Perceived stress, smartphone dependency, coping behaviors, and psychological well-being among undergraduate students in Malaysia

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Md Nordin, Noradilah
Major Professor
Peter Martin
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Human Development and Family Studies

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies focuses on the interactions among individuals, families, and their resources and environments throughout their lifespans. It consists of three majors: Child, Adult, and Family Services (preparing students to work for agencies serving children, youth, adults, and families); Family Finance, Housing, and Policy (preparing students for work as financial counselors, insurance agents, loan-officers, lobbyists, policy experts, etc); and Early Childhood Education (preparing students to teach and work with young children and their families).


The Department of Human Development and Family Studies was formed in 1991 from the merger of the Department of Family Environment and the Department of Child Development.

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  • College of Human Sciences (parent college)
  • Department of Child Development (predecessor)
  • Department of Family Environment (predecessor)

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Well-being is essential to promote students’ development. The present research investigated the association between life events, perceived stress, smartphone dependency, coping behaviors, and psychological well-being. This cross-sectional study employed convenience sampling, and the sample consisted of 303 undergraduates at one public university in Malaysia. Most of the participants were Malay (74.6%), followed by Chinese (15.8%), Indian (6.9%), and other ethnic groups (2.6%). Several types of analyses were used: descriptive statistics, bivariate correlations, mean differences, and structural equation modeling.

Descriptive research indicated that the five most common life events were “family get-together,” “getting an unjustified low grade on a test,” “vacation with parents,” “minor financial problems,” and “vacation alone/with friends.” The analyses yielded significant gender and year of study differences in perceived stress. Women had higher perceived stress levels than men. Perceived stress was significantly lower for first-year students than second- and third-year students. Next, there was a significant effect of ethnicity on psychological well-being and daily life disturbance. Specifically, psychological well-being was significantly lower for Malay than Non-Malay students. In contrast, daily life disturbance was significantly higher for Malay than Non-Malay students. In addition, there was a significant interaction between gender and ethnicity on life events and problem focused-coping. Non-Malay men experienced fewer life events than Non-Malay women, Malay men, and Non-Malay women. Non-Malay men were less likely to utilize problem-focused coping than Non-Malay women, Malay men, and Malay women.

The measurement and structural model fit very well after allowing some modifications of the models. Results of the structural equation model indicate that experiencing higher levels of life events may lead to higher levels of perceived stress. Higher levels of perceived stress predicted lower levels of psychological well-being. Perceived stress had significant effects on smartphone dependency, emotion-focused, and avoidance-focused coping. In addition, problem-focused had a significant effect on psychological well-being. In terms of mediation effects, perceived stress fully mediated the association between life events and psychological well-being. Perceived stress partially mediated the relationship between life events and avoidance-focused coping. However, there were no mediation and moderation effects of smartphone dependency and coping behaviors on the association between perceived stress and psychological well-being. The results have implications for college students’ well-being programs and give insights for future researchers, counselors, educators, and policymakers. The results confirm the validity of concepts, appropriateness in a different culture, and enrich the cross-cultural literature.

Wed May 01 00:00:00 UTC 2019