Comparative Assessment of Personality-Mental Characteristics and Mental State of Undergraduates

Comparative Assessment of Personality-Mental Characteristics and Mental State of Undergraduates

ˑ: 

S.A. Varzin, professor, Dr.Hab.
O.E. Piskun, associate professor, Ph.D.
N.N. Petrova, professor, Dr.Med.
St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, St. Petersburg

Key words: students, personality-mental characteristics, mental state, adaptation.

Relevance. The problem of adaptation of an individual in the society is interdisciplinary and is the subject of research for philosophers and sociologists, psychologists, doctors and teachers [6-8, 9]. Adapting students to the ever-changing university educational environment is one of the important goals of modern pedagogics [1, 2]. The relevance of the problem of adapting students to learning and professional activities is determined by the fact that the basis for the formation of professionalism, as well as the need and preparedness for continuous self-education under ever-changing conditions, is formed during university studies.

Adaptation to university studies is a complex and multi-factor process expressed in the form of students' adaptation syndrome, the specific nature of which is displayed depending on the organization of the university training process and on students' personality characteristics, their compensation abilities [3, 5, 9]. Among other things, adaptation of students is a complex process of restructuring of mental activity, and it is to find expression in the variations of the level values of specific personality characteristics, and in the changes in their interconnections, as well as in different relations of these changes during different periods of the adaptive process. The variations in the level of functions and their stabilization are indicative of adaptation to the educational process.

Adaptation of undergraduates was studied in various directions. Special focus was put on the adaptation of junior students, as its effectiveness to a large extent determines further professional life and personal enhancement of future specialists [4, 10, 11].

The purpose of the study was to analyze personality-psychological characteristics and mental state of undergraduates as factors influencing adaptation to university studies.

Materials and methods. The results of the continuous monitoring of the psychophysical state of junior students of SPbSPU served as the data for the study carried out by the Department of Physical Culture and Adaptation within the physical education curriculum. During the 2013-2014 fall semester a total of 150 first-year students (aged 17,3±1,2 years) and 50 second-year students (aged 18,4±1,3 years) were examined using the continuous method. About 60% of the examined students were female.

During the examination, computer-based psychological methodologies were applied. The "Toronto Alexitymia Scale" (TAS) was used to evaluate the intensity of alexitymia as a personality characteristic which determines the risk of psychosomatic disorders. Alexitymia is vital for communication and effective interpersonal interaction.

The Spielberger’s anxiety scale used for quantitative estimation of personal and situational anxiety is used to determine anxiety as a stable personality characteristic which is a significant risk factor for development of deadaptation, as well as situational anxiety as an actual state of a person (the level of anxiety).

The level of neurotic asthenia (LNA) scale, meant for express-diagnostics of asthenic reactions and determination of the intensity of mental state consisting in subjective feelings of weariness, dullness, increased fatigability, decrease of mental and physical working capacity, vegetative dysfunction and sleep disorders. Asthenia should not be confused with conventional fatigue, it does not pass off even after a long rest.

The current characteristic is important for determination of the nature of reduction of physical working capacity. Thus, while testing their psychological state, neurotic asthenia was observed in some students with reduced level of physical working capacity. The given fact proves that psychogenic factors may lead to the decrease in working capacity. This circumstance determines the development of special (complex) methodologies of correction of psychophysical state of students basing on the tools and methods of physical culture and medical psychology.

Results and discussion. 31.64% of the first-year students (including 25% of females) displayed the increased level of alexithymia which reached 71.52 TAS points, which is slightly more pronounced in young males - 73.33 points (the index of the "non-alexithymic" personality type equaled 62 points and lower).

Increased situational anxiety was registered in 16.14% of the first-year students. Out of the total number of the examined first-year students the percentage of females with increased level of anxiety equaled 12.63%, the percentage of young males - 3.51%. In 76.92% of young males and 54.54% of females with increased situational anxiety as an actual state characteristic its intensity reached a high level. The level of situational anxiety in young males was slightly higher compared with females: 47.77 and 45.14 points accordingly.

22.26% of the first-year students displayed increased level of personal anxiety. The percentage of females with increased personal anxiety equaled 21.75%, the percentage of young males - 3.5% out of the total number of the examined first-year students. In 93.93% of females and 76.92% of young males with increased personal anxiety as a stable personality characteristic its level was significantly pronounced: 52.77 and 52.39 points accordingly. The level of personal anxiety was slightly higher in females.

The gradation of the levels of anxiety: up to 30 points - low anxiety or lack of one; 31-44 points - moderate anxiety; 45 and more - high anxiety.

Asthenia with varied degree of probability was observed in 63.34% of the first-year students, including 50.53% of females and 12.81% of young males.

As for the second-year students, an increased level of alexithymia was registered in 38.30% of them, including 31.91% of females and 6.38% of young males. The obtained data are indicative of the tendency to a higher intensity of alexithymia in females: 73.2 points - females and 62.77 point - young males.

High situational anxiety was observed in 22% of the second-year students. The percentage of young males with high situational anxiety equaled 6%, the percentage of females - 16%. There was determined a tendency to a slightly higher intensity of situational anxiety (anxiety as a state) in the second-year male students: 48.33 point - young males and 45.13 points - females.

Increased personal anxiety was registered in 31.91% of the second-year students, including 29.79 % of females and 2.13% of young males out of the total number of the examined. Personal anxiety in the second year of studies was slightly greater in female students: 53 points - females and 42.67 points - young males. 66% of the second-year students displayed the signs of asthenia, among which 52% were females.

Conclusions. The findings indicate a significant frequency of adaptation issues among undergraduates, that may aggravate their psychophysical health and reduce progress in studies. About a third of students are in the risk group in terms of psychosomatic disorders. More than 60% of students have an asthenic syndrome. The frequency of increased anxiety as a state is significant. Females are distinguished by personality predisposition to development of deadaptation and are characterized by more frequent anxiety compared with young males.

During undergraduate studies there exists a trend to more frequent increased anxiety, both personal and situational; the number of cases with marked excess alexithymic radical and asthenia (Table).

Table. Comparative analysis of personality-mental characteristics and mental state of junior students of SPbSPU.

Number of students

Total out of overall number of students

Females

Young males

1 course

2 course

1 course

2 course

1 course

2 course

Asthenia

63,34%

66%

50, 53%

52%

12,81%

14%

Increased situational anxiety

16,14%

22%

12,63%

16%

3,51%

6%

Increased personal anxiety

25,26%

31,91%

21,75% 

29,79%

3,5%

2,13%

Increased alexithymia

31,64%

38,30%

25%

31,91%

6,7%

6,38%

 

Proceeding from the findings, a comprehensive psycho-pedagogical support of students is required, aimed at strengthening of their mental and physical adaptation resources and improving university training.

To implement this approach, in its turn, the methodological problem is to be solved associated with the development of integrated psychological and pedagogical techniques involving specialists in the field of physical education, medicine and psychology.

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Corresponding author: piskun@imop.ru