Orientation: The orientation of this study is towards proactive behaviour towards strength use (PBSU) and proactive behaviour towards deficit improvement (PBDI) and their relationship with hope, efficacy and life satisfaction of first-year university students.
Research purpose: To (1) determine whether PBSU and PBDI predict life satisfaction, (2) determine whether PBSU and PBDI predict hope and efficacy and (3) investigate a structural model where hope and efficacy mediate the relationship between PBSU and PBDI and life satisfaction.
Motivation for the study: To validate the use of PBSU and PBDI as resources that will assist first-year university student to attain life satisfaction and to delineate the need for universities to incorporate interventions that promote PBSU and PBDI amongst these students. This supports the case for positive organisational behaviour.
Research design, approach and method: A convenience sample of 566 first-year students from a university in Gauteng was used with a cross-sectional research design. Structural equation modelling was used to establish the validity of the measurement model, fit for the structural model and to test the mediating effects.
Main findings: The results indicated that PBSU was a significant predictor of hope, efficacy and life satisfaction and that PBDI was a significant predictor of hope and efficacy. Hope mediated the relationship between PBSU, PBDI and life satisfaction. Efficacy mediated the relationship between PBSU and life satisfaction.
Practical/managerial implications: Evidence suggests that PBSU was a predictor of life satisfaction. This was not the case with PBDI, which in fact negatively correlated with life satisfaction. Both PBSU and PBDI, however, predicted hope and efficacy. On a practical level this reveals that universities should, in line with positive organisational behaviour, introduce interventions that develop PBSU and PBDI amongst first-year students. It further suggests that, as is postulated by positive psychology, universities should focus more particularly on developing the ability of strength use amongst students, as opposed to deficit improvement.
Contributions/value-add: This research proposes a strong case for the introduction of interventions that promote first-year university students’ ability for strength use, in particular, but also for deficit improvement, in line with positive organisational behaviour. Further, it validates for strength use as a stronger value proposition in achieving life satisfaction, supporting the philosophy of positive psychology.