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Stress and Coping Theories

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This article first presents two theories representing distinct approaches to the field of stress research: Selye's theory of `systemic stress' based in physiology and psychobiology, and the `psychological stress' model developed by Lazarus. In the second part, the concept of coping is described. Coping theories may be classified according to two independent parameters: trait- oriented versus state-oriented, and microanalytic versus macroanalytic approaches. The multitude of theoretical conceptions is based on the macroanalytic, trait-oriented approach. Examples of this approach that are presented in this article are `repression-sensitization,' `monitoring- blunting,' and the `model of coping modes.' The article closes with a brief outline of future perspectives in stress and coping research.
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Stress and Coping Theories
H. W. Krohnea

a Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz Germany


Available online 2002.


Abstract
This article first presents two theories representing distinct approaches to the field of stress
research: Selye's theory of `systemic stress' based in physiology and psychobiology, and the
`psychological stress' model developed by Lazarus. In the second part, the concept of coping
is described. Coping theories may be classified according to two independent parameters:
trait- oriented versus state-oriented, and microanalytic versus macroanalytic approaches. The
multitude of theoretical conceptions is based on the macroanalytic, trait-oriented approach.
Examples of this approach that are presented in this article are `repression–sensitization,'
`monitoring- blunting,' and the `model of coping modes.' The article closes with a brief
outline of future perspectives in stress and coping research.


Article Outline
1. Theories of Stress
1.1. Systemic Stress: Selye's Theory
1.2. Psychological Stress: The Lazarus Theory
1.3. Resource Theories of Stress: A Bridge between Systemic and Cognitive Viewpoints
2. Coping Theories
2.1. Classification of Approaches
2.2. Macroanalytic, Trait-Oriented Coping Theories
2.2.1. Repression–sensitization.
2.2.2. Monitoring and blunting.
2.2.3. The model of coping modes.
3. Future Perspectives
References



For the last five decades the term stress has enjoyed increasing popularity in the behavioral
and health sciences. It first was used in physics in order to analyze the problem of how man-
made structures must be designed to carry heavy loadsand resist deformation by external
focus. In this analysis, stress referred to external pressure or force applied to a structure, while
strain denoted the resulting internal distortion of the object (for the term's history, cf. Hinkle
1974, Mason 1975a, 1975c). In the transition from physics to the behavioral sciences, the

usage of the term stress changed. In most approaches it now designates bodily processes
created by circumstances that place physical or psychological demands on an individual
(Selye 1976). The external forces that impinge on the body are called stressors (McGrath
1982).
1. Theories of Stress
Theories that focus on the specific relationship between external demands (stressors) and
bodily processes (stress) can be grouped in two different categories: approaches to `systemic
stress' based in physiology and psychobiology (among others, Selye 1976) and approaches to
`psychological stress' developed within the field of cognitive psychology (Lazarus 1966,
1991, Lazarus and Folkman 1984, McGrath 1982).
1.1. Systemic Stress: Selye's Theory
The popularity of the stress concept in science and mass media stems largely from the work of
the endocrinologist Hans Selye. In a series of animal studies he observed that a variety of
stimulus events (e.g., heat, cold, toxic agents) applied intensely and long enough are capable
of producing common effects, meaning not specific to either stimulus event. (Besides these
nonspecific changes in the body, each stimulus produces, of course, its specific effect, heat,
for example, produces vasodilatation, and cold vasoconstriction.) According to Selye, these
nonspecifically caused changes constitute the stereotypical, i.e., specific, response pattern of
systemic stress. Selye ( 1976, p. 64) defines this stress as `a state manifested by a syndrome
which consists of all the nonspecifically induced changes in a biologic system.'
This stereotypical response pattern, called the `General Adaptation Syndrome' (GAS),
proceeds in three stages. (a) The alarm reaction comprises an initial shock phase and a
subsequent countershock phase. The shock phase exhibits autonomic excitability, an
increased adrenaline discharge, and gastro-intestinal ulcerations. The countershock phase
marks the initial operation of defensive processes and is characterized by increased
adrenocortical activity. (b) If noxious stimulation continues, the organism enters the stage of
resistance
. In this stage, the symptoms of the alarm reaction disappear, which seemingly
indicates the organism's adaptation to the stressor. However, while resistance to the noxious
stimulation increases, resistance to other kinds of stressors decreases at the same time. (c)
Ifthe aversive stimulation persists, resistance gives way to the stage of exhaustion. The
organism's capability of adapting to the stressor is exhausted, the symptoms of stage (a)
reappear, but resistance is no longer possible. Irreversible tissue damages appear, and, if the
stimulation persists, the organism dies.
Although Selye's work influenced a whole generation of stress researchers, marked
weaknesses in his theory soon became obvious. First of all, Selye's conception of stress as a
reaction to a multitude of different events had the fatal consequence that the stress concept
became the melting pot for all kinds of approaches. Thus, by becoming a synonym for diverse
terms such as, for example, anxiety, threat, conflict, or emotional arousal, the concept of
stress was in danger of losing its scientific value (cf. Engel 1985). Besides this general
reservation, specific critical issues have been raised. One criticism was directed at the theory's
core assumption of a nonspecific causation of the GAS. Mason ( 1971, 1975b) pointed out
that the stressors observed as effective by Selye carried a common emotional meaning: they
were novel, strange, and unfamiliar to the animal. Thus, the animal's state could be described
in terms of helplessness, uncertainty, and lack of control. Consequently, the hormonal GAS
responses followed the (specific) emotional impact of such influences rather than the

influences as such. In accordance with this assumption, Mason ( 1975b) demonstrated that in
experiments where uncertainty had been eliminated no GAS was observed. This criticism lead
to a second, more profound argument: unlike the physiological stress investigated by Selye,
the stress experienced by humans is almost always the result of a cognitive mediation (cf.
Arnold 1960, Janis 1958, Lazarus 1966, 1974). Selye, however, fails to specify those
mechanisms that may explain the cognitive transformation of `objective' noxious events into
the subjective experience of being distressed. In addition, Selye does not take into account
coping mechanisms as important mediators of the stress–outcome relationship. Both topics are
central to psychological stress theories as, for example, elaborated by the Lazarus group.
A derivative of the systemic approach is the research on critical life events. An example is the
influential hypothesis of Holmes and Rahe ( 1967), based on Selye's work, that changes in
habits, rather than the threat or meaning of critical events, is involved in the genesis of
disease. The authors assumed that critical life events, regardless of their specific (e.g., positive
or negative) quality, stimulate change that produces challenge to the organism. Most of this
research, however, has not been theoretically driven and exhibited little empirical support for
this hypothesis (for a critical evaluation, see Thoits 1983).
1.2. Psychological Stress: The Lazarus Theory
Two concepts are central to any psychological stress theory: appraisal, i.e., individuals'
evaluation of the significance of what is happening for their well-being, and coping, i.e.,
individuals' efforts in thought and action to manage specific demands (cf. Lazarus 1993).
Since its first presentation as a comprehensive theory (Lazarus 1966), the Lazarus stress
theory has undergone several essential revisions (cf. Lazarus 1991, Lazarus and Folkman
1984, Lazarus and Launier 1978). In the latest version (see Lazarus 1991), stress is regarded
as a relational concept, i.e., stress is not defined as a specific kind of external stimulation nor
a specific pattern of physiological, behavioral, or subjective reactions. Instead, stress is
viewed as a relationship (`transaction') between individuals and their environment.
`Psychological stress refers to a relationship with the environment that the person appraises as
significant for his or her well being and in which the demands tax or exceed available coping
resources' (Lazarus and Folkman 1986, p. 63). This definition points to two processes as
central mediators within the person–environment transaction: cognitive appraisal and coping.
The concept of appraisal, introduced into emotion research by Arnold (1960 ) and elaborated
with respect to stress processes by Lazarus ( 1966, Lazarus and Launier 1978), is a key factor
for understanding stress-relevant transactions. This concept is based on the idea that
emotional processes (including stress) are dependent on actual expectancies that persons
manifest with regard to the significance and outcome of a specific encounter. This concept is
necessary to explain individual differences in quality, intensity, and duration of an elicited
emotion in environments that are objectively equal for different individuals. It is generally
assumed that the resulting state is generated, maintained, and eventually altered by a specific
pattern of appraisals. These appraisals, in turn, are determined by a number of personal and
situational factors. The most important factors on the personal side are motivational
dispositions, goals, values, and generalized expectancies. Relevant situational parameters are
predictability, controllability, and imminence of a potentially stressful event.
In his monograph on emotion and adaptation, Lazarus ( 1991) developed a comprehensive
emotion theory that also includes a stress theory (cf. Lazarus 1993). This theory distinguishes
two basic forms of appraisal, primary and secondary appraisal (see also Lazarus 1966). These

forms rely on different sources of information. Primary appraisal concerns whether something
of relevance to the individual's well being occurs,whereas secondary appraisal concerns
coping options.
Within primary appraisal, three components are distinguished: goal relevance describes the
extent to which an encounter refers to issues about which the person cares. Goal congruence
defines the extent to whichan episode proceeds in accordance with personal goals. Type of
ego- involvement
designates aspects of personal commitment such as self- esteem, moral
values, ego-ideal, or ego-identity. Likewise, three secondary appraisal components are
distinguished: blame or credit results from an individual's appraisal of who is responsible for
a certain event. By coping potential Lazarus means a person's evaluation of the prospects for
generating certain behavioral or cognitive operations that will positively influence a
personally relevant encounter. Future expectations refer to the appraisal of the further course
of an encounter with respect to goal congruence or incongruence.
Specific patterns of primary and secondary appraisal lead to different kinds of stress. Three
types are distinguished: harm, threat, and challenge (Lazarus and Folkman 1984). Harm refers
to the (psychological) damage or loss that has already happened. Threat is the anticipation of
harm that may be imminent. Challenge results from demands that a person feels confident
about mastering. These different kinds of psychological stress are embedded in specific types
of emotional reactions, thus illustrating the close conjunction of the fields of stress and
emotions.
Lazarus ( 1991) distinguishes 15 basic emotions. Nine of these are negative (anger, fright,
anxiety, guilt, shame, sadness, envy, jealousy, and disgust), whereas four are positive
(happiness, pride, relief, and love). (Two more emotions, hope and compassion, have a mixed
valence.) At a molecular level of analysis, the anxiety reaction, for example, is based on the
following pattern of primary and secondary appraisals: there must be some goal relevance to
the encounter. Furthermore, goal incongruence is high, i.e., personal goals are thwarted.
Finally, ego- involvement concentrates on the protection of personal meaning or ego- identity
against existential threats. At a more molar level, specific appraisal patterns related to stress
or distinct emotional reactions are described as core relational themes. The theme of anxiety,
for example, is the confrontation with uncertainty and existential threat. The core relational
theme of relief, however, is `a distressing goal-incongruent condition that has changed for the
better or gone away' (Lazarus 1991).
Coping is intimately related to the concept of cognitive appraisal and, hence, to the stress-
relevant person-environment transactions. Most approaches in coping research follow
Folkman and Lazarus (1980, p. 223), who define coping as `the cognitive and behavioral
efforts made to master, tolerate, or reduce external and internal demands and conflicts among
them.'
This definition contains the following implications. (a) Coping actions are not classified
according to their effects (e.g., as reality-distorting), but according to certain characteristics of
the coping process. (b) This process encompasses behavioral as well as cognitive reactions in
the individual. (c) In most cases, coping consists of different single acts andis organized
sequentially, forming a coping episode. In this sense, coping is often characterized by the
simultaneous occurrence of different action sequences and, hence, an interconnection of
coping episodes. (d) Coping actions can be distinguished by their focus on different elements
of a stressful encounter (cf. Lazarus and Folkman 1984 ). They can attempt to change the
person–environment realities behind negative emotions or stress (problem-focused coping).

They can also relate to internal elements and try to reduce a negative emotional state, or
change the appraisal of the demanding situation ( emotion-focused coping).
1.3. Resource Theories of Stress: A Bridge between Systemic and Cognitive Viewpoints
Unlike approaches discussed so far, resource theories of stress are not primarily concerned
with factors that create stress, but with resources that preserve well being in the face of
stressful encounters. Several social and personal constructs have been proposed, such as
social support (Schwarzer and Leppin 1991), sense of coherence (Antonovsky 1979),
hardiness (Kobasa 1979), self-efficacy (Bandura 1977), or optimism (Scheier and Carver
1992). Whereas self-efficacy and optimism are single protective factors, hardiness and sense
of coherence represent tripartite approaches. Hardiness is an amalgam of three components:
internal control, commitment, and a sense of challenge as opposed to threat. Similarly, sense
of coherence consists of believing that the world is meaningful, predictable, and basically
benevolent. Within the social support field, several types have been investigated, such as
instrumental, informational, appraisal, and emotional support.
The recently offered conservation of resources (COR) theory (Hobfoll 1989, Hobfoll et al.
1996) assumes that stress occurs in any of three contexts: when people experience loss of
resources, when resources are threatened, or when people invest their resources without
subsequent gain. Four categories of resources are proposed: object resources (i.e., physical
objects such as home, clothing, or access to transportation), condition resources (e.g.,
employment, personal relationships), personal resources (e.g., skills or self-efficacy), and
energy resources (means that facilitate the attainment of other resources, for example, money,
credit, or knowledge).
Hobfoll and co-workers outlined a number of testable hypotheses (called principles) derived
from basic assumptions of COR (cf. Hobfoll et al. 1996).
1. Loss of resources is the primary source of stress. This principle contradicts the fundamental
assumption of approaches on critical life events (cf. Holmes and Rahe 1967) that stress occurs
whenever individuals are forced to readjust themselves to situational circumstances, may
these circumstances be positive (e.g., marriage) or negative (e.g., loss of a beloved person). In
an empirical test of this basic principle, Hobfoll and Lilly ( 1993) found that only loss of
resources wasrelated to distress.
2. Resources act to preserve and protect other resources. Self-esteem is an important resource
that may be beneficial for other resources. Hobfoll and Leiberman ( 1987), for example,
observed that women who were high in self-esteem made good use of social support when
confronted with stress, whereas those who lacked self-esteem interpreted social support as an
indication of personal inadequacy and, consequently, misused support.
3. Following stressful circumstances, individuals have an increasingly depleted resource pool
to combat further stress. This depletion impairs individuals' capability of coping with further
stress, thus resulting in a loss spiral. This process view of resource investment requires to
focus on how the interplay between resources and situational demands changes over time as
stressor sequences unfold. In addition, this principle shows that it is important to investigate
not only the effect of resources on outcome, but also of outcome on resources.
2. Coping Theories

2.1. Classification of Approaches
The Lazarus model outlined above represents a specific type of coping theory. These theories
may be classified according to two independent parameters: (a) trait-oriented versus state-
oriented, and (b) microanalytic versus macroanalytic approaches (cf. Krohne 1996). Trait-
oriented and state-oriented research strategies have different objectives: The trait-oriented (or
dispositional) strategy aims at early identification of individuals whose coping resources and
tendencies are inadequate for the demands of a specific stressful encounter. An early
identification of these persons will offer the opportunity for establishing a selection (or
placement) procedure or a successful primary prevention program. Research that is state-
oriented
, i.e., which centers around actual coping, has a more general objective. This research
investigates the relationships between coping strategies employed by an individual and
outcome variables such as self-reported or objectively registered coping efficiency, emotional
reactions accompanying and following certain coping efforts, or variables of adaptational
outcome (e.g., health status or test performance). This research strategy intends to lay the
foundation for a general modificatory program to improve coping efficacy. Microanalytic
approaches focus on a large number of specific coping strategies, whereas macroanalytic
analysis operates at a higher level of abstraction, thus concentrating on more fundamental
constructs.
S. Freud's (1926) `classic' defense mechanisms conception is an example of a state-oriented,
macroanalytic
approach. Although Freud distinguished a multitude of defense mechanisms, in
the end, he related these mechanisms to two basic forms: repression and intellectualization
(see also A. Freud 1936). The trait-oriented correspondence of these basic defenses is the
personality dimension repression–sensitization (Byrne 1964, Eriksen 1966). The distinction of
the two basic functions of emotion-focused and problem- focused coping proposed by
Lazarus and Folkman ( 1984) represents another macroanalytic state approach. In its actual
research strategy, however, the Lazarus group extended this macroanalytic approach to a
microanalytic strategy. In their `Ways of Coping Questionnaire' (WOCQ; cf. Folkman and
Lazarus 1988, Lazarus 1991), Lazarus and co-workers distinguish eight groups of coping
strategies: confrontative coping, distancing, self-controlling, seeking social support, accepting
responsibility, escape-avoidance, planful problem- solving, and positive reappraisal. The
problem with this conception and, as a consequence, the measurement of coping is that these
categories are only loosely related to the two basic coping functions.
Unlike the macroanalytic, trait- oriented approach that generated a multitude of theoretical
conceptions, the microanalytic, trait-oriented strategy is mostly concerned with constructing
multidimensional inventories (overviews in Schwarzer and Schwarzer 1996). Almost all of
these measurement approaches, however, lack a solid theoretical foundation (cf. Krohne
1996).
2.2. Macroanalytic, Trait-Oriented Coping Theories
Research on the processes by which individuals cope with stressful situations has grown
substantially over the past three decades (cf. Lazarus 1991, Zeidner and Endler 1996). Many
trait-oriented approaches in this field have established two constructs central to an
understanding of cognitive responses to stress: vigilance, that is, the orientation toward
stressful aspects of an encounter, and cognitive avoidance, that is, averting attention from
stress-related information (cf. Janis 1983, Krohne 1978, 1993, Roth and Cohen 1986 ).
Approaches corresponding to these conceptions are repression–sensitization (Byrne 1964),
monitoring-blunting (Miller 1980, 1987), or attention-rejection (Mullen and Suls 1982). With

regard to the relationship between these two constructs, Byrne's approach specifies a
unidimensional, bipolar structure, while Miller as well as Mullen and Suls leave this question
open. Krohne, however, explicitly postulates an independent functioning of the dimensions
vigilance and cognitive avoidance.
2.2.1. Repression–sensitization.
The repression–sensitization construct (cf. Byrne 1964, Eriksen 1966) relates different forms
of dispositional coping to one bipolar dimension. When confronted with a stressful encounter,
persons located at one pole of this dimension (repressers) tend to deny or minimize the
existence of stress, fail to verbalize feelings of distress, and avoid thinking about possible
negative consequences of this encounter. Persons at the opposite pole (sensitizers) react to
stress-related cues by way of enhanced information search, rumination, and obsessive
worrying. The concept of repression–sensitization is theoretically founded in research on
perceptual defense (Bruner and Postman 1947), an approach that combined psychodynamic
ideas with the functionalistic behavior analysis of Brunswik ( 1947).
2.2.2. Monitoring and blunting.
The conception of monitoring and blunting (Miller 1980, 1987) originated from the same
basic assumptions formulated earlier by Eriksen ( 1966) for the repression–sensitization
construct. Miller conceived both constructs as cognitive informational styles and proposed
that individuals who encounter a stressful situation react with arousal according to the amount
of attention they direct to the stressor. Conversely, the arousal level can be lowered, if the
person succeeds in reducing the impact of aversive cues by employing avoidant cognitive
strategies such as distraction, denial, or reinterpretation. However, these coping strategies,
called blunting, should only be adaptive if the aversive event is uncontrollable. Examples of
uncontrollable events are impending surgery or an aversive medical examination (Miller and
Mangan 1983). If control is available, strategies called monitoring, i.e., seeking information
about the stressor, are the more adaptive forms of coping. Although initially these strategies
are associated with increased stress reactions, they enable the individual to gain control over
the stressor in the long run, thus reducing the impact of the stressful situation. An example of
a more controllable stressor is preparing for an academic exam.
The general relationship between a stressor's degree of controllability and the employment of
monitoring or blunting strategies can be moderated by situative and personal influences. With
regard to situation, the noxious stimulation may be so intense that blunting strategies, such as
attentional diversion, are ineffective with respect to reducing stress-related arousal.
Concerning personality, there are relatively stable individual differences in the inclination to
employ blunting or monitoring coping when encountering a stressor.
2.2.3. The model of coping modes.
Similar to Miller's monitoring-blunting conception, the model of coping modes (MCM) deals
with individual differences in attention orientation and emotional- behavioral regulation under
stressful conditions (Krohne 1993). The MCM extends the (largely descriptive) monitoring-
blunting conception (as well as the repression–sensitization approach) in that it relates the
dimensions vigilance and cognitive avoidance to an explicative cognitive-motivational basis.
It assumes that most stressful, especially anxiety evoking, situations are characterized by two
central features: the presence of aversive stimulation and a high degree of ambiguity. The
experiential counterparts of these situational features are emotional arousal (as being
primarily related to aversive stimulation) and uncertainty (related to ambiguity). Arousal, in

turn, should stimulate the tendency to cognitively avoid (or inhibit) the further processing of
cues related to the aversive encounter, whereas uncertainty activates vigilant tendencies.
These two coping processes are conceptually linked to personality by the hypothesis that the
habitual preference for avoidant or vigilant coping strategies reflects individual differences in
the susceptibility to emotional arousal or uncertainty. Individuals who are especially
susceptible to states of stress-induced emotional arousal are supposed to habitually employ
cognitive avoidance. The employment of avoidant strategies primarily aims at shielding the
person from an increase in arousal (arousal-motivated coping behavior). Individuals who are
especially affected by the uncertainty experienced in most stressful situations are supposed to
habitually employ vigilant coping. Thus, the employment of vigilant strategies follows a plan
that is aimed at minimizing the probability of unanticipated occurrence of aversive events
(uncertainty-motivated coping behavior).
The MCM conceives the habitual coping tendencies of vigilance and cognitive avoidance as
independent personality dimensions. That means, aggregated across a multitude of stressful
encounters, the employment of vigilant strategies and of avoidant ones does not preclude each
other. Thus, four coping modes can be defined. (a) Persons who score high on vigilance and
low on cognitive avoidance are called sensitizers. These persons are primarily concerned with
reducing uncertainty by directing their attention towards stress- relevant information. (b)
Individuals with the opposite pattern are designated as repressers. These persons minimize
the experience of arousal by avoiding aversive information. (c) Nondefensives have low
scores on both dimensions. These persons are supposed to flexibly adapt to the demands of a
stressful encounter. Instead of frequently employing vigilant or avoidant coping strategies,
they prefer to act instrumentally in most situations. (d) Individuals who exhibit high scores on
both dimensions are called high anxious. In employing vigilant as well as avoidant coping
strategies, these persons try to reduce both the subjective uncertainty and the emotional
arousal induced by stressful encounters. Because the two goals are incompatible in most
situations, high-anxious persons are assumed to show fluctuating and therefore less-efficient
coping behavior. Approaches to assess individual differences in vigilance and cognitive
avoidance are described in Krohne et al. ( 2000). Empirical results related to predictions
derived from the MCM are presented in Krohne ( 1993, 1996), and Krohne et al. ( 1992).
3. Future Perspectives
Although the fields of stress and coping research represent largely explored territory, there are
still fertile perspectives to be pursued in future research. Among the promising lines of
research, two perspectives will be mentioned here.
1. Compared to the simplistic stimulus-response conception of stress inherent in early
approaches on stress, the `psychological' (i.e., cognitive transformation) approach of the
Lazarus group clearly represents progress. However, in advocating a completely `subjective'
orientation in conceptualizing stress, Lazarus overstated the `cognitive turn' in stress research.
In stating that `we might do better by describing relevant environments and their
psychological meanings through the lenses of individuals' (Lazarus 1990, p. 8) he took a stand
that is at variance with the multivariate, systems- theory perspective proposed in his recent
publications on stress and emotions (Lazarus 1990, 1991).
First, the stress process contains variables to be assessed both subjectively and objectively,
such as constraints, temporal aspects, or social support networks, as well as responses to be
measured at different levels (cf. Lazarus 1990, Table 1). Second, the fact that most objective

features relevant to stress-related outcomes exert their influence via a process of cognitive
transformation (Mischel and Shoda 1995) does not mean that objective features can be
neglected. It is of great practical and theoretical importance to know which aspects of the
`objective' environment an individual selects for transformation, and how these characteristics
are subjectively represented. Third, as far as response levels are concerned, it is obvious that
stressors do not only create subjective (cognitive) responses but also reactions at the somatic
and the behavioral- expressive level. In fact, many individuals (especially those high in
cognitive avoidance) are characterized by a dissociation of subjective and objective stress
responses (cf. Kohlmann 1997; for an early discussion of the psychological meaning of this
dissociation see Lazarus 1966 ). These individuals may manifest, for example, relatively low
levels of subjective distress but at the same time considerable elevations in autonomic arousal.
In recent years, the concept of subjective-autonomic response dissociation has become
increasingly important in clarifying the origin and course of physical diseases and affective
disorders.
1. It is important to define central person-specific goals (or reference values) in coping, such
as reducing uncertainty, inhibiting emotional arousal, or trying to change the causes of a
stressful encounter. These goals are not only central to understanding the stress and coping
process, they are, in fact, `the core of personality' (Karoly 1999). Goals define the trans-
situational and trans-temporal relevance of certain stressors, serve as links to other constructs
such as self-concept or expectancies, influence regulatory processes such as coping, and
define the efficiency of these processes (cf. Karoly 1999, Lazarus 1991, Mischel and Shoda
1995 ). Instead of applying global and relatively content-free trait concepts in stress and
coping research such as anxiety, depression, or optimism, a more fertile perspective would be
to study personality in this field by paying attention to what people are trying to do instead of
only observing how they actually respond to stressful events.



Cross References
Coping across the Lifespan
Coping Assessment
Health: Self-regulation
Self-regulation in Adulthood
Self-regulation in Childhood
Stress: Measurement by Self-report and Interview
Stress, Neural Basis of
Stress: Psychological Perspectives



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