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SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

On-line version ISSN 2071-0763
Print version ISSN 0258-5200


MOSTERT, Karina; THERON, Bianca  and  DE BEER, Leon T.. Validating strengths use and deficit correction behaviour scales for South African first-year students. SA j. ind. Psychol. [online]. 2017, vol.43, n.1, pp.1-12. ISSN 2071-0763.

ORIENTATION: It is well known that the first year at university can be very challenging and stressful for students. While some students mainly depend on the university to assist them through this time, other students want to proactively manage this stressful period themselves by focusing on their strengths and developing in their areas of weakness. Two new scales measuring proactive strengths use and deficit correction behaviour have recently been developed for employees. However, the psychometric properties of these new scales have not yet been tested on first-year students in the South African context. RESEARCH PURPOSE: To examine the validity, measurement invariance and reliability of the proactive strengths use and deficit correction scales for South African first-year university students. MOTIVATION FOR THE STUDY: In order to cope in the demanding university environment, first-year university students need to develop and apply proactive strategies, including using their strengths and developing in their areas of weaknesses. Several studies have indicated that proactive behaviour, specifically strengths use and deficit correction behaviour, lead to favourable outcomes such as higher engagement, lower burnout and more life satisfaction. Therefore, it is important to validate scales that measure these constructs for first-year students. RESEARCH DESIGN, APPROACH AND METHOD: A cross-sectional research approach was used. A sample of South African first-year university students aged between 18 and 23 years (N = 776) was collected. The two scales were tested for their factor structure, measurement invariance, reliability, and convergent and criterion validity. MAIN FINDINGS: A two-factor structure was found for the strengths use and deficit correction behaviour scales. Measurement invariance testing showed that the two scales were interpreted similarly by participants from different campuses and language groups. Cronbach's alpha coefficients (α ≥ 0.70) indicated that both scales were reliable. In addition, the scales demonstrated convergent validity (comparing them with a general strengths use and proactive behaviour scale). Strengths use and deficit correction behaviour both predicted student burnout, student engagement and life satisfaction, with varying strengths of the relationships for strengths use and deficit correction behaviour. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS: Strengths use and deficit correction behaviour could enable students to manage study demands and enhance well-being. Students will experience favourable outcomes from proactively using strengths and developing their weaknesses, including reduced burnout and enhanced engagement and life satisfaction. Universities and lecturers can be informed, which allows them to develop support structures and provide students with opportunities to apply their strengths and develop thier deficits. CONTRIBUTION/VALUE-ADD: The present study adds to the limited research available on initiating proactive behaviour to use strengths and improve deficits for university students by validating two new scales. This could help in facilitating positive outcomes for first-year university students within the South African context.

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