The influence of athletic participation and grit on stress, coping, and health behaviors among college students.

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The purpose of this study was two-fold: 1) examine grit in a sample of undergraduate students and compare scores between student-athletes (SAs) and nonathletes, and 2) test a theoretical model to understand relationships between grit, stress, coping, and adverse health behaviors. Lazarus and Folkman’s transactional model of stress and coping was utilized to examine the aforementioned relationships. A paperand-pencil survey was completed by a sample of undergraduate students (N = 522) at a private, religious institution in the southwestern United States. The questionnaire inquired about various factors of college student life (e.g. stress, time attributed to working, studying, and sport participation), health behaviors (e.g. depressive symptoms, substance use), and potential coping strategies (e.g. active, instrumental, emotional, selfdistraction, coping via substance use). Predictor and outcome variables were mapped onto the theoretical model and a path analysis was conducted to statistically examine the relationships. The analysis of coping behaviors revealed three coping behaviors were significantly predicted by perceived stress: active coping, self-distraction, and emotional support. An inverse relationship existed between PS and active coping, indicating that as stress levels increased, the use of active coping decreased. Self-distraction and emotional support had positive associations with PS. Self-distraction was also a significant predictor of both DS and 12-month marijuana use. Finally, based on significant bivariate relationships, athletic participation and grit were tested as moderators. Both sets of regression analyses resulted in less explained variance of DS once the interaction terms were added to the statistical model. The results of this study demonstrate that grit is a valuable construct in the analysis of stress and DS in college students. Additionally, certain coping strategies may influence the relationship between stress and adverse health behaviors more than others. As such, this dissertation provides implications for future research in these areas.

Grit. Student athletes. College athletes. Transactional model of stress and coping. Substance use. Perceived stress. Depressive symptoms.