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Optimism and Hardiness: Predictors of Coping With Real-Life Situations of Landfill Scavengers ___________ A Research Proposal Presented To The

Faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences University of San Carlos Cebu City, Philippines ___________________ In Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree of BACHELOR OF ARTS IN PSYCHOLOGY ------------------

By Anna Merla C. Leorag Ethel P. Espinoza Madeline C. Discipulo

August 29, 2013

2 CHAPTER 1 Introduction It is no longer surprising to see groups of people in landfill areas. It is a way of life for people who lack the education in order to survive. This is just one of the many consequences of job scarcity and poverty in the Philippines. Nearly half of the Filipinos live less than two dollars a day, varying numbers of poor individuals survive by salvaging materials and anything of value from the waste land environment due to economic and social upheaval (Power, 2006). It is a grim reality of life. Scavenging has been, for a long time, an informal way of generating income for those of disadvantaged backgrounds (Downs & Medina, 2000). They constitute an informal economy of men and women and children who utilize discarded resources coming from the garbage they scavenge in the landfill. These groups of people turn to scavenging in order to sustain life; to make ends meet. It seems to be the only viable alternative job for those whose resources, education and skills are limited as a quick and easy means to support their basic needs. Researches made by Genemo (2010) emphasizes that scavenging on such a waste dumping site is full of risk. Their work is traditionally viewed as degrading and desecrated and the society has always kept them at a distance. Scavengers belong to a low social status in the society and sometimes treated as inferior. Scavengers risk their health as they sift through mounds of dirty and unsanitary items. With this challenging line of work, one can only wonder whether this group of people develop certain mechanisms to deal with their day to day lives. To a person who belongs to the other side of the fence, the plight of these scavengers may seem hopeless,

3 disappointing and disassociating. Perhaps looking through these individuals lens would help us understand their current condition. The researchers are interested to explore optimism and hardiness as predictors of coping with real-life situations of landfill scavengers and whether this has brought a significant change to their way of living. The researchers look to the different facet of positivity capturing the idea of positive thinking (Peterson, 2000), which led the researchers to focus more on optimism and hardiness. A number of optimism and hardiness studies have been conducted to many different categories of people, such as military personnel on peace-keeping or combat missions (Bartone, 1999), health care professionals (Keane, Ducette, & Adler, 1985; Rich & Rich, 1987; Topf, 1989), high school and college students (Maddi & Khoshaba, 1994; Maddi, Wadhwa, & Haier, 1996), elderly people (Magnani, 1990), chronic illness sufferers (Okun, Zantra, & Robinson, 1988; Pollock, Christian, & Sands, 1990), and athletes (Maddi & Hess, 1992) as cited in Maddi (1999). However, there are a few studies that explore the psychological status of these scavengers and how their situations mold their personality and their way of thinking. Thus, the researchers are interested to know if these two factors predict how scavengers cope with real-life situations. Literature Review Coping. Coping refers to the cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage situations appraised as taxing or exceeding personal resources (Soderstrom et al., 2000). Researchers have often grouped coping methods into two general types, problem- focused coping and emotionfocused coping. In problem- focused coping, it is aimed at reducing or managing feelings of distress associated with the stressor while emotion- focused coping strategy is aimed at

4 reducing or managing the negative emotional responses associated with stress (Benson, 2009). There is also a considerable literature that indicates that some coping strategies are more maladaptive than others. For example, disengagement methods of coping are associated with poorer adjustment in response to a wide range of stressful events (Compas et al., 2001; Dirkzwager, Bramsen, & van der Ploeg, 2003; Iwanaga, Yokoyama, & Seiwa, 2004) as cited by Ahadi and Moosavi (2011). It has been proposed that high-hardy individuals engage in approach coping styles for the purpose of transforming stressful events into situations that seem to be more manageable. On the other hand, Gentry and Kobasa (1984) explained that low-hardy individuals tend to engage in avoidance coping styles such as cognitive and behavioural disengagement and denial to deal with a stressful situation (as cited in Soderstrom et al., 2000). A study conducted by Maddi (1999) found that people low in hardiness seeks a sort of pampering from family members that undermines their motivation for effective coping. In contrast, those high in hardiness are more likely to seek the assistance and encouragement (rather than pampering) from others that would facilitate effective coping. With coping undermined, a pampered person might actually be more vulnerable to the debilitating effects of stressful events. The study focuses more on the transformational side of coping where scavengers manage to overcome their everyday situations and transform it to something more opportune and productive for them. As found by Neal (2010), the skill of coping enables a person to transform a circumstance that is stressful into an opportunity through mentally achieving perspective, understanding and taking decisive action to solve the problem. This may help researchers to explain landfill scavengers being able to manage the type of livelihood that they are currently engaging in. The researchers will try to explore if the two constructs: optimism and hardiness predicts coping with real-life situation among landfill scavengers. Researchers look at optimism as one of the predictors of coping.

5 Optimism. Peterson and Bossio (1991) defined optimism as a cognitive style associated with having a bias in perceptions in favor of positive features in life and having favorable outcome expectancies and can be viewed as a state or trait (as cited in Gorofalo et al, 2010). The concept of optimism reflects an individuals expectation of a positive outcome in most situations (Scheier & Carver, 1985). It has been argued that optimism enables the individual to set goals, make commitments, cope with adversity and pain and recover from trauma and stress (Bissonnette, 1998). With this, the researchers are interested to discover the role of optimism in dealing with everyday life in the landfill considering how they are constantly exposed to such conditions. Marshall et al. (1992) posited optimism as an aspect of human being related to other areas of the human makeup (as cited by Mishra, 2013). For instance, Taylor and Brown (1988) discovered that depressed people are less optimistic than people who are not depressed and could also positively be associated with extraversion and positive affect (as cited by Mishra, 2013). In addition, Tomasulo (2013) revealed that not only are these people not depressed, they are optimistic, they have good relationships, and many of them play sports and read and that majority of them are happy with their lives. There seems to be an automatic notion that people whose plight seems hopeless do not experience positive emotions. And the concept of optimism gave the idea to the researchers that scavengers might possess optimism to cope with their day to day situations. Peterson (2000) stated that optimism can be encouraged among people. This allows them to have a positive outlook in their life and to look at their future brightly. One can ask whether these scavengers can be generically optimistic, that is, hopeful without specific expectations at all. Some people readily describe themselves as optimistic yet fail to endorse expectations consistent with this view of them. In contrast, scavengers do not appear to be people who openly express their optimism instead; they are seen continuously doing this way of living

6 despite its taxing nature. Chang and Sanna (2003) suggest that optimism may not always lead to effective coping strategies (as cited in Benson, 2007). What this explains is that optimism may also be potentially counterproductive. Scavengers might appear to be optimistic but fail to channel this positive emotion into action. Instead, they may use such strategy only to blindly convince oneself that all is okay to avoid any real effort to try to make it so. Chang and Sanna (2003) added a significant interaction between optimism, stress, and psychological and physical functioning (as cited in Benson, 2007). Ample empirical research strongly supports the proposition that optimism is positively correlated with physical and psychological well-being. As proposed by Scheier and Carver (1987) causal link between optimism and well-being may be due to the use of more effective coping strategies by optimists when dealing with life difficulties; they tend to be more likely to use active (problem-focused) coping strategies, especially those who felt that the stressful situation was potentially controllable (as cited in Mishra, 2013). The researchers consider optimism as an effective coping mechanism developed by scavengers to adjust and cope with their situations. Achat et al. (2000) revealed that optimistic people are more inclined to engage in planning and problem-solving, thus enhancing their abilities in dealing with adversity and stressful life events. It may be that landfill scavengers are more of a planner and problem-solver to be able to do well with what they do. Milligan (2003) found out that optimists in general were predicted to use more direct coping processes when confronted with stressful situations, engage in a larger number of positive health practices, and be more extraverted, agreeable, and emotionally stable. Scavengers in the landfill are prone to experience a variety of stressful situations that arise from living in challenging conditions which may include financial and educational frustrations, family, social and health problems among others. The kind of life that these individuals are immersed in makes it seem impossible for outsiders to picture that they

7 too experience something positive like happiness. Tomasulo (2013) made a study with landfill scavengers in Nicaragua and he found out that the key to feeling happy is having a positive expectation for the future. He added that optimism about tomorrow is important for a scavengers life and more than twice as many scavengers could see brighter futures for themselves than their less optimistic counterparts. A scavenger may contemplate that there is not only money but hope in garbage. Making a living out of garbage and rummaging through heaps of trash in a landfill can be very demanding. Being surrounded by dirty and putrid waste can be overwhelming to the senses. And for an individual to wade through rivers of trash, to avoid heavy machinery (e.g. backhoes), and to compete with scavengers alike, he/she would have to overcome the stress it gives in order to make money. Scavengers who have been doing this type of work for quite some time must have developed a way to take no notice of the risks because the income the trash provides is far more important. To a scavenger, trash may be synonymous with opportunity. With this, the researchers want to investigate hardiness as another predictor of coping with real-life situations of landfill scavengers.

Hardiness. Preliminary findings revealed that individuals, who experienced high levels of stress, but remained healthy, had a different personality structure than individuals who experienced high levels of stress and became ill. The central domain of this personality structure, labeled as hardiness, was subsequently defined by Pollock (1989) as the use of ego resources necessary to appraise, interpret and respond to healthy stressors. The concept of hardiness emerged from three closely related tendencies: challenge, commitment, and control. This is worth mentioning since it enables a clearer understanding of the construct. The term challenge reflects an outlook

8 on life that enables an individual to perceive change as an opportunity for growth rather than a threat to ones sense of security or survival. Individuals who have lived their lives in a landfill could have possibly perceived their condition previously as a threat but over time took it as a challenge to endure. Commitment is the belief in the truth and value of the individual of who they are and in what they do, thus they have a sense of meaning and purpose in work and relationships. The work that scavengers have probably gives them the responsibility and drive to meet a goal, which may encourage dedication. Lastly, control reflects a belief that one can influence the course of life events within reasonable limits (as cited in Soderstrom et al., 2000). Perhaps scavengers recognize events which they can and cannot control when faced with stress and respond to it in attainable means. These three related tendencies gives emphasis on how hardiness may be developed which functions as resistance with stressful conditions and is believed to affect how one views oneself and interacts with the world around. It brings out creativity, wisdom, and fulfilment as well as maintaining or enhancing physical and mental health. The scavengers may not be aware about the existence of such a trait, hardiness, but it may very well be one of the factors that have allowed them to live each day. The compounding stress and dangers persist for seemingly countless hours and endless days for them but despite unthinkable conditions in the landfill site and their exposure to stress, some of them turn their situation into opportunity and profit. Indeed, hardiness is a very useful trait to combat daily stressors in life. Knowing that such a trait exists, these groups of people may discover that they have the skills necessary to survive in their highly competitive line of work. Individuals high in hardiness tend to put stressful circumstances into perspective and interpret them in a less threatening manner. Research on self-reported stressors, real-life stressful experiences, and laboratory-induces stress support this claim as showed by two studies on military cadets

9 undergoing stressful training and found that cadets that scored high on hardiness appraised the combat training in less threatening terms, and at the same time viewed themselves as more capable of coping with the training (as cited in Kobasa, 1979). Researchers want to explore if it applies to landfill scavengers as a coping mechanism in their situation. Those high in hardiness exhibit a sense of commitment to whatever they are involved in, they believe they have control over their lives, and they are challenged by negative experiences rather than being debilitated by them (as cited in Foster & Dion, 2004). Several studies done by researchers (Evans & Dunn, 1995) find significant results of hardiness associated with greater well-being and that this can be achieved by active-coping responses (as cited in Ben-Zur & Debi, 2005). It was reported that less hardy individuals are more likely to engage in emotionally focused, distancing, and avoidance coping strategies and individuals who score high on hardiness measures are more likely to engage in problem focused, active and support seeking coping strategies (as cited by Bisonnette, 1998). Soderstrom et al. (2000) indicated that hardy individuals have an internal sense of personal mastery, confronting problems with confidence in their ability to implement effective solutions, rather than feeling powerless, lacking self-confidence, initiative, and manipulating others. Studies have shown that hardiness involves less complacency than optimism and hardiness is more clearly related the use of transformational coping. Subramanian (2008) revealed that hardy individuals have the ability to cope in a way that is adaptive, once adversity is perceived or encountered. This showed that the hardy person prefer to rely on active, transformational coping strategies, which act to cognitively transform a potentially negative event into a growth producing experience. Hardiness can somehow be likened to a portal where potential destructive or detrimental elements pass through and materialize as something constructive or beneficial. And this trait most likely may be evident on how landfill scavengers

10 are able to cope with living and working in a challenging environment. In an article posted by Neal (2010), hardiness is linked to positive psychology because it is believed to facilitate turning stresses to advantage. There is growing research that indicates that hardiness enhances resiliency in response to ongoing demands and pressures of everyday life, and it has been reported to increase levels of moral and subjective well being. Neal (2010) concluded that there is a strong link between hardiness and optimism as both constructs encourage effective coping with stressful circumstances. It is with this link that the researchers will be basing upon to determine if such a relationship does exist and to find out the role they play on how scavengers cope with their daily living in the landfill. There are studies that illustrate the relationship of optimism, hardiness and coping among individuals.

Relationship of Optimism, Hardiness and Coping Subramanian (2008) revealed that optimism plays the same role as hardiness in terms of emotion regulation among adolescents. He added that the result is meaningful in the sense that hardy individual lays emphasis on his own resources to deal with the failure or negative incident and develops an optimistic attitude. The researchers want to discover if both construct will lead to such results and whether these constructs predict coping among landfill scavengers. Subramanian (2008) stated that hardy and optimistic adolescents use more of adaptive cognitive coping strategies when coping with negative incidents. A study conducted by Ahadi and Moosavi (2011) states that hardiness is believed to influence the types of coping strategies used when an event is received as stressful. Khoshaba & Maddi (1999) have suggested that hardy people are more likely to show problem or approach based coping behavior when faced with a stressful situation (as cited in Cash, 2009) as what is similarly found with other related studies

11 (Evans & Dunn, 1995; Bisonnette, 1998). More recently, Maddi (2004) has described the positive relationship between transformational coping and hardiness, with hardy individuals more likely to diminish (rather than avoid) the threat of a potential stressor by addressing not only the problem but also the emotions that it arouses (as cited in Ahadi &Moosavi, 2011). This means that hardy people are less likely to avoid dealing with their situations. Scavengers are a common sight in the streets and a constant at dumpsites, working to sustain their needs. Cash (2009) suggested that, hardy people tend to use a range of active strategies across situations while optimism encourages problem solving strategies in life threatening situations. Optimism has been reported to moderate the deleterious effects of daily hassles on physical health (Fry, 1995). Smith (cited in Fry, 1995) found that optimism moderated and predicted coping responses to stressful events. In another study, Dunn (1996) found that optimism enhances adaptation following stressful encounters; this personal quality is considered to be a determinant of sustained efforts to deal with problems in contrast with turning away from problems and givingup (as cited in Ben-Zur & Debi, 2005). A study by Benson (2009) suggests that optimism leads to effective coping strategies. The researchers will try to investigate if optimism together with hardiness predicts coping since the positive effect of optimism has been attributed to the strategies that optimists use to cope with stress (as cited in Mishra, 2013). Ahadi and Moosavi (2011) examined hardiness and attributional styles as predictors of coping and found a significant relationship between hardiness and coping. Another study made by Fry (1995) found that optimism moderated and predicted coping responses to stressful events. Cash (2009) concluded that higher levels of hardiness are associated with more positive situational appraisals and more effective coping responses. She added that hardiness showed positive relationships with active coping. This result showed consistency with the previous studies made by Maddi

12 (2004), Ahadi and Moosavi (2011) and Subramanian (2008). The traits optimism and hardiness could be factors among many others that have made it less difficult for scavengers to live on. Landfill scavengers could possibly possess the traits optimism and hardiness that has made them endure tough times. Both of these constructs could have paved the path to coping. Optimism and hardiness as predictors of coping may be a trend of landfill scavengers or to people of similar life circumstance. Discovering a pattern to these findings, the researchers decided to study optimism and hardiness as predictors of coping.

Theoretical/ Conceptual Framework




Figure 1. Optimism and Hardiness predictors of Coping The study aims to explore the role of optimism and hardiness as predictors of coping with real life situations among landfill scavengers. The two construct in the study: optimism and hardiness are identified as general health promoting factors, which enable the individuals to remain both psychologically and physically healthy despite encountering negative life events (Subramanian, 2008). Although the specific mechanism(s) by which hardiness and optimism

13 contribute to long term psychological well-being remain speculative (Tartasky, 1993). Kobasa (1979) hypothesized the existence of two mediational pathways. First, hardiness (and optimism) alters the individuals cognitive appraisal process, such that individuals are able to reframe or reinterpret adverse experiences (Florian et al., 1995; Funk, 1982; Pollock, 1989; Tartasky, 1993; Williams et al., 1992). Thus, the level of psychological distress experienced is reduced. Second, hardy individuals have the ability to cope in a way that is adaptive once stress and/or adversity are perceived (Tartasky, 1993; Williams et al., 1992) as cited in Bissonnette (1998). This concept sparked the ideas of the researchers to focus on the importance of optimism and hardiness as predictors of coping with real life situations of landfill scavengers.

Statement of the Problem

This research aims to answer the questions: In what way does optimism and hardiness help landfill scavengers cope with their day to day situations? And how does it benefit their life?

Purpose of the study

The purpose of this quantitative study is to explore the role of optimism and hardiness as predictors of coping when scavengers face their situations in the landfill. Second, is to discover how optimism and hardiness encourage scavengers in their daily lives. Another is to explore the extent to which hardiness and optimism predicts coping with real-life situations and whether or not it enhances their living. There are a few researches exploring the relationship of hardiness and optimism as predictors of coping applying on different demographics but the researchers were unable to find any that investigates the constructs, optimism and hardiness, on scavengers working in the landfill area.

14 Significance of the Study There is a need to explore the circumstances of these people in the landfill area and why despite of their difficult and stressful work, they continue to stay in such living conditions. It may be hard for many to imagine what it would be like to live in their place, but that is the daily reality for hundreds of scavengers in our country, in many regions like Cebu. By knowing the perspectives of these individuals, it will bring about new ideas and suggestions to issues regarding social, and perhaps also economic, matters. This study hopes to bring awareness to government agencies, researchers, non-government units and all people in various communities that scavengers contribute quite significantly to society, e.g. recycling. All social class share common basic goals to survive in means which one thinks he or she will most likely thrive especially in this world that is swiftly leaning towards capitalism. This study will help people understand the role these scavengers play in our society and how they manage to handle their condition. And hopefully, give insight to the majority from these groups of people that can be beneficial to their lives. The general objective of the study is to explore optimism and hardiness as predictors of coping with real life situations of landfill scavengers.

15 Methods Participants Purposive random sampling will be used as a technique to select the participants. The participants of this study will consist of 250 diverse (male and female) landfill scavengers ranging from 12 years old and above. They will be taken from Mandaue City Landfill Area. Research Design The design of this study is exploratory in nature in a quantitative method. Exploratory research will be utilized because the study is meant to provide details where small amount of information exist. It uses variety of method such as surveys, interviews and group discussion for the purpose of gaining information. The researches select landfill scavengers as participants of this study for there are only few studies pertaining to them. The researchers are interested to explore the roles of optimism and hardiness in coping real life situations of landfill scavengers and whether this has brought a significant change in their way of living. In this study the researchers uses optimism and hardiness as independent variable and coping mechanism as a dependent variable. Optimism and hardiness, and Coping will both be measured using an ordinal Likert scale. Instrumentation The research will employ the standardized survey questionnaires. For independent variable optimism, a 10- item scale Life Orientation Test (LOT) will be utilized in order to assess individual differences and determine their level of optimism; and for hardiness Cognitive Hardiness Scale (CHS) will be used, it is a 30- item scale. Brief Cope Scale (BCS) will be

16 employed in order to assess how participants cope with the stress in life; it is composed of a 28 item. Research Procedure The participant will be informed the purpose of the study and how this study could benefit them. They will be told that the information will be kept confidential and that the study is voluntary and that they could withdraw at any time. The consent will be given before the survey questions will be conducted. The participants will be given 3 sets of survey questionnaire Life Orientation Test (LOT), Cognitive Hardiness Scale (CHS), Brief Cope Scale (BCS). They will undergo guided interviews. The scale will be translated to Cebuano dialect for the participants to digest each statement. The questionnaire will be read to the participants in a form of interview for there are words that need to be put in a simple context for them to properly understand the questions. This could be done through individual or group interviews.

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