Impulsive risk behaviours, self-harm, and demographic factors as predictors of coping amongst university students
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University students face significant levels of psychological distress due to the transitional period that they find themselves in, known as emerging adulthood, which, for young adults, is between the ages of 18 to 29 years. During this period, university students find it increasingly difficult as they encounter numerous stressors, have the tendency to lack the necessary coping mechanisms, have poor social support, experience rapid changes in social and psychological development, and have high academic expectations, while having to develop social roles and preparing for adult roles. Furthermore, university students tend to struggle with psychological challenges such as depression, anxiety, suicidality, a history of psychiatric hospitalisation, self-injury incidents, sexual assault concerns on campus, and alcohol-related issues. Consequently, due to the increase in the stressors and the psychological severity of problems during this transitional period, university students find it challenging to cope. This study aimed to investigate which variables or combination of variables (Impulsive Risk Behaviours, Self-Harm, Age, Gender, and Academic Level) explained a significant percentage of variance in Coping among university students. To determine the correlations between variables, a correlational design was necessary for this non-experimental, quantitative study. A non-probability sampling technique known as convenience sampling was used in this study. The sample comprised 471 university students from the University of the Free State from all ethnic groups and genders, aged between 18 and 29 years, enrolled for any major and on either undergraduate or postgraduate educational level from various departments within the Faculty of the Humanities. The students were from disciplines that included, but were not limited to, Psychology, Criminology, Anthropology, Communication Science, Sociology, and Political Science. The measuring instruments included a self-developed biographical questionnaire, the Impulsive Behaviour Scale (IBS), the Self-Harm Information Form (SHIF), and the Coping Orientation to Problem Experience (COPE) Inventory. Correlation analyses were conducted, followed by hierarchical regression analyses, which were used to analyse the data. The research findings highlighted that Impulsive Risk Behaviour demonstrated statistically significant positive correlations with (1) Behavioural Disengagement and (2) Substance Use Coping. Furthermore, a statistically significant positive correlation was found between Self-Harm and Substance Use Coping. Lastly, Impulsive Risk Behaviour statistically and practically significantly predicted Substance Use Coping among university students, which corresponded with previous research that stipulated a positive relationship between impulsive risk behaviours and substance use coping. However, the current study was not able to demonstrate a combination of predictor variables that predicted Coping among university students. Consequently, numerous variables yielded statistically significant results, although practical significance was not obtained and hence was not discussed in the study. The study’s findings demonstrate a relationship between Impulsive Risk Behaviour, Self-Harm, Disengagement Coping, and Substance Use Coping, which all are of concern among university students. These results indicate that students tend to utilise maladaptive behaviours and coping strategies to deal with their stressors. However, further research should be conducted on the predictors of coping among university students in South Africa to build on the knowledge created by this study.