Date of Award

2-7-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Jeffery S. Ashby, Ph.D - Chair

Second Advisor

Kenneth B. Matheny, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Greg Brack, Ph.D

Fourth Advisor

T. Chris Oshima, Ph.D.

Abstract

Recently, 44% of college students reported increased levels of stress, and 28% reported feeling overwhelmed (e.g., The American College Health Association: 2004). Stress has been linked to a variety of physical and emotional problems (e.g., Matheny & McCarthy, 2000). A number of studies (e.g., Matheny et al., 1993; Matheny et al., 1986) have identified coping resources as helpful in decreasing the negative effects of stress. However, there are still some questions in the literature regarding effective ways to increase coping resources. Reading written feedback about coping resources is one way to increase individuals’ awareness about their coping resources (e.g., Matheny et al., 1993). Another intervention that has been shown to have positive and lasting effects with regard to health and well being is therapeutic writing (e.g. Smyth, 1998). While there are studies that point toward writing being beneficial to coping, there are currently no studies that have specifically connected writing interventions with increased coping resources. The purpose of this study was to determine if individuals could increase coping resources and life satisfaction, as well as decrease perceptions of stress and depression by reading about their coping resources and/or writing about them. One hundred and four college students were recruited and randomly assigned to one of three conditions. Condition one was the control condition (i.e. no treatment), condition two received and read written feedback about their current coping resources, and condition three received written feedback about their current coping resources, and wrote about them at three different times. All students were given the following measures at the beginning and end of the study to assess for changes in their perceptions of stress and coping, as well as depression and satisfaction with life: the Coping Resources Inventory for Stress (Matheny, Curlette, Aycock, Pugh, & Taylor, 1992), the Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983), the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (Radloff, 1977), and the Satisfaction with Life scale (Diener, Emmons, Larasen, & Griffen, 1985). The results showed that reading written feedback about coping resources positively and significantly affected the overall coping level of females. However, their satisfaction with life, perception of stress, and depression levels remained unchanged. For males, reading written feedback did not significantly change their overall coping resources or any of the other variables. Writing about stress and coping did not significantly benefit males or females on any variable. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.

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