Life effectiveness and Attitude towards the Psy4life Program

Abstract

This study examines differences across gender in eight components of life effectiveness in pre- and post-studies. This study also measures differences in rural youths’ attitudes toward positive youth development (Psy4life) programme across three demographic factors (gender, educational level, and past involvement in youth programmes). We predicted that there would be differences between male and female in life effectiveness and its components and that there would be differences in youths’ attitudes toward Psy4life programme according to the three demographic factors. Twenty rural youths participated in Psy4Life programme (9 male, 45%; 11 female, 55%; mean age: 15.3, SD=1.81). In the post-study, Mann-Whitney U Test results showed significant differences between males and females in life effectiveness and three of its components (achievement motivation, intellectual flexibility, and leadership). In the pre-study, only intellectual flexibility was associated with significant gender differences. There were no significant differences in attitudes toward Psy4life programme across gender, education level, and past involvement in youth programmes. We assumed that female participants might be more motivated, open to new ideas, and capable of leading a group than male youth. Attitudes towards youth programmes might differ based on other factors, such as extrinsic and intrinsic motives, which need to be examined in the future.

Keywords: AttitudePsy4Life Programmeachievement motivationintellectual flexibilityleadershiplife effectiveness

Introduction

In the modern world, youth are exposed to a variety of social problems, such as violence, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and school dropout. This situation demands implementation of systematic, positive youth development programmes to prevent risk behaviors, tackle social problems, and promote positive development among youth. Young people have their own individual strengths which may help them reach optimum development, and Psy4life programme are designed to engage them in constructive, productive ways to enhance their strengths. Positive youth development refers to the building of the personal skills or assets, including cognitive, social, emotional, and intellectual qualities, necessary for youth to successfully function as members of society (Weiss & Wiese-Bjorns, 2009). Access to programmes and activities that support positive development, helps guide young people towards successful lives as contributing members of society (Benson, Scales, Hamilton, & Sesma, 2006).

Youths are considered important human capital which plays a major role in enabling and enhancing national growth (Economic Planning Unit, 2010). Accordingly, under the Tenth Malaysia Plan 2011–2015, many youth programmes have been implemented to equip youths with specific leadership and entrepreneurial skills or to promote social unity and integration. In all, 2,400 programmes involving more than half a million multi-ethnic participants were conducted, focusing on instilling leadership, patriotism, and volunteerism (Economic Planning Unit, 2010). Therefore, there is a need to design and implement programmes that focus specifically on positive youth development, including life effectiveness and its components (time management, achievement motivation, emotional control, intellectual flexibility, self-confidence, leadership, social competence, and active initiative) and to develop positive attitudes towards youth programmes. Increased positive youth development could improve life satisfaction (Mohamad, Mohamad & Mat Ali, 2014).

Considering the growing number of youth affected by social problems, there is a need for government and non-governmental agencies to design and implement various programmes to promote positive development for youth, increase their well-being and life effectiveness, and prepare them to face challenges in the modern world. Although many youth programmes are conducted by government and non government organization in many counties across the globe , however not all young people are interested in participating in these programmes. This lack of interest in youth programmes could be possibly due to various demographic factors, such education level, gender, and previous involvement in youth programmes. Regarding gender, past studies (e.g., Homan, Dick & Hedrick, 2007; Shekhar & Devi, 2012) found that girls perceived youth programmes more positively than boys. Possible explanations of this difference are that girls are generally more perceptive of their environment (Patel & Buiting, 2013) and that women are more likely to be affected by context (Croson & Gneezy, 2009; Miller & Ubeda, 2012). In addition, many researchers have discussed gender differences pertaining to participation in youth development programmes and its effect on youth (e.g., Bartoszuk & Randall, 2011; Patel & Buiting, 2013). Compared to male participants, females tend to exhibit better life satisfaction and fewer behavior problems. Malaysian female youths have expressed higher satisfaction with life than male youths (Mohamad, Mohamad, & Mat Ali, 2014). This issue, however, need to be explored further to understand the reasons why female participants gain more positive effects from involvement in positive development youth programmes than males.

In addition to gender, education level might affect attitudes toward youth programmes. For instance, high-school students may show high interest in participating in youth programmes because they have the intrinsic motivation to develop skills and strengths in preparation to enter college or the workforce (Hansen & Larson, 2007). Finally, youths frequently involved in youth programmes and activities might hold more positive attitudes towards them. For example, in past studies, youth participants gave positive feedback about programmes (Gobeli, 1995; Strawczynski, Baumgold, & Dolev, 1999). Participation in these programmes may help youths increase their life effectiveness, including their self-confidence, achievement motivation, intellectual flexibility, and leadership skills. These components may help youths adapt to and deal with challenging social environments and prepare them to succeed in life and work.

The effectiveness of involvement in youth development programmes have been demonstrated by

many researches. However it is also suggested that many demographic factors such as age, gender,

culture and prior positive or negative experiences with youth development programme can play role in

determining whether a programme will be effective or not. Therefore, the program Psy4life was

designed specifically for Malaysian rural youth. It was assumed that programme can address the needs

of young people growing up in these peripheries. The programme was based on the three dimensions of

positive youth development suggested by Neil (2008) and Ryff (1989). All the 13 activities in this

programme was designed based on the Yale attitude change model (Hovland, Janis & Kelly, 1953).

The activities in programme focused on enhancing youth life effectiveness skills and psychological

well-being. Furthermore, it was assumed in the present study that effect of demographic factors

affecting programme implementation and efficacy need to be explored to accommodate it with needs of

youth across age, gender and prior experience with any youth development programme.

Problem Statement

Past studies found demographic differences in attitudes toward youth programmes (e.g., Bartoszuk,

& Randall, 2011) and positive self-concepts (e.g., Mohamad et al., 2014; Shekari & Devi, 2012).

Regarding gender, girls perceived youth programmes more positively than boys (e.g., Bartoszuk, &

Randall, 2011; Homan et al., 2007). However, other past studies have not found any gender differences

(e.g., Jones, 2009). Regarding education level, Hansen and Larson (2007) showed that high school

students indicated that they gained intrinsic motivation and experienced positive development from

youth programmes, in part because the experience they acquired could be used as a preparation to enter

higher education or the workforce.

Rayfield, Compton, Doerfet, and Akers (2008) found that access to on-campus activities is one

factor that affects students’ level of involvement in youth organizations. Participation gives young

people opportunities to assume significant roles in a safe, supportive environment where they can

experiment with roles, tasks, and responsibilities (Gobeli, 1995). Strawczynski, Baumgold, and Dolev

(1999) found that most participants in youth programmes expressed positive feedback, such as feeling

higher confidence and self-esteem, developing their personalities, and acquiring life experience.

Participants in leadership programmes exhibited more positive attitudes toward military service and

emphasized the importance of helping others.

To understand these findings, an empirical study examining gender differences in the eight

components of life effectiveness needs to be conducted. In addition, rural youths’ attitudes toward

Psy4life programme and any differences by three demographic factors (gender, educational level, and

past involvement in youth programmes) need to be investigated.

Research Questions

Are there significant differences between male and female participants in life effectiveness and its eight components in the pre- and post-studies (before and after participants were involved in Psy4life programme)? In addition, are there any differences by demographic factors (gender, education level, past involvement in youth programmes) in attitudes toward Psy4life programme?

Purpose of the Study

The objective of this study is to examine differences between male and female youths’ life effectiveness and its eight components in pre- and post-studies. Differences in attitudes toward the three-day programme based on three demographic factors (male vs. female, lower secondary school vs. higher secondary school education, involved vs. never involved in youth programmes) are also investigated.

Research Methods

Research Participants

Twenty rural youths from the remote Sulit village, Paitan, and socio-economically and educationally challenged backgrounds participated in this study. Participants gave responses following instructions provided in the pre-study questionnaire, which consisted of two sections (demographic profile, life effectiveness scale). For the post-study, a questionnaire with three sections (demographic profile, life effectiveness scale, attitude towards the Psy4life programme scale) was given to participants after they completed three-day Psy4life programme.

Instruments

The questionnaire survey had three sections.

Section A : Demographic information (age, location, sex)

The demographic profile had 18 items which measure age, gender, ethnicity, education level, and

involvement in youth programmes.

Section B : Life effectiveness Questionnaire (LEQ)

The life effectiveness Questionnaire (Neil, 2008) consists of 24 items measuring the eight

components of life effectiveness (time management, social competency, achievement motivation,

intellectual flexibility, leadership, emotional control, active initiative, and self-confidence). Each

component was assessed with three items on a scale of 1 (false, not like me) to 8 (true, like me). Higher

overall scores indicated positive elements of soft skills. The items representing soft skills were time

management (“I plan and use my time efficiently”), social competence (“I am competent in social

situations”), achievement motivation (“I try to get the best results when I do things”), intellectual

flexibility (“I am open to new ideas”), leadership ( “I am a good leader when a task needs to be done”),

emotional control (“I can stay calm in stressful situations”), and self-confidence (“When I apply myself

to something, I am confident I will succeed”).

Section E: Attitudes toward Psy4Life Programme

This scale consisted of 15 items reflecting the three components of attitude (i.e., cognition, emotion

and behavior). The response scale provided ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly Agree).

There were seven negative items (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14). The items measuring cognitive were items no.

5–8, 12, and 10; affective items no. 1–3, 14 and behavior items no. 4, 9, 11, 13, 15.

Data Analysis

The data were analysed by using IBM SPSS Statistics 20.0. (Statistical Package for Social

Sciences) and descriptive and inference analyses. The hypotheses were analysed using a Mann-

Whitney U Test to examine the differences between male and female participants in life effectiveness

and its eight components in the pre and post-studies. Mann-Whitney U test was also used to examine

the differences in attitude towards the Psy4Life Programme according to gender, education level and

past involvement in youth programmes.

Findings

Reliability of the Scales and Subscales

The results show that the effectiveness scale had a reliability of 0.95 for the pre-study and 0.92 for

the post-study. All subscales in the pre- and post-studies had acceptable reliability. Cronbach’s alpha

coefficients ranged from 0.63 to 0.86, excluding the emotional control subscale (Cronbach’s alpha =

0.31) and active initiative subscale (Cronbach’s alpha = .38) which showed low reliability in the post-

study. In the final analysis, these two subscales were excluded, and only six subscales were included

(time management, social competency, achievement motivation, intellectual flexibility, leadership, and

self-confidence) (see Table 1 ).

Table 1 -
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The attitude toward the Psy4Life scale and each subscale measuring the three components of

attitude (affective, cognitive, and psychomotor) also had acceptable Cronbach’s alpha coefficients,

ranging from 0.61 to 0.86. Twenty participants completed the pre- and post-studies: 9 male (45%), 11

female (55%), mean age of 15.3 (SD=1.81).

Demographic Profile

Table 2 shows participants’ demographic profile. All participants had completed the three-day

Psy4life programme and were asked whether they had participated in any other organized programmes,

clubs, or activities. Eleven participants had been involved in youth programmes, such as Islamic and

spiritual youth camps, sports programmes, and a National Training Youth Programme. As well, most

participants were Christian and of Dusun Sungai ethnicity.

Table 2 -
See Full Size >

In the post-study, Mann-Whitney U Test results presented in Table 3 show significant differences

between male and female participants in three components of life effectiveness: achievement

motivation (z = -2.25, p< 0.05), intellectual flexibility (z = -2.79, p< 0.05), and leadership (z = -2.25,

p< 0.05). However, in the pre-study, only one component showed significant gender differences

(intellectual flexibility, z = -2.05, p < 0.05). In our study, female youths displayed better life

effectiveness, particularly in their achievement motivation, intellectual flexibility, and leadership, than

male youths after participating in the Psy4life programme.

Table 3 -
See Full Size >

Mann-Whitney U Test results showed no significant differences in male and female participants’

attitude towards the Psy4life programme and its components. The Mann-Whitney U Test also found no

differences in attitude toward the Psy4life programme according to education level or past involvement

in youth programmes.

Table 4 -
See Full Size >

Discussion

Life Effectiveness

In this study, female participants earned higher scores for three components of life effectiveness

(achievement motivation, intellectual flexibility, & leadership) in the post-study. These findings

conflict with those of the pre-study when only intellectual flexibility exhibited significant differences

between males and females. Our findings related to achievement motivation are in line with those of

past studies demonstrating significant differences between male and female college students (Martin,

2004; Salili, 1996; Shekhar & Devi, 2012). Female students scored significantly higher than males in

the area of achievement motivation, possibly because females tended to view themselves as achieving

in academics and having a good attitude toward school. Male students might be more susceptible to

underachievement and were less likely to perceive achievement in general as valued outcome (Shekhar

& Devi, 2012). In this study, achievement motivation refers to participants’ intention to do their best

and get the best results if given a project.

Similar results concerning gender differences have also been found for intellectual flexibility (Patel

& Buiting, 2013). In this study, intellectual flexibility refers to the willingness to be open towards new

ideas and to change one’s way of thinking and opinions if there is a better idea. Male participants might

be less affected by new stimuli (the message in each activity) than females as, according to Patel and

Buiting (2013), women react to their environment in a more emotional manner and are generally more

perceptive to the environment. In addition, women are more likely to be affected by context (Croson &

Gneezy, 2009; Miller & Ubeda, 2012).

In addition, we found that female participants had higher leadership scores than males. In this

study, leadership refers to the ability to accomplish any task and motivate other people to work

together. We believe that girls might have scored higher in leadership because they like to learn in a

new environment which gives them opportunities to lead. Similarly, Hansen, Walker, and Flom (1995)

claimed that girls are more likely to thrive in a learning environment that provides opportunities for

leadership, exploration of new ideas, and active, intelligent engagement with concerned adults and

other students. In addition, we believe that girls scored higher in leadership because they are more

mature than males and more likely to have some responsibilities. During the three-day Psy4life

programme, we observed that female participants were more proactive at giving volunteers feedback

during each activity.

Lal’s (2014) study of 200 senior secondary school students from urban and rural backgrounds in

Chandigargh, India, found that female youth exhibited significantly higher emotional maturity and self-

confidence than male students. Urban and rural youth displayed similar levels of emotional maturity,

but rural youth were found to have higher self-confidence. However, Singh, Pant, and Valentina

(2013), working with 277 adolescents in Pantnagar, India, found that no gender differences on the

composite social maturity and emotional maturity scores but a significant difference in social

adequacy: Female youths were observed to be more socially adequate than males. Singh et al. (2013)

suggested that this difference might arise because girls were raised to be submissive, nurturing,

sensitive, and expressive and to act like more mature adults, whereas boys were expected to be active

and aggressive.

Attitudes towards the Psy4Life Programme and Differences by Demographic Factor

Past studies (e.g., Bartoszuk, & Randall, 2011; Homan et al., 2007) demonstrated that girls

perceived youth programmes more positively and reported receiving a higher level of encouragement

to participate in these programmes than boys. Our study, however, did not reveal any significant

differences toward Psy4Life programme across gender, education level, or past involvement in youth

programmes.

We believe that other demographic factors, such as social motives (intrinsic and extrinsic motives),

might affect attitudes toward youth programmes. Some youths, for instance, join youth programmes

because they are attracted by the content of the activities (i.e., personal enjoyment). Other youths may

want to be affiliated with friends (e.g., Patrick et al., 1999; Persson, Kerr, & Stattin, 2007), while

incentives, such as stipends and school service requirements, might also be factors (Herrera &

Arbreton, 2003; McLellan & Youniss, 2003). These phenomena should be examined rather than

relying only on demographic factors for understanding.

In addition, some youths are less likely to be engaged in and, consequently, less likely to benefit

from programme activities (Deschenes et al., 2010; Weiss, Little, & Bouffard, 2005). Our study

showed that past involvement in youth programmes did not make a significant difference in attitudes

towards them. Participants’ demographic profiles showed that 11 of 20 youths had joined and

experienced youth programmes previously.

Regarding education level (lower secondary-school vs. higher secondary-school education), our

study found no significant difference in participants’ attitudes toward Psy4life programme, perhaps

because all participants came from similar backgrounds and were raised in the same community. In

addition, the content of Psy4life programme might meet the interests and needs of male and female

participants because there is a lack of youth programmes in Sulit village, as mentioned by one

participant at the end of the programme. In addition, most programmes in the village organized by a

non-governmental organization focused on school-age children (Dorothy Laudi, kindergarten

coordinator in Paitan, personal communication, August 14, 2014).

Conclusions

In conclusion, we believe that the gender differences we found in three life-effectiveness

components (achievement motivation, intellectual flexibility, & leadership) in the pre and post-studies

confirm the effectiveness of the three-day Psy4life programme. However, other components of

activities should be re-examined to determine how they can also benefit male youth. As stated by Jones

(2009), youth service providers must strategically create opportunities that stimulate and maintain the

interest of males. In the future, challenging, adventurous activities could be added to the programmes

to attract and achieve positive outcomes for male participants. Regarding attitudes toward Psy4life

programmes, our study found no significant differences across three demographic factors (gender,

education level, involvement in youth programmes). This result contrasts with the findings of past that

girls perceived youth programmes more positively than boys studies (e.g., Bartoszuk, & Randall, 2011;

Homan et al., 2007). We believe that attitudes towards programmes might be more affected by other

factors, such as extrinsic motives (e.g., incentives, affiliating with friends) and intrinsic motives (e.g.

personal enjoyment), than demographic factors. In addition, Dawes and Larson (2011) stated that, for

youth to gain positive benefits from organized programmes, they need to not merely attend

programmes but also be psychologically engaged in activities. All these factors need to be further

explored in future research to be better understood.

Acknowledgement

We express our thanks to the participants involved in this study and to University Malaysia Sabah for research grant—SBK 016-SS-2014. Special thanks also go to volunteers who contributed invaluable efforts to conducting the three-day Psy4life programme in Sulit village, Paitan.

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Cosmas*, G., Seok, C. B., & Hashmi, S. I. (2019). Life effectiveness and Attitude towards the Psy4life Program. In Z. Bekirogullari, M. Y. Minas, & R. X. Thambusamy (Eds.), Cognitive - Social, and Behavioural Sciences - icCSBs 2016, May, vol 8. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 18-28). Future Academy. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2016.05.3