The relationship between life events, moderator variables and physical and psychological well being

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Theodore Millon - Committee Chair


Using a longitudinal design, this study examined the direct and moderating influence personality, coping, and social support have in the relationship between life events and physical and psychological symptoms. College undergraduates, who were identified as being relatively asymptomatic during the initial assessment period, were followed over a 2 to 2$1\over2$ month period to determine whether personality, coping, and social support contribute to the development of symptoms.Personality and life events were found to be significant predictors of mood disturbance. Personality had a direct effect on mood disturbance for all subjects while its moderating influence was limited to females only. Anxious-Moody individuals were most likely to experience mood disturbance while Confident-Narcissistic or Passive-Conforming individuals were least susceptible to mood disturbance. Personality was also directly related to physical symptoms though its relative contribution was marginal when compared to the impact life change had on physical symptoms.Active coping was directly but negatively related to physical symptoms for all subjects while less active coping moderated the relationship between life events and physical symptoms for males only. Less adaptive coping strategies were also directly related to mood disturbance for males but not for females. Results were discussed in terms of gender issues and the different role coping may play for symptomatic vs. asymptomatic females.Results obtained for life events, social support, and mood disturbance were consistent with both a stress-buffering and direct and additive model. The results for physical symptoms were mixed. For males, tangible support functioned as a stress buffer while belonging support was unexpectedly associated with increased physical symptoms. No significant results were obtained for females.When the joint influence of predictor variables were examined, life events emerged as the most consistent predictor of physical symptoms. The best predictors of mood disturbance for the total sample were personality, a pessimistic attitude and life events. Results from correlational analyses lent support to the idea that individuals most susceptible to mood disturbance were also those who coped less effectively and had less support available to them. The results suggest that there may be some unique differences in how coping and social support relate to outcome measures for different personality types. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)


Psychology, Personality

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