Personality and mental health in a cohort of black African teachers : the SABPA study
Korver, Meindert Adrianus
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The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between the Big Five personality traits and mental health within a cohort of black African teachers. A review of literature revealed that teachers frequently experience mental- and general health problems (e.g. Ngidi & Sibaya, 2002; Olivier & Venter, 2003; Johnson, Cooper, Cartwright, Donald, Taylor & Millet, 2005; Parker, Martin, Colmar, & Liem, 2012). However, very little could be found on personality traits and how this relates to the health and well-being of teachers, especially in the challenging South African context. This study forms part of the SABPA (Sympathetic Activity and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Africans) project conducted within AUTHeR (Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research). The overarching purpose of this multidisciplinary project was to investigate the markers of bio-psycho-social health in urbanized teachers. This longitudinal project ran from January 2008 to November 2012 and involved a total of 409 Black and White secondary school teachers. The research was conducted in the North West province of South-Africa. This study focused on the 200 urbanized Black teachers who were recruited by means of convenience sampling from the Dr. Kenneth Kaunda educational district in the Potchefstroom area in the North West province during 2008. The sample included 101 men and 99 women, ranging between the ages of 25 and 60 years. Ethical permission for the SABPA and FORT3 projects was obtained from the ethics committee of the North-West University (ethical clearance numbers NWU-00036-07-S6 and NWU-00002-07-A2 respectively). Participants filled out informed consent forms prior to data collection, and after the objectives of the study and the research procedures were explained to them, all their questions were answered. Data collection for the baseline phase of the project lasted for 50 days during February to May 2008. Four participants arrived at the North-West University (NWU) Metabolic Unit on the Potchefstroom campus after work each day. After being welcomed and oriented, a battery of psychometric tests was administered in English. A secondary analysis was performed on data obtained by means of the Basic Traits Inventory-Short, Mental Health Continuum-Short Form and the General Health Questionnaire-28 in order to determine the relationship between personality functioning and mental health of the participants. Results showed that this cohort of teachers from the North West province experience distress in the workplace, but that they also experience surprisingly high levels of mental health. The findings suggest that there are few differences between the male and female subgroups in this regard. The study also found that there is indeed a relationship between personality traits and the general- and mental health of participants. Neuroticism showed a significant positive correlation with psychological distress, while Conscientiousness showed a significant negative correlation. All five personality traits showed significant correlations with the mental health of educators. Neuroticism correlated negatively with mental health, while Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness and Agreeableness correlated positively with mental health. Furthermore, certain personality traits (i.e. Neuroticism and Extraversion) were shown to be significant predictors of teachers’ levels of general and mental health. The strong association found between this cohort of teachers’ personality functioning and their general and mental health contributes toward an understanding of the processes that underlie the distress and mental health of teachers, and could play an important role in future attempts toward health promotion.
- Health Sciences