Original Research

Developing a measurement instrument for coping with occupational stress in academia

Melissa du Plessis, Nico Martins
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 45 | a1653 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v45i0.1653 | © 2019 Melissa du Plessis, Nico Martins | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 March 2019 | Published: 28 August 2019

About the author(s)

Melissa du Plessis, Department of Human Resource Management, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Nico Martins, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Orientation: Occupational stress leads to devastating consequences for academia, which include teaching below standard, conflict with students and seeking employment elsewhere. The stressors that academics experience will continue to increase unless they adopt strategies to cope with these demands.

Research purpose: The objective of this research was to construct a valid and reliable measurement instrument which could be used to explore how academics cope with occupational stress.

Motivation for the study: There is no clear consensus about the conceptualisation of the coping construct and the categorisation and measurement of numerous coping strategies. Also, as working in academia is highly stressful, there is a need for developing a measuring instrument that holistically measures coping with occupational stress in South African higher education institutions.

Research approach/design and method: A three-phase instrument development process was followed. A quantitative, cross-sectional online survey was administered to a convenience sample of 305 employees employed in a higher education institution in the Gauteng province of South Africa.

Main findings: A nine-dimensional, 33-item measuring instrument was developed for exploring how academics cope with occupational stressors.

Practical/managerial implications: If industrial and organisational psychologists could appreciate the consequences of occupational stress and comprehend the complexities of the coping process, then they would be able to design and implement wellness practices that should not only promote the health and well-being of academics but also the institution.

Contribution/value-add: A psychometrically sound measuring instrument, The Comprehensive Coping Strategies Questionnaire, was developed within the South African higher education context that would allow industrial and organisational psychologists to determine which coping strategies academics adopt in response to occupational stressors.


Occupational stress; coping; academia; higher education institutions; scale development.


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