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Stable, situational and interpersonal influences in stress and coping : a daily process study Lee-Baggley, Dayna

Abstract

Previous studies attempting to understand individual differences in responding and adapting to stress suggest that situational factors (i.e., stressor type and appraisals) and dispositional factors (i.e., personality traits) influence coping responses. However, our understanding of the role of dispositional and situational influences in stress and coping is limited due to the lack of studies that examine both simultaneously. Contemporary conceptualizations of the role of personality in the prediction of behavior highlight the need to examine both situational variability and dispositional tendencies (e.g., Mischel & Shoda, 1995). In the current study, the role of both process variables (i.e., situation) and stable factors (i.e., dispositions) in adaptation to stress were examined. The study employed a daily process methodology involving repeated assessments in a naturalistic setting. Stress, appraisals, coping, and mood were reported twice a day for seven days by 350 undergraduate students. Multilevel analyses indicated that stressor type, appraisals, and the Big Five traits of personality predicted unique variance across a range of coping strategies. Furthermore, the findings demonstrated that a broad range of appraisals, in addition to controllability, predicted coping responses over and above stressor type. The Big Five traits of personality were found to be associated with stressor type and appraisals. The study also highlighted the importance of interpersonal influences by demonstrating the utility of incorporating interpersonal factors into multiple stages of the stress and coping process. Finally, the study provided evidence of the effects of coping strategies on outcomes (i.e., negative mood) beyond the influence of stressor type, appraisals, and dispositional factors using within-person analyses. Overall, the results support incorporating both personality traits and situational factors into models of coping in order to understand the stress process. Similar to the broader literature on personality and behavior, the field of stress and coping is likely to benefit from models that integrate both dispositional and situational influences in the prediction of behavior. The current study suggests that understanding individual differences in adaptation to stress involves consideration of the multiple, situational, dispositional, and interpersonal factors that impact the stress and coping process.

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