• unlimited access with print and download
    $ 37 00
  • read full document, no print or download, expires after 72 hours
    $ 4 99
More info
Unlimited access including download and printing, plus availability for reading and annotating in your in your Udini library.
  • Access to this article in your Udini library for 72 hours from purchase.
  • The article will not be available for download or print.
  • Upgrade to the full version of this document at a reduced price.
  • Your trial access payment is credited when purchasing the full version.
Buy
Continue searching

An examination of happiness and its relationship to community college students' coping strategies and academic performance

Dissertation
Author: Janet E. Barber
Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine happiness and its relationship to the coping strategies and academic performance (grade point average) of community college students. The independent variable was happiness and the dependent variables were coping strategies and self-reported GPAs (academic performance). A commuter community college campus located in an urban-suburban area with a focus on student-centered learning and improving academic performance was chosen. The study focused on 139 student participants between the ages of 18 and 53. With a focus on positive psychology's framework, well-established questionnaires with reported measures of reliability and validity were used. The Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ), the Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WCQ), and the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients (Pearson r ) were used to compute and test hypotheses. The mean happiness score for this sample of community college students was 4.44 with a standard deviation of 0.65. This mean happiness score indicated a moderate, but normal level of happiness. With a mean happiness score of 4.44, this sample of community college students' happiness level is slightly above the national average for happiness (Diener, 2000; Hills & Argyle, 2002). The OHQ was found to be positively correlated with the WCQ subscale positive reappraisal (r = 0.27, p =.001), and negatively correlated with the WCQ subscale, escape-avoidance (r = -0.23, p =.01) suggesting that students had higher scores on the happiness scale if they used positive reappraisal often and escape-avoidance seldom as a coping strategy. The OHQ and the WCQ were used to measure the students' happiness and coping strategies, respectively, and were framed within the study of positive psychology. These instruments had reported reliability and validity of OHQ, alpha = 0.92, and the WCQ, alpha between 0.61 and 0.79. The findings of this study explained the correlation between happiness and coping strategies, and happiness and academic performance (GPA) of community college students. Overall, the study found that happy or moderately happy students tended to cope just as well as those students who had high happiness scores. The mean GPA for this sample of students was 2.85. There was no correlation between community college students' happiness and GPAs. Recommendations and suggestions for community college counselors, leaders and other constituents were made pertaining to how this research information aided in understanding community college student happiness and its relationship to the strategies these students used to cope.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Page LIST OF TABLES ........................................................................................... x LIST OF FIGURES ......................................................................................... xi CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION ....................................................................... 1 Rationale of the Study.......................................................................... 1 Background of the Study...................................................................... 2 Short History on the Science of Happiness .......................................... 3 Positive Psychology ............................................................................. 5 ‘Happiness’ and ‘Subjective Well-Being’ .............................................. 7 Happiness, Coping Strategies and Academic Performance ................ 8 Students and the Community College.................................................. 9 Community College Students and Happiness ...................................... 11 Statement of the Problem ................................................................... 12 Purpose and Significance of the Study ................................................ 12 Theoretical Framework ........................................................................ 13 Research Questions ............................................................................ 20 Hypotheses .......................................................................................... 21 Limitations and Delimitations ............................................................... 23 Definitions of Terms ............................................................................. 24 Chapter Summary ................................................................................ 28

vi

TABLE OF CONTENTS (continued) Page CHAPTER II: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE .............................................. 30 Introduction .......................................................................................... 30 Short Historic Look at Happiness Studies ............................................ 30 The Measurement of Happiness .......................................................... 34 Relevant Studies: Happiness, Coping and Academic Performance .... 36 Community College Students ...................................................... 36 Other Studies and Other Students ............................................... 39 Studies that Used the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire ..................... 42 Literature Review on Coping ............................................................... 45 Strategies or Ways of Coping ...................................................... 46 Coping Theory: Then and Now .................................................... 49 Happiness Literature and Academic Performance ............................... 50 Chapter Summary ................................................................................ 53 CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY .................................................................... 56 Research Design ................................................................................. 56 Quantitative Method ..................................................................... 57 Survey Method Design ................................................................ 57 Correlational Design .................................................................... 58 Pre-Study Explorations and Inquiries ................................................... 59

vii The Setting .......................................................................................... 61 Participants .......................................................................................... 63 Sample Survey Respondents ..................................................... 64 Instruments .......................................................................................... 66 Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ) ..................................... 66 The Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WAYS) ............................... 68 Research Relationship between the Instruments ......................... 71 Procedures .......................................................................................... 71 Data Analysis ....................................................................................... 73 Descriptive Statistics .................................................................... 73 Inferential Statistics ..................................................................... 74 Chapter Summary ................................................................................ 79 CHAPTER IV: FINDINGS ............................................................................... 81 Statistical Information: Pearson’s r ...................................................... 81 Sample Responses and Survey Information ........................................ 82 Analyses of Research Questions and Hypotheses .............................. 85 Pearson r and the Hypotheses .................................................... 86

viii TABLE OF CONTENTS (continued) Page Descriptive Statistics of Oxford Happiness Scores by Median Split: MANCOVA ........................................................ 94 Happiness and Positive Reappraisal ........................................... 100 Happiness and Escape-Avoidance .............................................. 100 Happiness and Coping Questionnaire Items................................ 101 Chapter Summary ................................................................................ 107 CHAPTER V: DISCUSSIONS, IMPLICATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS ............................................... 110 Discussion and Major Findings ............................................................ 111 Happiness and Coping Strategy .................................................. 113 Ways of Coping Subscales Information ....................................... 114 Significant Findings .............................................................................. 116 Happiness and Positive Reappraisal as a Coping Strategy ......... 116 Happiness and Escape-Avoidance as a Coping Strategy ............ 117 Non-Significant Findings ...................................................................... 118 Happiness and Academic Performance ............................................... 126 Research Challenges........................................................................... 127 Implications and Recommendations .................................................... 130 Questions and Comments for further Research ................................... 133 Positive Psychology Revisited ............................................................. 136

ix TABLE OF CONTENTS (continued) Page Final Summary and Concluding Thoughts .......................................... 140 REFERENCES ............................................................................................... 144 APPENDICES ................................................................................................ 167 Appendix A: Instruments ..................................................................... 168 Appendix B: IRB Approval ................................................................... 172 Appendix C: IRB Consent Forms......................................................... 173 Appendix D: Mind Garden Corporation Correspondence..................... 174 Appendix E: Hypotheses Information ................................................... 175 Appendix F: Subscales and Cronbach α scores ................................. 177 Appendix G: American Community College Population (2008) ........... 178 Appendix H: Gender by Ethnic Group Status Interaction ..................... 179 Appendix I: OHQ: Frequencies and Variables ..................................... 180 Appendix J: OHQ – Percentile Statistics .............................................. 182 Appendix K: Oxford Happiness and GPA Scores by Ethnicity and Gender .................................................................................. 182 Appendix L: Multivariate Testing .......................................................... 183 Appendix M: Matrix of Pearson r Correlation Coefficients for the OHQ and WCQ Subscales .......................................................... 184 Appendix N: Pearson r Correlations between GPA, OHQ, WCQ ......... 185

x

LIST OF TABLES

Page Table 1. Enrollment of Selected Community College ...................................... 62 Table 2: Number of Students Enrolled in Selected College ............................. 63 Table 3: Distribution of Respondents by Demographics .................................. 65 Table 4: Data Analysis Schemata .................................................................... 77 Table 5: Descriptive Statistics for Happiness and Coping Scores ................... 83 Table 6: Cronbach Alphas for OHQ and WCQ Subscales ............................... 84 Table 7: Pearson r Correlation Coefficients between the OHQ and the WCQ Subscale Scores ...................................................................... 90 Table 8: Pearson r Correlation between GPA and OHQ Measures of Happiness ..................................................................................... 91 Table 9: MANCOVA: Wilks’ Lambda Multivariate Testing ............................... 93 Table 10: Descriptive Statistics of Raw Mean Scores – Happiness, Coping, GPA ................................................................. 94 Table 11: Descriptive Statistics of Oxford Happiness Scores- Sample Median Split – Hi-Avg-Low Happiness Means .................... 96 Table 12: Descriptive Statistics of Oxford Happiness Levels- Sample Median Split and High-Avg-Low GPAs ............................... 96 Table 13: Descriptive Statistics of Oxford Happiness Scores by Ways of Coping, Median Split Means, Hi-Avg-Low .................... 99 Table 14: Mean Score of each Item Question of the OHQ .............................. 102

xi LIST OF FIGURES Page Figure 1: Seligman’s Positive Psychology Model of Happiness....................... 14 Figure 2: Operation of the Study: Theoretical Frame of Positive Psychology’s Connection to the Variables ....................................... 19 Figure 3: Association between the Independent and Dependent Variables Happiness, Coping Strategies, and Academic Performance ............ 20 Figure 4: Scatter Plot between Happiness and GPA ...................................... 92 Figure 5: Gender by Ethnic Group Status Interaction ...................................... 106

1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Rationale of the Study Community college students are often negatively stereotyped as less intelligent and motivated than the traditional four-year university student. Community college students also appear in literature as typically older, live independently of parents and are generally parents themselves with limited financial resources. These students are characterized in educational literature as being academically unprepared which could cause them to have low grade point averages with high dropout rates (Cohen & Brawer, 2003; Schmid & Abell, 2003; Voorhees & Zhou, 2000). The above concerns could lead one to believe that community college students are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and unhappiness (Bradley, 2006; Garrido, 2000; Pierceall & Keim, 2007). The researcher, as a community college professor, questioned these stereotypes. She observed community college students appeared to be optimistic, well-adjusted learners who not only looked to be happy but seemed to cope well with the rigor of coursework and other everyday life matters. She wondered if happiness had an affect on community college students’ coping abilities and academic performance. With these observations in mind, the researcher began to explore the literature in order to discover studies concerning community college students’ happiness, coping, and academic performance.

2 Minimal research on the happiness of community college students was found. This exploration became the basis for this present research.

Background of the Study Eighty to 85% of the world’s population reports positive levels of subjective well-being or happiness despite hardship (Diener & Scollon, 2003; Seligman, 2002). Generally research has shown that people tend to think more positively about their lives, past, present and future, than their lives actually are, which in turn makes for better day-to-day adaptive behaviors and positive thinking (Taylor, 1998). Adaptive behaviors and positive thinking, in turn, encourage happiness. Happiness appears to be a trait for more successes and positive emotions, and both can improve better coping (Fordyce, 1988; Fredrickson, 2009; Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002; Fredrickson & Losada, 2005; Lyubomirsky, 2007). This study turned to one particular group, community college students, to examine the phenomenon of happiness as it pertained to their coping strategies and academic performance (GPA). While examining happiness literature, it was found that few studies analyze outcomes of happiness. According to Bekhet, Zauszniewski, and Nakhla (2008), “in most studies, happiness has been identified as the dependent variable or outcome” (p. 12), not the independent variable (King, 2009). This study reversed the usual trend by treating happiness as the independent variable. The dependent variables in this quantitative study were: (a) coping

3 strategies, and (b) academic performance (GPA). Thus, happiness was used to explain students’ coping strategies and academic performance. Furthermore, to the researcher’s knowledge, the two instruments used in this study, the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ) and the Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WCQ), have never been used in conjunction to examine the relationship between happiness and coping strategies.

Short History of the Science of Happiness Happiness has been a staple of intellectual and philosophical thought for ages. Socrates and Aristotle, for instance, sought to understand enlightenment and happiness. Socrates stressed self-knowledge as a means of obtaining happiness (Haybron, 2008; Kessler, 2010). Aristotle (widely associated with the term eudaimonia which means happiness), in contrast, advocated virtuous activity as the way toward happiness (Kessler, 2010). Plato agreed that if one was not virtuous, one would not experience well-being and happiness (Haybron, 2008; Haidt, 2006; Klein, 2002). The thinking of these ancient philosophers has informed writers and scientists of the 20 th and 21 st century offering starting points for investigating happiness (Haidt, 2006). For example, as part of her positive psychology research on happiness, Lyubomirsky (2007), asked college students to venture outside the classroom and conduct an act of kindness as part of a happiness- enhancing activity. What she found was that helping others actually enhanced

4 the happiness levels of these college student participants, as well as curbing students’ stress levels. These students’ voluntarily helping others was an ancient idea, advocated by Aristotle, and practiced in contemporary times. Ortega (2003) traced the origins of the current positive psychology movement to Goodwin Watson’s paper of 1930 entitled, “Happiness among Adult Students of Education.” Ortega noted that the scientific study of happiness received another scholarly notice in 1957 when Wessman published a doctoral dissertation titled, A Psychological Inquiry into Satisfactions and Happiness. According to Myers (2005), positive psychology evolved out of the humanistic research of Maslow and Rogers in the 1950s. Myers (2007) wrote that “humanistic psychology was a softer, 1960s response to Freudian psychology and to behaviorism, which pioneers Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow found too mechanistic” (p. 7). Rogers (1951) and Maslow (1987) advocated for the study of human growth and potential and criticized Freud’s personality theory as it tended to view human behavior as biologically fixed (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008; Myers, 2007). Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000), Ben-Shahar (2007), Diener, Suh, and Oishi (1997), Fordyce (1997), Horowitz (2009), and Lyubomirsky (2007) agreed with Maslow and Rogers’ critique of Freud’s theory and argued that human behaviors, including happiness, can be cultivated. These experts’ theories and ideas generated an interest in the positive side of psychology which contended that creativity, strength and optimistic character traits were worth researching and studying (Ben-Shahar, 2007; Diener, 2000; Diener & Biswas-

5 Diener, 2008; Lopez & Kerr, 2006; Lyubomirsky, 2007; Seligman, 2002). Pioneering positive psychological work by Seligman (1991, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2005), Ben-Shahar (2007) and Lyubomirsky (2007) validated the claim that happiness in humans can be cultivated.

Positive Psychology A giant leap toward the scientific study of happiness occurred when Martin Seligman promoted positive psychology while president of the American Psychological Association in 1998 (Ben-Shahar, 2007). Some colleagues took issue with Seligman’s position, arguing that it focused too much on positive emotions, thereby negating decades of work on less positive emotions. They tended to view positive psychology as a fad, and happiness as being too difficult to measure (Gable & Haidt, 2005; Kashdan, 2004; Lazarus, 2003; Ryff, 1989). Diener and Seligman (2002), Lyubomirsky (2007), and Seligman (2002) countered their critics by saying that an exclusive focus on mental pathologies has wasted valuable time that could have been spent researching and understanding the healthy mind. Seligman (2002) lamented that this oversight resulted in a model of human beings lacking the positive affect and strategies that make life interesting, meaningful and worth living (Ben-Shahar, 2007; Chickering, 2006; Lyubomirsky, 2007; Seligman, 2002). Hills and Argyle (2002), Klein (2002), and Lopez (2005) stressed that happiness can be measured scientifically.

6 Changing the present research fixation of many psychologists was one of the goals of the positive psychology movement (Diener & Seligman, 2002; Lyubomirsky, 2007; Seligman, 2002; Snyder & Lopez, 2001). Seligman’s work in Snyder and Lopez’s (2001) Handbook of Positive Psychology contended that “the aim of positive psychology was to initiate a change in the focus building the best qualities in life” (p. 3). The positive psychology concept, at the subjective level, according to Seligman (2002), and Snyder and Lopez (2001) focused on the importance and value of happy experiences. Many of the major theories of positive psychology were addressed within the domains of happiness such as: (a) contentment and satisfaction (in the past); (b) hope and optimism (for the future), and (c) flow and happiness (in the present). Hills and Argyle (2002) added that positive psychology should focus on positive emotions and personal and individual traits such as kindness, agreeableness, social activity, self- esteem, humor, and health. The more inclusive terms of subjective well-being and happiness have been adopted, as more researchers conducted studies in this area (Diener, 2000; Myers, 2007; Ortega, 2003; Seligman, 2002). Theories and research on happiness have flourished, and from these studies, researchers have learned that positive subjective well-being and happiness are not only important traits, but can now be considered a true subfield of psychology (Ortega, 2003) under the umbrella of positive psychology (Diener, Suh, & Oishi, 1997; Lyubomirsky, 2007; Seligman, 2002).

7 Positive psychology is emerging as a dynamic new field of psychology in its own right and served as a source for the theoretical framework for this study. One of the purposes of this new field is to enhance the happiness of humans (Seligman, 2002; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). Seligman’s (2002) book, Authentic Happiness, steered the direction of this present study by stressing the importance of studying and researching information of the positive qualities of students and others.

Happiness and Subjective Well-Being Within the positive psychology movement, there exists some controversy around the terminology. Some researchers argued that the term subjective well- being was more suitable to formal scientific investigation than happiness, while others preferred to use the term happiness because of its more common usage and understanding (Cacioppo, et al., 2008; Lyubomirsky, 2007; Seligman, 2002). Lyubomirsky and Seligman also pointed out that happiness was another name for subjective well-being in everyday conversation. Depending on the study, some in the field have tried to establish a psychological distinction between the two terms, contending that happiness may be subjective as well as situational (Diener, Suh, & Oishi, 1997; Lyubomirsky, 2007; Seligman, 2002; van Hoorn, 2007). However, in accordance with the research studies of experts such as Seligman (2002), Diener (2000), Hills and Argyle (2002), and Lyubomirsky (2007), the two terms were considered equally

8 valid and can therefore be used interchangeably, because happiness is a trait for the positive subjective well-being of a human being. Consequently, happiness and subjective well-being were treated synonymously in this study. However, to avoid confusion ‘happiness’ will be used henceforth. ‘Subjective well-being’ will appear in the text only when discussing the work of the researchers that preferred that term.

Happiness, Coping Strategies and Academic Performance It is likely that happier individuals also possess coping strategies that they are able to use to enact positive change in response to a challenging situation (Fredrickson, 2001; Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). In turn, it is also believed that happier individuals are more likely to experience not only more life successes in general, but academic successes (Goleman, 1995; Lyubomirsky, 2007) such as higher GPAs. Coping Strategies It is generally a study of how one copes with stress or a challenging situation when considering coping strategies, skills or processes. Coping is a process exhibiting cognitive mastery and adaptive behavior over a stress-related situation (Folkman & Lazarus, 1988). Strategy is an approach to coping demonstrating an idea of the thinking processes of a person. The more strategic, the better a person feels, and the better the person is likely to cope and focus on

9 a problem (Cory & Cory, 2006; Fredrickson, 2009; Lazarus, 1991). Researchers must also take into account that adaptive and strategic coping processes are often associated with positive emotions, optimism, self-esteem, and happiness (Seligman, 2002). Academic Performance (GPA) For this study, academic performance is operationally defined as community college students’ GPAs. Numerous studies have shown that academic performance has been associated with well-being and happiness, which include indicators such as: optimism, social activity, self-esteem, and coping abilities (Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger & Vohs, 2003; Diener & Seligman, 2002; MDRC, 2009; Quinn & Duckworth, 2007). Therefore, happiness (as a positive emotion) can serve as a buffer against adversity (Tugade & Fredrickson, 2007) such as academic challenges, setting in motion more community college student achievement.

Students and the Community College Historically, with the advent of the first community college, Joliet Junior College, 1901, Chicago, Illinois, community colleges’ purpose has been to serve the community and ensure that the average citizen who wishes to continue his or her education after high school can do so (Cohen & Brawer, 2003; Lucas, 2006; Vaughan, 2006).

10 The open access philosophy of community colleges serves the college student who may not have the time, the funds or adequate skills for traditional college work (Gillett-Karam, Roueche, & Roueche, 1991; Phelps, 1994). Education is made affordable along with the promise of a quality education, even if developmental courses are needed. In essence, adults from diverse economic and ethnic backgrounds are allowed to seek a higher education (McPhail, 2003; Price, 2004). Open access tended to be an equalizer of education. Educators have agreed that community college students seemed to represent a lower socioeconomic background than do students from four-year universities and are usually in need of remedial or developmental courses before registering for traditional coursework, which label them at-risk students (Chickering, 2006; Cohen & Brawer, 2003; Lucas, 2006; McCabe, 2000; McPhail & Heacock, 1999; Terenzini, Springer, Yaeger, Pascarella, & Nora, 1996; Tinto, 1997). Other issues that put them at risk academically include: (a) financial problems, (b) the need for full-time employment, (c) low grade point averages, and (d) delayed entry, e.g., not attending college directly after high school (Coley, 2000; McCabe, 2000). Clearly it is easy to characterize most community college students given their demographic risks, such as lower socioeconomic backgrounds, as inadequate, or in terms of what they cannot do. Such marginalized individuals are generally not the focus of society’s attention (Macionis, 2007) and are, therefore rendered powerless. Far too frequently, studies stress what people (or students) that fit into these categories do not know, or what they do not get from

11 home (Brint & Karabel, 1994; Wasik, Karweit, Bond, Woodruff, Jaeger, & Adee, 2000). By emphasizing the negative, educational researchers fail to acknowledge that many students, college students and others, may bring social capital, e.g., skills learned outside educational environments, such as positive attitudes (or happiness), coping strategies and critical thinking, to schools and institutions of higher learning that can be applied to successful lifestyle and academic outcomes (Bandura, 1977; Barber, 2005; Evans, Forney, & Guido-DiBrito, 1998; Seligman, 2002). McCabe and Day (1998) affirmed that many community college students tend to be successful despite the demographic risks unique to them. Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of Education (2002), 54% of community college students persist in higher education and cope well.

Community College Students and Happiness Community college, learning-centered, and positive psychology literature support the idea that students can succeed in college if the idea of happiness and success in life and academia is reinforced by teaching happiness in, for example, positive psychology classes. Such classes generally include learning various techniques and activities to enhance happiness, as well as learning concepts for more constructive coping, which could in turn enhance academic performance (Barber, 2007; Ben-Shahar, 2007; Horowitz, 2008; Seligman, 2002). All community college students deserve to learn to be happy, cope well and enjoy a positive sense of well-being inside as well as outside their academic

12 environments (Barr & Tagg, 1995; Ben-Shahar, 2007; Cohen & Brawer, 2003; Seligman, 2002). Contemporary community colleges have essentially evolved to meet these challenges and to serve and accommodate students of all ages and diverse demographic backgrounds.

Statement of Problem This correlational study addressed the happiness of community college students as it related to their coping strategies and academic performance, operationally defined as GPA in this study.

Purpose and Significance of the Study The purpose of this study was to determine if there was an association among happiness, coping strategies and academic performance (GPA) of community college students as measured by two tests, OHQ and WCQ. By researching and pointing out the importance of happiness and employing the two questionnaires, this study’s intent and purpose is to also add to the literature’s already existing foci on student development and success. Examining community college students’ perceptions of their happiness as an independent variable, and its relationship to their coping strategies and academic performance (GPA) as the dependent variables aided in this effort. The significance of the study is that it filled a gap in community college research by extending the literature on community college students’ happiness.

13 The study further extended the literature on how happiness may be related to community college students’ coping strategies and academic performance. This extension to the literature was accomplished by using two questionnaires, the OHQ and WCQ, in conjunction with each other and analyzing the data for this present study. Additionally to the researcher’s knowledge, these questionnaires have never been utilized together for assessment. Furthermore, concerning community college student characteristics, this study may help enlighten the negative attitudes of much of the general public and demonstrate that many community college students are well-adjusted and not just people with limited resources.

Theoretical Framework A relatively new branch of psychology, positive psychology, provided the theoretical framework for this study, as one of the purposes of this movement is to study the happiness of humans as a more positive and optimistic side of mental health (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005; Seligman, 2002; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). Seligman’s model of positive psychology theorized that positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions promote happiness (see Figure 1). Positive institutions were defined by Seligman as the lifestyles, work atmospheres and settings, academic environments or even the community in which one lives that may have an affect on a person’s positive emotions or well-being (Lyubomirsky, 2007; Seligman, 2002). To further explain,

14 positive psychology is the scientific study of humans and their optimal levels of functioning. It focuses on the “strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive” (Myers, 2007, p. 628).

The Positive Psychology Theoretical Framework

Figure 1. Seligman’s Positive Psychology Model of Happiness

In addition, Seligman’s theory of positive psychology contended that learning how to cultivate a pleasant life, a good life and a meaningful life, tenets of the positive psychology model, would make people happier (Seligman, 2002). Another positive psychology theorist wrote, that “people who enjoyed more positivity in their lives were more able to cope with adversity in an open-minded way” (Fredrickson, 2009, p. 61) as well. In developing the theoretical framework Positive Emotions

The Pleasant Life: Life of enjoyment; optimal life experiences ; happiness

Positive Institutions

The Meaningful Life: Well- Being and spirituality due to positive life & social affiliations Positive Individual Traits

The Good Life: Autonomy, and understanding how to enjoy activities

and life

Positive

Psychology

15 for studying happiness, positive psychology theory provided useful indicators and concepts for examining the phenomenon of happiness. Positive Psychology Theory As applied to this present study, positive psychology theory expected the independent variable, happiness, to influence and explain the dependent variables, coping strategies and academic performance. Positive psychology research confirmed that happiness and coping are so closely related that it is virtually impossible to separate them conceptually. Indeed, coping strategically, not just coping well may not be accomplished without happiness indicators such as self-esteem, social support, and optimism (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1992; Lyubomirsky, 2007; Lyubomirsky, Tkach, & Dimatteo, 2006). Happiness as optimism and well being plays a strong role in effective coping (King, 2010; Seligman, 2002). Positive psychology theory holds that happiness and optimism can carry over to better coping and more successes in life (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1992; Diener, 2000; Lyubomirsky, 2007; Seligman, 2002; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005), such as obtaining better grades. Optimism is one of the major indicators of happiness (Fordyce, 1988; Seligman, 1998; 2002). When optimistic or happy people run into problems, they seem to evaluate the dilemma in a more positive, problem-solving, rational and effective manner than unhappy people. That is, happy people are more likely to use more planful and constructive coping strategies (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1992). In doing

16 so, happy people, in turn, are more likely to be successful in career goals (Scheier & Carver, 1993). The Experts’ Ideas Seligman (2002), Diener (2000), Fredrickson (2001) and Lyubomirsky (2007) are four researchers who have been the forerunners and framers of the theories of positive psychology and happiness; however, Fredrickson (2001; 2009) preferred the terms positive emotion or positivity over the term happiness. Happiness is operationally defined in this study as a person’s overall positive subjective well being and the frequency of optimistic thoughts and positive experiences (Fredrickson, 1998; 2001; Lyubomirsky, 2007; Seligman, 2002). Lazarus (2003) is another framer for the move toward positive psychology, though he would likely object to this idea, as Lazarus saw positive psychology as only a fad. Lazarus took issue with Seligman’s position as father of the positive psychology movement, arguing that positive psychology focused too much on positive emotions, thereby negating decades of work on less positive emotions. Harvey and Pauwels (2003) agreed in their article, The Ironies of Positive Psychology, that, “the positive psychology movement seems to neglect the energy and constructive developments that may accrue from human loss and pain” (p. 125). Positive psychologists disagree. As noted above, Folkman and Lazarus’ (1988) WCQ spelled out eight important factors of effective or ineffective coping which are in and of themselves studies in positive psychology. Diener questioned in his 2003 commentary, What

Full document contains 201 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine happiness and its relationship to the coping strategies and academic performance (grade point average) of community college students. The independent variable was happiness and the dependent variables were coping strategies and self-reported GPAs (academic performance). A commuter community college campus located in an urban-suburban area with a focus on student-centered learning and improving academic performance was chosen. The study focused on 139 student participants between the ages of 18 and 53. With a focus on positive psychology's framework, well-established questionnaires with reported measures of reliability and validity were used. The Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ), the Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WCQ), and the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients (Pearson r ) were used to compute and test hypotheses. The mean happiness score for this sample of community college students was 4.44 with a standard deviation of 0.65. This mean happiness score indicated a moderate, but normal level of happiness. With a mean happiness score of 4.44, this sample of community college students' happiness level is slightly above the national average for happiness (Diener, 2000; Hills & Argyle, 2002). The OHQ was found to be positively correlated with the WCQ subscale positive reappraisal (r = 0.27, p =.001), and negatively correlated with the WCQ subscale, escape-avoidance (r = -0.23, p =.01) suggesting that students had higher scores on the happiness scale if they used positive reappraisal often and escape-avoidance seldom as a coping strategy. The OHQ and the WCQ were used to measure the students' happiness and coping strategies, respectively, and were framed within the study of positive psychology. These instruments had reported reliability and validity of OHQ, alpha = 0.92, and the WCQ, alpha between 0.61 and 0.79. The findings of this study explained the correlation between happiness and coping strategies, and happiness and academic performance (GPA) of community college students. Overall, the study found that happy or moderately happy students tended to cope just as well as those students who had high happiness scores. The mean GPA for this sample of students was 2.85. There was no correlation between community college students' happiness and GPAs. Recommendations and suggestions for community college counselors, leaders and other constituents were made pertaining to how this research information aided in understanding community college student happiness and its relationship to the strategies these students used to cope.