Adaptability in Youth: Components, Predictors, and Consequences

Doctoral Studies Completed Theses – 2014 Archive

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Mohamad Ghasemi-Nejad

PhD thesis, conferred 2014

There has been an extensive amount of research on human defence and coping mechanisms. This body of work spans evolutionary and coping perspectives, as well as work on cognitive appraisal, self-regulation, resilience and buoyancy. Relative to the body of work addressing adversity (e.g., coping, resilience, buoyancy, hardiness), little research has investigated the range of personal resources individuals may use as they seek to navigate uncertainty and novelty. Adaptability is a recently developed construct that aims to extend current research and knowledge with regards to the regulation and adjustment of cognition, behaviour, and emotion relevant to situational uncertainty and novelty. Given this, the present investigation proposes an integrative process model that assesses the relative roles of socio-demographic and ability covariates, personality and other dispositional presage factors, and adaptability (and buoyancy as a cognate correlate) in predicting psychological well-being outcomes such as life satisfaction and self-esteem. Students from nine Australian high schools in years 7 through 12 participated in this study. Time1 (N = 2,731 students) data were collected in the middle of the academic year and Time 2 (N = 2,292 students) data were collected one year later (resulting in a longitudinal sample, N = 969 students). Using confirmatory factor analysis, key psychometric findings demonstrated sound factor structure of adaptability itself, and also within the context of the study’s broader multidimensional instrumentation. Structural equation modelling (SEM) supported the hypothesised adaptability process model at Time 1, such that: (a) prior achievement, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, entity and incremental beliefs (positively) and neuroticism (negatively) predicted adaptability and (b) adaptability positively predicted general self-esteem, satisfaction with life, and meaning and purpose. Time 2 analyses showed: (a) non-English speaking background, prior achievement, extraversion, conscientiousness and incremental beliefs predicted adaptability (positively), and neuroticism (negatively) predicted adaptability and (b) adaptability positively predicted general self-esteem, satisfaction with life and meaning and purpose. Importantly, longitudinal SEM demonstrated that Time 1 factors positively predicted their corresponding Time 2 factors and the majority of predictive paths at Time 2 remained significant after controlling for shared variance with Time 1 counterparts. Findings from this research hold implications for the theoretical understanding of adaptability, where it resides in the context of cognate theories and factors, and for educational practice and research relating to how young people navigate situational uncertainty and novelty.

Supervisor: Professor Andrew Martin