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Today’s modern life is full of cares and stress. Stress is a nature force from external world which affects an individual. In every sphere of life, an individual has to face numerous challenges and fulfill various responsibilities. Humor is something with which we lighten up our each day and helps us to create common grounds with others. It gives the person courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope even in the times of difficulty and makes a person feel better. Studies have often shown the dual benefits of humor, particularly its ability to increase the experience of positive affect, thus lessening negative reactions to adversity. Evidence also suggests that humor is a successful coping technique that can provide the individual with a more optimistic attitude towards life (Crawford & Caltabiano, 2011). Research has shown that the use of humor to cope with stress predicted a significant decrement in depressive symptoms as well as stressful experiences (Ward & Kennedy, 2001).

           

HUMOR

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The Oxford English Dictionary (Simpson and Weiner 1989) has defined humor as the “quality of action, speech, or writing which excites amusement,” which is “the faculty of perceiving what is ludicrous or amusing, or of expressing it in speech, writing, or other composition; jocose imagination or treatment of a subject”. Martin et al. (2003) defines humor style as a person’s habitual way of using humor in daily life, that is, one’s typical and stable pattern of humor behaviors and attitudes

 Humor is one of the most important and effective human qualities which brightens one’s life with enjoyment, positivity and light-heartedness. Engaging in humor has the power of making everyone around feel happy and elicits positive mood in them. It has the power with which every situation can be influenced positively. Every individual has one’s own way of using humor. It can be manifested either in an adaptive way or maladaptive way. A model of humor has been proposed by Martin et al. (2003). The model describes four humor styles, two of which are positive or beneficial to the self or others, and two that are negative or detrimental to the self or others. The two positive humor styles are referred as affiliative and self-enhancing, whereas the two negative humor styles as self-defeating and aggressive. The following are the humor styles (Martin et al., 2003)

·         Affiliative Humor – People who have an affiliative humor style essentially use humor to attain interpersonal or social rewards. That is, they amuse and entertain others in order to enhance the quality of social relationships. Since the use of such humor affirms both the self and others, it is linked with increased intimacy in social relationships (Martin et al., 2003), greater conflict resolution (Campbell et al., 2008), etc.

·         Self-enhancing Humor – People who have a self-enhancing humor style use humor to achieve intrapersonal rewards, that is, to enhance or maintain positive psychological well-being. They maintain a humorous outlook on life, coping with difficult circumstances by viewing them from a humorous perspective (Ford et al., 2014).

·         Aggressive Humor – The use of aggressive humor is intended to put others down by using sarcasm, teasing and ridicule. It is the tendency to use humor for the purpose of criticizing or manipulating others, say funny things that are likely to hurt or alienate others. It is excessively critical and ridiculing of one’s self and attempts to amuse others by doing or saying funny things at one’s own expense (Martin et al., 2003; Kazarian & Martin, 2004).

·         Self-defeating Humor – Individuals using self-defeating humor style allow themselves to be the “butt” of jokes in the hopes of gaining others’ approval and acceptance and is used to enhance relationships with others, but at the expense of positive feelings about self (Kuiper & Leite, 2010). Such individuals may struggle to increase their self-esteem through relationships.

Perceived Stress

Tracing the history of the concept of stress, its origin dates back to 1914, when Cannon used the term “stress” in the field of medicine. The term ‘stress’ describes the physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses to events that are appraised as threatening or challenging. It has typically been used to refer both to the adjustive demands placed on an organism and to the organism’s internal biological and psychological responses to such demands. Adjustive demands are referred to as stressors; the effects they create within an organism as stress; and the efforts to deal with stress as Coping strategies. Stress is a by-product of poor or inadequate coping (Carson et al., 2008).

According to Cohen, Kamarck and Mermelstein (1983), perceived stress refers to the degree to which the situations in a person’s life are appraised as stressful.

According to Phillips (2013), perceived stress has been referred to as those feelings or thoughts an individual has about how much stress they are experiencing at a given point of time.

Humor and Perceived Stress

Many theorists believed that humor serves a purpose that is vitally important for survival. In a study conducted by An et al. (2007), it was posited that Humor has the effect of calming anger, resolves tension arising from the conflicts of relationships, and plays an essential role in promoting personal relationships through relieving stress caused by personal relationships. Therefore it becomes important to understand humor styles in relation to stress.

Rowe & Regehr (2010), in a study, found that  individuals working in highly stressful occupations often employ humor to relieve tension, vent their feelings, and cope with stress in various settings.

In view of Mauriello and McConatha (2007), humor can relieve stress and enhance mood, in the same way as physical exercise can. People having a well-developed sense of humor have a better ability to distance themselves from stress-related problems and engage in more varied coping mechanisms, such as active problem-solving. In a study conducted on 182 participants, the associations between humor styles and perceptions of stress were investigated. On the basis of the findings of previous literature, it was expected that adaptive humor styles would be inversely related to perceptions of stress, while maladaptive humor styles would be positively related to perceptions of stress. The results were found to be in the expected direction with one major exception. Affiliative humor was not found to be significantly correlated with perceptions of stress. According to the researchers, it was assumed that the function of affiliative humor was to build social relationships which may not be a strong buffer against the perception of stress. A higher score on aggressive humor was correlated with a higher score on perceptions of stress.

Gender differences in Humor Styles and Perceived Stress

In a study conducted by Matud (2004), gender differences in stress were explored. The study was conducted on a sample of 2816 individuals within the age range of 18 and 65 years, out of which 1566 were women and 1250 were men. Results of the study revealed that females scored significantly higher than males in chronic stress and minor daily stressors. There were no differences in the number of life events experienced by both males and females in the previous two years, still females rated their life events in a more negative way and as being less controllable in comparison to males. 

Chan, Chen and Proyer (2009) conducted a study on a Chinese sample and found that males preferred aggressive humor. On the other hand, females were found to prefer affiliative humor with which they can improve their interpersonal relationships.

According to American Psychological Association (2011), women report more stress in comparison to men. There are different ways in which men and women manage their stressful experiences. In addition, they place different level of importance to managing their stress. It has been found that men are less concerned about managing their stress levels, whereas women place more emphasis on managing their stress levels but they feel that they are unable to do it effectively. On the basis of a survey, it was found that men were less likely than women to report that stress has a very strong impact on a their health (78 percent vs. 88 percent). Moreover, they were more likely than women to report that their own stress has slight or no impact on their physical and or mental health.

 

Statement of the Problem

The aim of the present investigation was to study gender differences in humor styles and perceived stress among college students.

 

HYPOTHESES

Based on the review of literature, the following hypothesis has been proposed:

1.      Gender differences are expected in humor styles and perceived stress.

2.      Adaptive humor styles (Affiliative humor and Self-enhancing humor) are expected to be negatively related with Perceived Stress, whereas Maladaptive humor styles (Aggressive humor and Self-defeating humor) are expected to be positively related with Perceived Stress.

Sample

The sample of the study comprised of 150 college students (75 males, 75 females) from various colleges of Chandigarh in the age range of 18 – 23 years.

 

Tests And Tools Used

1.      Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ; Martin et al. 2003)

2.      The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen et al. 1983)

Statistical Analysis

Descriptive Statistics i.e. Means, Standard Deviations (SD’s) were calculated. t-test was used to compare male and female college students on humor and stress. intercorrelational analysis was also done to study the relationship between humor styles and perceived stress.

Results and Discussion

The aim of the present investigation was to study humor styles in relation to perceived stress. For this purpose, a sample of 100 college students (50 males, 50 females) in the age range of 18 – 23 years was selected from various colleges in Chandigarh. The sample was administered the Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ; Martin et al. 2003) and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen et al. 1983).

The raw scores were analyzed using appropriate statistical analyses viz. Descriptive Statistics and t-test. Table 1 shows means, standard deviations and t-ratios comparing male and female college students. The comparison revealed the following t-ratios to be significant. Females scored higher on Affiliative and Self-enhancing humor (t=2.23, p<.05 and p respectively than males scored higher on aggressive self-defeating humor thus the hypothesis stating significant gender differences in styles has been upheld. results were highly accordance with past research. there no found perceived stress among college students. a study conducted by liu et al. it was that use more females. studies have shown tend to score significantly females two maladaptive styles. these finding suggests men are likely prefer using negative their female counterparts this shows differential role play both genders. correlational analysis done relationship of stress. table intercorrelational matrix for total sample. revealed sample adaptive self-enhancing negatively related affiliative .26 be huor positively .33 .42 positive besser contended forms can expected associated failure regulate increased distress. therefore result is line previous researches. students .12 .13 also .34 .39 upheld whereas not male .30 .18 .02 .45 partly glimpse at show which decreased makes them prone stressful experiences life. kalliny cruthirds minor arabs americans examined. comparison women arab american cultures. an explanation put forth assertive tough focused material success while modest tender concerned quality life.gender make deal situations humor. however present showed endorse appreciate literature supports view meaning gressley wong posited consider themselves humorous likelihood joke tease women. like act appreciative way rather listener jokes. they less produce probably because as means achieve status even if expense other people martin research look intimacy seek self-presentation one reasons attributed ability jokes or funny comments attempt momentarily outwit embarrass person major ways gaining status. defensive supportive tool order keep masculine identity intact addition disparity explained terms social support. levels support from groups amongst hostile considered behaviorally appropriate elicits reactions similar accepted may misinterpreted hostility. holtzman holmes strongly correlated accentuated buffering romero feel afraid without fear greater sense control incompatible feeling wooten proposed perception enables us experience joy when faced adversity. after spate laughter decrease level hormones cortisol epinephrine immunosuppressive become elevated response hormone enhance immune system. profile scoring high being validates expectations. many outcomes viz. well-being optimism happiness etc. suggested valuable counseling. counselors introduce increase rapport between counselor client reduce resistance explore emotions lessen health school taught cultivate used coping strategy. shall help life effectively.>

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