Life Events as an Environmental Influences – 500 Level Pyschology Research Paper

Life Events as an Environmental Influences – 500 Level Pyschology Research Paper

Stressors are demands made by the internal or external environment that upset individuals’ homeostasis, therefore affecting their physical and psychological well-being and requiring action to restore that balance/equilibrium. Stress is the result of the interaction between a person’s characteristics and the environment. This early research also gave rise to examining buffering (moderating) factors of stress, focusing on the role of social support. The most common measure of stress is by assessing life events.
Life events have demonstrated to be predictors of physical and psychological health outcomes.

There are three main approaches to measuring stress and life events. The Environmental Perspective, which includes the Checklist measurement of stressful life events (SRRS & PERI), Interview measurement of stressful life events (LEDS), Daily and within-day event measurement (DSI & Hassles and Uplifts Scale), measurement of chronic stressors. The second approach is the Psychological Perspective, which includes the measurement of stress appraisal (PSS), measurement of affective response. The third approach is the Biological Perspective, including the measurements of stress hormones, cardiovascular responses, the immune response, and muscle tension and skin conductance.

There is also debate over if a checklist life events format is effective when compared to a more in-depth life events interview. In the annotated bibliography I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of using both of these types of life events measures.

There has been controversy among life events researchers concerning the if the measurement of stress is more accurate when using a major life events scale or a daily hassles scales. I feel that they both complement each other and if when possible should both be used as an assessment tool. Major life events create new daily hassles and daily hassles can compound into a life event. The effect of minor stressors on illness may be partially due to their association with major life events. An example being the birth of a child as a major event may influence health through minor events such as sleep disruption, interruptions of tasks, problems with child’s behavior.

Major life events inventories traditional and dominant method used to estimate variations in stress. Checklist measures are the basis of the association between life stress and the occurrence of psychological distress and risk for physical health problems. Despite shortcomings of checklist measures, event inventories yield estimates of stress exposure that are meaningful. Measuring major life events is limited since occur infrequently, which makes recalling events less reliable. Also makes it difficult to establish the relationship between the timing of the event, level of stress, and changes in the symptoms of illnesses. Minor stressful events considered more sensitive measure, since assessment repeated on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Topics to take into consideration when assessing Life Events:

1. When measuring Life Events a Coping/defense mechanisms scale should be given as well as another perspective on how stress is being perceived. [The Ways of Coping Checklist – Revised (Folkman et al., 1986) or The Coping Response Inventory (CRI)].

2. When measuring life events should also administer personality scale (common one used with Life Event literature seems to be Eysenck Personality Inventory) and depression scale (Beck’s Depression Scale common one used with Life Event research). Problems with over-reporting of stress or stress symptoms.

3. Ask SES questions. SES has been highly associated with continued stressors.
Example:

Thoits, P. A . (1984). Explaining distributions of psychological vulnerability: Lack of social support in the face of life stress. Social Forces,63(2), 453-481.

Tested the hypothesis that the psychological vulnerability of disadvantaged persons (e.g., women, the aged, the unmarried, the poor) to undesirable life events can be explained by the joint occurrence of high life-event exposure and low social-support resources in such persons’ lives. Data from a panel study of 1,106 adults in Chicago were used to examine this hypothesis. Social support was operationalized as the relative presence or absence of an intimate, confiding relationship. Analyses showed that differential vulnerability could not be accounted for by the joint occurrence of undesirable events and lack of support. A significant negative main effect of social support on psychological distress was revealed, suggesting that support counterbalances rather than buffers the impacts of life stress.

4. Timing of assessment significant intervening variable in research outcomes:
A. Delayed onset of symptoms or decreasing symptoms since event is distal.
Take into account duration of event (still on-going or reoccurring).

5. Use of both physical and psychological measures for further accuracy.

6. Locus of control (controllable versus uncontrollable events) Age related?

7. Viewing life event as simultaneously being negative and positive (ex. Wedding positive event, but does have negative stressors attached to it and vice versus for negative event, such as divorce, relief, etc.)

8. Tailoring life event measures to take into consideration the variation in life events and stressfulness in different life stages:
A. Confounding as a problem in relating life events to health status in elderly individuals. Contamination of life events lists by health-related and subjective items. Failure to control for illness existing prior to the life event assessment period. (French, S. L., Knox, V. J., Gekoski, W. L., 1992)

Interesting Future Research Topics:

1. An interesting new topic is Stress and Memory as it relates to Alzheimer’s Disease.

2. Research into Eventlessness, a lacking of positive events in a person’ s life, just going through the same routine. This is especially a problem in elderly populations. Life Events and Longevity

3. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – extreme stressful life events
(Use of Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory subscale (MMPI-PTSD)
Time of assessment key due to the frequently delayed onset of trauma symptoms.
A. War veterans
B. Childhood abuse experiences
C. Disaster survivors

4. Measuring stress over lifetime. Perceptions changing over time.

Sharma, I. & Ram, D. (1987). Life event in anxiety neurosis: A study of the effect of intervening variables. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 29(3), 181-187.

Studied 84 patients (aged 16-40 yrs) with anxiety neurosis regarding experience of life events during their lifetimes and in the past 6 mo. Lifetime stress score (LTSS) correlated positively with an anxiety score; family jointness, social support, and socioeconomic status (SES) correlated negatively with the anxiety score. LTSS and SES correlated positively with economic status and social support. LTSS, recent stress score, socioeconomic and economic status, and social support accounted for 50% of the variability in the magnitude of illness; LTSS and family jointness were the most important. Findings highlight the significance of experience of stresses over the lifetime in the production of anxiety symptoms.

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