Understanding student stress: a qualitative study of the stress experienced by third level students
University College Cork
Stress can be understood in terms of the meaning of stressful experiences for individuals. The meaning of stressful experiences involves threats to self-adequacy, where self-adequacy is considered a basic human need. Appropriate research methods are required to explore this aspect of stress. The present study is a qualitative exploration of the stress experienced by a group of 27 students at the National Institute of Higher Education, Limerick (since renamed the University of Limerick). The study was carried out by the resident student counsellor at the college. A model of student stress was explored, based on student developmental needs. The data consist of a series of interviews recorded with each of the 27 students over a 3 month period. These interviews were transcribed and the resulting transcripts are the subject of detailed analysis. The analysis of the data is an account of the sense-making process by the student counsellor of the students' reported experiences. The aim of the analysis was to reduce the large amounts of data to their most salient aspects in an ordered fashion, so as to examine the application of a developmental model of stress with this group of students. There were two key elements to the analysis. First, the raw data were edited to identify the key statements contained in the interviews. Second, the statements were categorised, as a means of summarising the data. The results of the qualitative dataanalysis were then applied to the developmental model. The analysis of data revealed a number of patterns of stress amongst the sample of students. Patterns of academic over-identification, parental conflict and social inadequacy were particularly noteworthy. These patterns consisted of an integration of academic, family and social stresses within a developmental framework. Gender differences with regard to the need for separateness and belonging are highlighted. Appropriate student stress intervention strategies are discussed. Based on the present results, the relationship between stress and development has been highlighted and is recommended as a firm basis for future studies of stress in general and student stress in particular.
Stimulus model , Response model , Stress research approaches
Aherne, D. 1998. Understanding student stress: a qualitative study of the stress experienced by third level students. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.