Original Research

Well-being of first-year students: The role of study characteristics, strengths and deficits

Karina Mostert, Charlize Du Toit
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 50 | a2117 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v50i0.2117 | © 2024 Karina Mostert, Charlize Du Toit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 June 2023 | Published: 23 January 2024

About the author(s)

Karina Mostert, Department of Management Cybernetics, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Charlize Du Toit, Department of Management Cybernetics, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Orientation: Higher education institutions (HEIs) are crucial in preparing students for the workforce. Practitioners, such as industrial psychologists, can aid HEIs to enhance student development and improve university efficiency.

Research purpose: This study aims to investigate the relationship between student demands and resources, proactive behaviour towards strengths use (PBSU) and proactive behaviour towards deficit improvement (PBDI), and students’ well-being (emotional, social and psychological).

Motivation for the study: Two specific types of proactive behaviour, namely PBSU and PBDI, have been identified that may contribute to student success. Investigating the impact of these behaviours on student antecedents and outcomes could offer valuable insights for designing student development initiatives.

Research approach/design and method: This study included 773 South African first-year university students studying at different campuses of a South African university. Structural equation modelling was used to test the structural model and investigate the regression weights.

Main findings: Students’ personal problems were found to predict both PBSU and PBDI negatively. Autonomy positively predicted both types of proactive behaviour. Proactive behaviour towards strengths use was strongly related to emotional and psychological well-being, while PBDI was strongly related to social well-being.

Practical/managerial implications: This study highlights the direct impact of PBSU and PBDI on students’ well-being. Practitioners in university settings can benefit from the recommendations provided in this article to inform and implement initiatives related to student development and assist students in developing the necessary skills to enhance their work readiness.

Contribution/value-add:This study’s findings contribute to the relatively small body of research on implementing strengths-based and deficit improvement initiatives in South African universities.


student demands; student resources; proactive behaviour; strengths use; deficit improvement; well-being; higher education; first-year university students.

JEL Codes

I23: Higher Education • Research Institutions; I31: General Welfare, Well-Being; J24: Human Capital • Skills • Occupational Choice • Labor Productivity

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


Total abstract views: 1498
Total article views: 1072

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.