The Stress Process: The Role Of Personality And Stressor Characteristics In Affective Reactions, And One's Choice Of Coping Style And Social Support Preference

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact personality, situational, and personality x situation effects have on one's affective reactions, coping efforts, and social support preferences to a series of five hypothetical stressors. In this fashion, the concepts of "central stressors" and differential susceptability to stress were also examined. A total of 342 college students were pretested on a personality questionnaire which assessed five traits: need for achievement, need for harm avoidance, need for social recognition, need for autonomy, and superego strength. The first four traits were assessed by administering selected scales taken from the Personality Research Form (PRF). The fifth trait, superego strength, was assessed by Cattel's 16PF Factor G. Subjects' scores on each of the five scales were then tabulated and converted into z-scores. Those subjects who obtained a Z of one or more on one of the scales and a Z of zero or less on the remaining four were eligible for the experiment. A control group was also added, consisting of subjects who obtained Zs of zero or less on all five scales. Based on these criteria, 96 subjects took part in the experiment. All of the subjects completed the "stress" questionnaire, which asked subjects to imagine how they would react and cope, and the type of help they would want, if they were to encounter each of the five stressor situations. These five situations were: (1) academic or professional setback, (2) object loss, (3) loss of respect, (4) illness or injury, and (5) moral infraction. For each situation, there were 7 affective descriptions, 8 coping strategies, and 4 social support types. The 19 independent variables were all rated on a similar 7 point Likert-type scale. Situation was a within-subject repeated variable and personality a between-subject variable.Results yielded little support for the concept of central stressors and differential susceptibility to stress. Of the 19 analyses done on the original variables, significant personality x situation effects were found for only one of the eight coping strategies. Main effects for personality were found on the analyses done on three of the six affective reactions, and two of the eight coping strategies. Very strong main effects for situation were found on all the analyses, with the lone exceptions being two of the coping strategies. A factor analysis was then computed and five factors emerged which accounted for 58.4% of the explained variance. Factor scores were tabulated for each of these five factors, and analyses of variance were conducted using each of the factor scales as dependent variables. The results of these analyses tended to support the previous findings, in that situational effects were found for each factor, significant personality effects for two of the factors, and significant personality x situation effects for only one. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)


Psychology, Personality

Link to Full Text


Link to Full Text