The influence of personality, optimism and coping stratgies on academic performance, perceived stress and psychological well-being: a longitudinal study of first year university students
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The present study investigated the relationship of personality, optimism, coping strategies, social support with academic performance, perceived stress and psychological well-being during the stressful life transition of starting university. The extent to which personality factors account for the association between optimism and academic performance, perceived stress and psychological well-being was examined in a longitudinal study of first-year psychology students from the University of Edinburgh. Personality, optimism, coping strategies and social support were measured at baseline, the second week of the first semester. A follow-up questionnaire measuring coping strategies, social support, perceived stress and psychological well-being was administered at the end of the semester, a week before the Psychology 1 exam. The Psychology 1 exam grade was used as the measure of academic performance. Personality, specifically emotional stability, was found to be the strongest and sole predictor of academic performance. In contrast to previous research, emotionally stable participants performed worse than neurotic participants. Optimism, coping strategies and social support did not have any additional effect on academic performance once personality was controlled for. Similarly, personality was the strongest predictor of perceived stress and psychological well-being. After controlling for personality, pessimism was found to be an independent predictor of and increased the amount of perceived stress experienced. Seeking emotional social support was an independent predictor of and increased levels of well-being, after the effects of personality and optimism had been controlled.