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Kuzmin M. Y., Konopak I. A. (2016). Distinctive features of adolescent hardiness in families of different composition. Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 9(3), 95-102.

Abstract

This article analyzes the influence of family structure on the hardiness of adolescents aged 16-18 (average age 17.2). The aim was to investigate hardiness of subjects from full, single-parent, and large families. We used the Test of Hardiness Survey and the Noetic Orientations Test (SZhO). The sample comprised 200 subjects, first year university students from families with different compositions: 75 were brought up in a full family, 75 in a one-parent family, and 50 in a large family. A one-way analysis of variance and repeated measures MANCOVA showed that the subjects differ both in their hardiness and the distinctive features of its development. The authors conclude that subjects from full families are less hardy than those from single-parent families, but more hardy than those from large families. Also the hardiness dynamics of children from full, single-parent, and large families differ. Adolescents from single-parent families increase their hardiness further, whereas in students from full families it decreases. This can be explained by specific ways that the students survive the crisis of adolescence. And finally, students from large families demonstrate a similar level of hardiness in comparison with students from full families. This can also be explained by specific ways that they survive the crisis of adolescence. Later, when this crisis is almost over, their hardiness becomes similar to that of students from full families, which has decreased by that time.

DOI:  10.11621/pir.2016.0306

Pages:  95-102

About the authorsKuzmin, Mikhail Y.; Konopak, Igor A.

ThemesDevelopmental psychology; Gender psychology

Keywords:  hardiness, commitment, control, challenge, family structure, adolescents

PDF: http://psychologyinrussia.com/volumes/pdf/2016_3/psychology_2016_3_6.pdf

Downloads: 520

Introduction

During the past 20 years, hardiness has been a subject of study by scientists internationally and in Russia. Although as M.V. Loginova (2010) has pointed out, there are many interpretations of hardiness (e.g., “survivability”, or “the courage to be” by R Tillich et al.), in Russian psychology, the most empirically substantiated theory of hardiness is that of S. Maddi. According to his theory, hardiness is a pattern of attitudes and skills that, together, facilitate resilience under pressure by turning stressful circumstances from potential disasters into opportunities to grow in wisdom and performance. Hardiness consists of three attitudes: commitment, control, and challenge. Strong commitment refers to the belief that, no matter how bad things get, it is usually best to remain involved with the events and people in ones life, rather than to retreat into isolation and alienation. Strong control is the belief that, no matter how bad things get, it is worth continuing to try to effect outcomes, rather than retreating into powerlessness and passivity. Strong challenge is the belief that stressful changes are normal in life, and provide an opportunity to learn more, rather than being an inappropriate violation of one’s right to easy comfort and security (Maddi et. al., 2009).

During the last 25 years, some investigations have touched on the problem of hardiness development and the factors that determine hardiness. Khoshaba and Maddi (1999) suggested that the roots of hardiness lie in youngsters’ early experiences. They discussed the ideal condition for the development of hardiness as a nurturant period of childhood giving way to the more individualized development of adolescence, when youngsters must find their own way in a period marked by social and biological changes on an unprecedented scale for them. According to this hypothesis, in early life, persons who later became very hardy frequently experienced stressful changes and conflicts (for example, the emotional or physical absence of one or both parental figures, poverty, immigrant status, mental or physical illness of one or both parental figures). As a result, Khoshaba and Maddi conclude that it is not the mere fact of stressful circumstances in early life that contributes to the development of personal hardiness but, rather, the response to such circumstances in a compensatory manner by the family and the individual.

But this result was obtained in a group of adults. Some studies rely on data from teenager groups. For example, Hannah and Morrissey (1987), using a sample of adolescents, found that sex, age, religion, and the well-being of the family have strong correlations with hardiness. Shepperd and Kashani (1991), using a sample of adolescents, showed how hardiness, gender, and stress are interrelated. These variables can be a foundation for classification of teenagers’ hardiness. Though there has been some research on the relation between adolescents’ hardiness and their families (e.g., Walsh, 1996), very often other methods are used to study this phenomenon.

Bigbee (1992) tries to analyze the hardiness concept beyond the individual level. He emphasizes that, according to Maddi and Kobasa (1984), hardiness develops as a result of the family environment, so he explores the concept of hardiness from a family perspective, examining the effects of stressful life events on hardiness, and their effects on illness in families. In his view, “hardy families” are the result of hardy adult family members. But Bigbee does not analyze the hardiness of adolescents specifically, although in his study there are families with children under 18. Moreover he does not analyze non-married families, although his sample includes 10.4% such families.

Henry, Robinson and Wilson (2003) investigated how demography, family system, adolescent perceptions of parental behavior, and youth characteristics correlate with adolescent substance abuse. They tested a path model of specific factors within three levels of the family system in relation to substance abuse with a subsample of 214 high school students. Using this model, they studied family hardiness in different families (including single-parent families). According to their definition, family hardiness describes the extent to which families feel a sense of control over life events. But family hardiness is not the same as hardiness as it is understood by Maddi, the authors did not identify distinctive features of family hardiness in different families.

Amerikaner, Monks, Wolfe, and Thomas (1994) investigated the relationships between individual psychological health (PH) and perceptions by young adults of family interaction and family climate. But though they described particular characteristics of young adults’ hardiness, they did not consider families with different compositions.

Khodarahimi and Ogletree (2011) researched the hardiness of adolescents from different families and found that larger family size is related to less life satisfaction and special attention to emotions, and that having sisters may predict more negative outcomes than having brothers. Also, using the Ahwaz Hardiness Inventory (in the Farsi language), they found that family structure (including birth order) does not have a significant effect on hardiness. But the authors analyzed only large families and did not consider single-parent families.

Mirzaei and Kadivarzare (2014) studied the relationship between parenting styles and hardiness of high school students. They concluded that parenting styles play a significant role in hardiness, and that control is the key concept in both variables of parenting styles and hardiness. In authoritative and authoritarian parenting styles, the method of parenting is control. Control regulates intra-psychic processes and forms the control component of hardiness. Therefore it is essential to devise a special training method for parents to enhance the students’ mental health.

Thus although some papers have shown that family structure affects the development of hardiness, no special research on this influence has been conducted. Our study is therefore aimed at revealing how family composition affects the hardiness of adolescents.

The specific hypotheses tested are:

  • subjects from full families have greater hardiness than those from single parent and large families;

  • adolescents from full, single-parent, and large families demonstrate different dynamics of hardiness development.

Method

Participants

In this cross-sectional study, we use a sample of teenagers aged 16-18 (average age 17.2) first-year students from families with different compositions. They were recruited from various departments of Irkutsk State University (journalism, psychology, physics, philology, law, and mathematics) by university newspaper announcements and bulletin boards. After selecting the participants, explaining the aims of the study, and securing their cooperation, we interviewed them to refine their family status. Then we reduced the sample to 200 participants: 75 from a full family, 75 from a one-parent family, and 50 from a large family (three or more children). The number of boys and girls in all groups was equal, so the samples are representative with respect to demographic variables. In the group of single-parent families we included families which were singleparent ones originally (64% of the sample) as well as those where divorce took place when the teenage subjects were children (36% of the sample). We did not take into consideration their siblings’ gender and their birth order in large families, though in 74% of cases the subjects were the oldest children.

Procedure

We utilized the Test of Hardiness, which is the Personal Views Survey III-R by S. Maddi as adapted by D.A. Leontiev (Leontiev & Rasskazova, 2006). This consists of three dimensions: commitment, control, and challenge. The internal consistency of the total measure was 0.91 in the present sample, with 0.84 for commitment, 0.86 for control, and 0.89 for challenge. Commitment measures the extent to which individuals seek involvement rather than withdrawal; it contains a vital motivational quality that compels the individual to persist in pursuing a goal despite repeated obstacles, for example, “By working hard, you can always achieve your goal”. Control deals with the extent to which individuals strive to exert control over their circumstances rather than feeling powerless. Perception of control or the degree to which a stressor is seen as under an individuals control are thus important in the appraisal of threat (e.g., “Most days, life is really interesting and exciting for me”). Challenge measures the extent to which individuals strive to learn from experience rather than feeling threatened (e.g. “My mistakes are usually difficult to correct”).

We also used the Noetic Orientations Test (SZhO), an adaptation by D.A. Leontiev (2006) of J. Crumbaugh’s and L. Maholic’s Purpose-in-Life Test. The SZhO is a self-report attitudinal scale designed to measure the extent to which a respondent perceives a general sense of meaning and purpose in life, or conversely, suffers from an “existential vacuum”. It consists of 20 items which focus on the respondent’s mood (e.g., item 1: I am usually completely bored; neutral; exuberant; enthusiastic), 3 items addressed to life goals (e.g., item 3: In life I have no goals or aims at all; neutral; very clear goals and aims), and 3 items addressed to the meaning of life itself (e.g., item 4: My personal existence is utterly meaningless and without purpose; neutral; very purposeful and meaningful). Although Leontiev suggested 5 subscales, we used only the general scale of this test.

The data were analyzed using SPSS software. We used the independent twosample t-test and dependent t-test for paired samples.

Results

The first step was to compare the hardiness of a single-parent family and a full family. Table 1 contrasts the mean values of each group. A one-way analysis of variance showed that the subjects from single-parent families demonstrated commitment more clearly than those from full families. The other scale data of the Test of Hardiness are also higher, but these differences are not significant. The use of a one-way analysis of variance let us see that all the differences between the subjects from full and single-parent families involved boys. While the girls from full and single-parent families did not demonstrate differences in their level of hardiness, the boys from single-parent families achieved higher scores on the scales for hardiness, control, and challenge.

Table 1. Contrast of the mean values of hardiness in single-parent and full families


 

Variable

Mean Score

F

P

Single-Parent Family

Full Family

All

Commitment

34.43

31.57

4.45

0.01

Control

31.34

29.76

1.05

0.31

Challenge

16.52

16.20

0.29

0.69

Hardiness

81.75

78.40

1.02

0.31

Boys

Commitment

36.89

33.26

2.54

0.11

Control

35.26

29.01

8.90

0.00

Challenge

18.16

15.65

4.60

0.03

Hardiness

89.05

77.92

5.26

0.02

Girls

Commitment

32.56

33.90

0.35

0.56

Control

28.36

28.49

0.01

0.94

Challenge

15.28

16.80

1.86

0.18

Hardiness

76.20

76.20

0.38

0.54

Table 2. Contrast of the mean values of hardiness in large and full families


 

Variable

Mean Score

F

P

Full Family

Large Family

All

Commitment

31.57

28.78

11.53

0.00

Control

29.76

24.39

15.52

0.00

Challenge

16.20

14.53

5.42

0.02

Hardiness

78.40

67.97

13.93

0.00

Boys

Commitment

33.26

31.39

1.47

0.23

Control

29.01

26.44

3.52

0.06

Challenge

15.65

14.67

1.74

0.19

Hardiness

77.92

72.50

2.75

0.10

Girls

Commitment

33.90

26.17

12.53

0.00

Control

28.49

22.33

15.29

0.00

Challenge

16.80

14.39

3.83

0.05

Hardiness

76.20

63.44

13.53

0.00

The second step was to compare the hardiness of a large family and that of a full family. It turned out that the subjects from large families demonstrated a much lower level of hardiness than the subjects from families with one or two children. A one-way analysis of variance showed that differences appeared on all scales: hardiness, commitment, control, challenge. As we mentioned earlier, the differences between the subjects from full and large families involve mainly girls. Girls from large families demonstrate higher levels of hardiness, commitment, control, and challenge than those from the other families. So while the subjects from single-parent families demonstrated much greater expressiveness of such hardiness attitudes as commitment, those from large families, conversely, demonstrated less expressiveness of hardiness itself and all its attitudes. At the same time, for subjects from single-parent families, boys demonstrated all the differences, whereas for subjects from full families, all the differences were demonstrated by girls.

The third step was to analyze the dynamics of hardiness of all the subjects. Using a repeated measures MANCOVA, we compared the results achieved a year later, and found that the subjects from full families demonstrated significant differences only for commitment (F = 5.9, p < 0.03). The level of this attitude decreased (from 31.57 to 29.11). But additional analysis showed this difference only for girls; no changes took place with boys. On the contrary, the girls from single-parent families demonstrated a great increase of such attitudes as challenge, from 15.28 to 17.89 (F = 13.7, p < 0.01), and the boys did not demonstrate such results.

Thus the dynamics of hardiness and its attitudes are different for the subjects from full and single-parent families. We found a decrease of commitment in the girls from full families and an increase of such an attitude as challenge in the girls from single-parent families. The boys from both full and single-parent families did not demonstrate any differences in the level of hardiness and its attitudes.

The situation with the children from large families is different. According to a repeated measures MANCOVA one year later, they demonstrated a sharp increase on such scales of the Test of Hardiness as hardiness from 63.44 to 67.07 (F = 9.5, p < 0.01) and control from 22.33 to 24.54 (F = 7.4, p < 0.02). The scales of commitment and challenge also increased, though not so much. The second analysis of differences between the children from full and large families a year later did not demonstrate any significant differences between the samples.

Thus we can conclude that the hardiness dynamics of children from full, singleparent, and large families differ. Adolescents from single-parent families demonstrate a further increase in hardiness, and those from full families show a decrease.

And finally, the students from large families demonstrate a similar level of hardiness in comparison to the students from full families.

In the fourth stage, we analyzed the results of the SZhO test. First, we saw that the teenagers’ results are in the statistical norm. A one-way analysis of variance showed that girls, in general, get a higher score on the SZhO than boys (F = 9.9, p < 0.01). But we did not find any difference between teenagers from a full family and those from a single-parent family, nor was there a difference between teenagers from full families and those from large families. This is of great interest, as there are stronger correlations between hardiness and its attitudes and the scales of the SZhO test (Kuzmin, 2012); but in this situation we could not find them.

Discussion

We could not find many studies that set out to investigate how family composition affects hardiness. According to Khoshaba and Maddi (1999), it is not the mere fact of stressful circumstances (like the loss of mother or father, divorce, and so on) in early life that contributes to the development of personality hardiness, but rather the response of the family and the individual to such circumstances.

Also, according to the results of Mirzaei and Kadivarzare (2014), hardiness is determined by parenting styles (authoritarian first of all). We did not analyze the distinctive features of the response to the styles in single-parent families, but boys from single-parent families scored higher on such Hardiness Test scales as hardiness, control, and challenge. So, we can assume, after Khoshaba and Maddi (1999), that the situation in single-parent families pushes boys to “transcend the morass” (as Khoshaba and Maddi put it). Another possible explanation is that in single families, as Khoshaba and Maddi suggested, parents attempt to convince the child that he or she has special abilities and talents that will lead to strength and achievement, whereas in full families the situation is different.

According to Khodarahimi and Ogletree (2011), larger family size is related to lower life satisfaction and special attention to emotions, where as family structure (including birth order) does not have a significant effect on hardiness. We found that hardiness of adolescents from large families is expressed less than in those from full families. We believe that this phenomenon may be connected with the following: Khodarahimi and Ogletree used a sample of subjects aged 11-19, but our subjects were only 16-17, and differences in how the hardiness of subjects from full and large families was expressed applied only to subjects of this age. Later, at ages 17-18, the differences disappeared. We conclude that this reflects a difference in the dynamics of hardiness.

Moreover, we found out that girls from large families in comparison to those from other families demonstrated a greater difference on such scales as hardiness, commitment, control, and challenge. Khodarahimi and Ogletree (2011) do not address this question. We suggest that the majority of subjects from large families who participated in the investigation were elder siblings, and hence received less attention from their parents, and that this fact influences their hardiness level during the period of adolescent crisis. Later, when this crisis was almost over, their hardiness became equalized with that of the students from full families, which had decreased by that time. On the contrary, the hardiness of subjects from one-parent families seems to be the basis of their way of coping. That is why it increases over time.

Conclusion

We conclude that the expressiveness of hardiness of adolescents from full, single parent, and large families differs. Subjects from full families are less hardy than those from single-parent families, but more than those from large families. So the first hypothesis is partly confirmed.

The dynamics of hardiness of children from full, single-parent, and large families also differ. Adolescents from single-parent families demonstrate a further increase in hardiness, and students from full families show a decrease. This could be explained by their specific ways of surviving an adolescent crisis. And finally, teenagers from large families demonstrate an similar level of hardiness in comparison to students from full families. This could also be explained by their specific ways of surviving an adolescent crisis. Later, when this crisis was almost over, their hardiness became equalized with that of the students from full families, which had decreased by that time.

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To cite this article: Kuzmin M. Y., Konopak I. A. (2016). Distinctive features of adolescent hardiness in families of different composition. Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 9(3), 95-102.

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