout usually are role conflict, role ambiguity and lack of authority (Pretorius, 1994).
Gmelch and his colleagues (1984, 1986) surveyed 80 universities in United States; the
sample consisted of 1,221 assistant, associate and full professors. Gmelch and his associates
created a 45-item Faculty Stress Index by factor analysis. It resulted 5 stress related factors that
were: a) reward and recognition (55%variance), b) time constraints (12% common variance), c)
departmental influence (7% common variance, d) Professional identity (6% common variance),
and e) student interaction (6% common variance). Reward and recognition were the main
factors related to stress which encompassed the three major functions of a university professor
i.e. teaching, research and service. Gmelch et al. (1986) proposed that the strength of this factor
was the outcome of the extreme ambiguity in the role and performance of a professor as well as
the lack of recognition for time commitments and goals. They cited
unclear expectations and insufficient
recognition being heightened”
(Gmelch et al., 1986, p.
272) and the most influential element
in a professor’s stress level.
Leung, Siu, and Spector (2000) also reported the effect of recognition and role ambiguity
on psychological distress among university teachers.Their research revealed that the recognition
and perceived organizational practices was responsible for the most variance in faculty stress.
Gmelch and his colleagues’ findings (1984, 1986), recognition was the best
predictor of job satisfaction. However, consistent with Gmelch et al. (1984), the role ambiguity
factor was the best predictor of psychological distress. Study of Hind and Doyle (1996) was also
coherent to Gmelch et al.
(1984) showing the same five factors. They reported similar
results on the most serious sources of stress in academia. For example
“excessively high self
expectations,” “excessively heavy
load ”and“ job
demand interfere with personal life”
were rated among the most serious in both Hind and Doyle and in the studies of Gmelch.
Likewise, Boyd and Wylie (1994) recorded that
the level of one’
s workload and greater
expectations at workplace were the main two sources of serious stress in a sample of 500
academic staff. The coherence among the results of these studies proposed that the
psychological health of university professors may be closely associated with excessive demands
imposed by both themselves and the nature of job. Role ambiguity, uncertainty about standards
of excellence in academic work and confusion about how faculty members are evaluated have
all enhanced the distress (Seldin, 1987). Research literature shows that much of the distress
suffered by professors is associated with the likelihood of setting high standards; employ overly
critical self-evaluation and ambiguity about their decisions.
2.3 Gender Differences in Coping with Stress
Reactions to stress differ among individuals and groups. Research related to the role of
negative affectivity or the relevant theories of neuroticism has shown that this personality
dimension predicts stress related results (Moyle, 1995; Oliver & Brough, 2002). While studying
negative affects (NA) and positive affects (PA) on coping, previous studies have revealed that
individuals having negative attitudes show avoidant behavior (Bolger & Zukerman, 1995;
Bouchard, 2003). Other researches (Gunthert et al., 1999) have reported positive association
between stress and negative thinking. Negative affectalso correlates positively with the
implementation of emotion focused coping and negatively with problem focused coping
(Cosway et al, 2000; Endler & Parker, 1994; Mcwilliam, Cox, & Enns, 2003). Two opposite
explanations have been suggested to account for the coherent results that stress results varying
with NA. Differential exposure hypothesis suggested that some individuals suffer from more
stress than others due to greater exposure to stressors (McDonoigh & Walters, 2001; Roxburgh,
1996; Vermeulen & Mustard, 2000). On the contrary, the differential vulnerable hypothesis
suggests that even encountering same stressors, individuals vary in their susceptibility or
resistance. Such variation in vulnerability may eventuate from various processes, including
variation in appraisal of stress, reaction to stress, experience of positive and negative affect,
choice and effectiveness of coping techniques (Bolger & Zukerman, 1995; Roxburgh, 1996).
Researchers testing differential exposure hypothesis have found that stress exposure differs with
gender (Bolger & Zukerman, 1995; McDonoigh & Walters, 2001) and NA (Bolger &
Zukerman, 1995). A study of differential vulnerability hypothesis was done by Day and
Livingstone (2003). In this research, all the participants were presented same, stressful, written
scenarios. Females declared three of the five scenarios as more stressful than did males. Eaton
and Bradley (2008) conducted a study in American university students and explored the role of
gender and negative affectivity in stressor appraisal and coping selection. Day and
rch was the foundation of their study. Differential exposure to stressors was
regulated requiring participants (121 females, 95 males) to rate the stressfulness of four same
hypothetical written scenarios. Measures of prior stress were taken using Mood States
Inventory. Coping selection was checked using items from six subscales of Coping Orientation
to Problems Experienced Inventory (COPE; Carver et al., 1998). NA was checked using a
measure of neuroticism from 12 item neuroticism scale from NEO-Five Factor Inventory (Costa
& McCrae, 1992). The results revealed that women declared the scenarios as more stressful than
men and appraisal of stress elevated with participant
NA. Women implemented emotion
focused coping techniques more than men, even when appraised stress was regulated. NA
predicted implementation of both emotion and avoidance focused coping.
The studies related to gender differences in stress and strain have revealed that women
experience more psychological stress and strain than men (Hall, Chipperfield, Perry, Ruthing, &
Goetz, 2006; Roxburgh, 1996). Females perceive stressors as more disturbing than males. A
Meta analysis by Tamres, Janicki, and Helgeson (2002) showed that women perceived stressors
as being more stressful in 17 of the 26 study reports. Tamres et al. (2002) tried to find out
gender differences in coping. Women tend to use all types of coping strategies more often than
men. On the contrary, studies related to relative coping revealed that men tend to use problem
focused coping, whereas women mostly seek emotional support.
Anjum (2001) explored gender differences in stress level and coping styles in a sample of
students at University of Punjab, Lahore. A stress inventory was prepared which included 20
stressors that were faced by students living in hostels. The stressors such as test anxiety, noise,
insufficient time, sleep disturbance and hostel food had higher priority among the students.
COPE scale was used to find out the coping techniques. Men used instrumental coping and
women used palliative coping techniques to lessen the stress which prove the gender difference.
The reported stress level was higher in women as compared to men. Other studies about gender
and coping have suggested the similar outcomes regarding gender differences (Endler & Parker,
1994). Vingerhoets and Van Heck (1990) reported that men are more likely to use active
problem-focused coping techniques, planning and rationalizing their actions, positive thinking,
persistence, adaptation and progress. On the contrary, women prefer emotion focused solutions,
self blame and wishful thinking.
Not every research is consistent with these stereotypical views. Some studies reveal that
although women more often seek social support and use emotion focused coping, no gender
differences exist in the use of problem focused or avoidant coping behavior (Carver, Scheier, &
Weintraub, 1989). Results may seem to depend on how coping is defined and measured.
Lazarus’ theory of stress and coping
was used as the theoretical frame work in George
(2007) research on
learner’s developmental contextualism
and stress. This study
investigated stress, psychosocial factors and the results of anxiety, depression, and substance
abuse in a sample of 466 rural adolescents. Stress involved life events and psychosocial factors
were optimism, perceived social support, and coping. Gender differences were also considered in
the study. Gender had both a direct and indirect effect on the scores of depression and anxiety
with negative life events and psychosocial factors such as optimism, social support and coping,
acting as moderators
Lindiwe, Asner-Self, Kimberly and Schreiber (2005) explored Stress and coping
strategies among Zimbabwean adolescents. The study revealed some major stressors such as
school work, relationship, social life, financial hardship and estimated their coping repertoire in
a sample of 101 students. The students suffered slight stress on Perceived Stress Scale. Females
showed higher level of appraised stress than males. Adolescents engage in emotion focused
coping more often than problem focused coping. Researcher concluded that adolescents should
enhance their problem-solving skills to cope effectively with the challenging situations.
Wong and Keung (2002) researched on stage-specific and culture specific coping
strategies, implemented during the resettlement stage of the immigration process. A qualitative
analysis was done to handle psychosocial stress encountered during the immigration process.
Direct action coping techniques of problem solving and compromise were implemented by
immigrants to deal with recurring and daily resettlement difficulties. Cognitive techniques of
positive comparison and positive thinking were used to alter the appraisal of these problems.
Emotion focused coping of acceptance and avoidance techniques were culture specific and were
significant in alleviating the stress related to the resettlement problems. It was also showed that
techniques for example acceptance, compromise and avoidance might have detrimental
influence on the adjustment of immigrants in the long run.
2.4 Positive Thinking and Health
The advantages of positive thinking are obvious in the studies regarding cardiovascular
health, cancer and other diseases. Optimism has been shown to be associated with higher levels
of self reported liveliness and psychological health (Achat, Kawachi, Spiro, Demolles, &
Sparrow, 2000) and lower levels of depression. It is evident that positive thinking provides a
sense of control in particular conditions and lessen the depression (Taylor,1983). Optimistic
individuals are less likely to become ill than negative thinkers and mostly recover more quickly
if ever get sick (Reker & Wong, 1985).
2.4.1 Positive thinking and cardiovascular diseases
. Positive emotions and positive
thinking indeed have a significant role in maintaining blood pressure and other heart diseases
(Affleck, Tennen, & Croog, 1987). Afflect researched on 287 men who suffered from heart
attacks and recorded their optimism experience for seven days. About half of them considered
this experience beneficial. For some participants, heart attack resulted in change in philosophy of
life, including becoming more moral in conduct. Others reported that they learned the values of
healthy lifestyle; while 25% reported that they modified their lifestyle so they could enjoy life
Helgeson and Fritz(1999) gathered direct evidence that positive thinking effected
recovery from coronary heart disease by studying 199 men and 99 women who had just
experienced angioplasty. Three psychosocial measures were administered to the heart patients
namely negative emotional states, healthy behavior and cluster of positive mental health
measures cited as cognitive adaptation, self-esteem, optimism and sense of mastery.
Researchers tested whether these three variables would predict adverse coronary effects in the
six months following surgery. Effects of income, education and other socio-demographic
indicators on angioplasty success were ruled out. Only the measures of cognitive adaptation i.e.
self-esteem, optimism and sense of mastery, reliably predicted successful recoveries following
surgery. After breaking apart the measures within the adaptation index and testing them against
one another it was evident that self-esteem and optimism states of mind saturated with positive
emotions were responsible for the influence. Helgeson and Fritz also proposed that self-esteem
and optimism may cause low blood pressure and heart rate directly through neuroendocrine
mechanism and result in a less abrupt change in heart rate and blood pressure during stressful
situations. Scientists have discovered the connection between positive thinking and health
through the studies of neurophysiological influence of exercise on cardiovascular fitness.
McCubbin (1993) and Dishman (1996) has been examining the relation of physiological
processes responsible for such positive feeling states. McCbbin has studied a class of opioids
substances in the brain known as beta-endorphins, released during exercise, elevated positive
feeling and thinking.
2.4.2 Positive thinking and cancer
. There are two great advantages of thinking positively
under stress. Firstly, positive thinking will enable effective coping. Secondly, positive thinking
elevates the tendency of good outcomes. Positive emotions have been found to have a direct
influence on the quality of life of cancer patients in the duration of their ailment (Collins,
Hanson, Mulhern, & Padberg, 1992).It seems that people suffering from cancer having
optimistic mind-set and a fighting spirit have a quality life than negative thinkers and hopeless
persons (Schou, Ekeberg & Rauland, 2005).Positive thinking may provide a sense of control in
particular conditions and alleviate depression (Taylor, 1983).
Research conducted on cancer patients examined the ways women cope with
treatment for early stage breast cancer (Carver et al., 1993). Optimism, coping and mood
were recorded the day before surgery and 10 days post-surgery and at three follow-up points
during the preceding year. Optimism was related to a pattern of reported coping strategies
regarding acceptance of reality of the situation, most possible positive appraisal of the
situation,humor, positive reframingand taking necessary steps. Pessimism was associated
with denial and behavioral disengagement at each measurement point. The coping techniques
regarding optimism and pessimism were also associated with distress. Positive reframing,
acceptance and the use of humor all were related inversely to self-reported distress. Denial
and behavioral disengagement was related positively to distress at all measurement points.
Many professional writers admire the benefits of positive thinking. Unlike them, others
question the physical benefit, indicating divergent evidence as to whether positive thinking has
any biological effect on ailments such as cancer development, growth and progression
(Patticrew, 2002; Schofield, 2004, McGrath et al, 2006). Some commentators have also
proposed that general injunction upon patients suffering from cancer to think positively may
have negative outcomes, implying an unbearable social or psychological burden(McGrath,
2004; Rittenberg, 1995) or guilt if things do not get well (De Reave, 1997).The evidence is
greatly contested and is derived from a few methodologically incompetent studies (Petticrew,
2002). Some studies gathered clear proof related to positive thinking as they have previously
focused on psychological reaction to cancer instead of positive thinking itself (Greer, 1979).
The hypothesis that they provide practical support to the advantages of positive thinking is a
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