Category Archives: stress

Changes in coping throughout adulthood

Manfred Diehl, Helena Chui, Elizabeth L. Hay are part of the Adult Development and Aging Project (ADAPT) at Colorado State University. Their mission is “To contribute to the knowledge about healthy and successful adult development and aging through research, education, and collaborative outreach.” Dr. Diehl received his PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from Pennsylvania State University and is interested in psychological development throughout the course of adulthood.

The ADAPT team from Colorado State

Diehl, Chui, Hay, and colleagues performed a longitudinal study of the change in coping and defense mechanisms across adulthood. Starting in 1992, they recruited 392 adolescents and adults, the majority of which were of European American descent. 129 of the original sample completed data for all four samples, in 1992, 1994, 1998, and 2004. Participants were asked to two 2-hour testing sessions each time.

In order to measure coping and defense mechanisms, the California Psychological Inventory was used. Ego development was measured using Loevinger’s Washington University Sentence Completion Test. Verbal ability and inductive reasoning were measured using the Education Testing Services Kit of Factor-Referenced Cognitive Tests. Socioeconomic status was also taken into account, although participants were not asked to divulge their education level because for the first two waves many were still high school/young adult age.

Diehl, Chui, Hay and colleagues found significant age related patterns of coping and defense mechanisms. As we age, ego regression tends to decrease while sublimation stays relatively constant and the use of suppression coping mechanisms increases. The defense mechanisms isolation and rationalization slowly and steadily decline with age; displacement, regression, and doubt fall from adolescence to mid-50s when these mechanisms begin to rise again; intellectualization follows the opposite pattern, rising until the mid-50 and then slowly falling again, although less dramatically than the previous three mechanisms.

Interestingly, this study revealed that ego level was the most significant predictor of age related changed in these coping and defense mechanisms. Ego level correlates with intellectualization, and when these rise, doubt and displacement fall. Intellectual abilities didn’t significantly affect changes in coping and defense mechanisms.

There were also differences in men and women use of these mechanisms. Women reported more sublimation, suppression, rationalization, and doubt than men, but less intellectualization. Regardless, both men and women’s coping and defense mechanisms changed similarly over the course of the study.

Coping and defense mechanisms are integral to functioning during stress (so literally anywhere). The changes in these mechanisms don’t seem to follow a set course or become more adaptive as we age, despite what you would think. While some maladaptive mechanisms decrease with age, others increased. By increasing our awareness of which maladaptive mechanisms are prevalent during certain age groups,we can try and increase efficacy of more positive coping and defense mechanisms and make an effort to healthily manage stress.


100 ways to Measure Cortisol

OK, so it may be slightly less than 100 ways, but this article provides a wide variety of assays to measure cortisol levels. It also provides great background on the hormone itself. This article also tells how precise an assay could be, what the environmental impacts are, and most importantly, what everyone else is doing.

For my proposal, the differences in the measurement abilities of different tests are significant due to the fact that I’m measuring both salivary and serum cortisol levels.

Kirschbaum, C., & Hellhammer, D. H. (1994). Salivary cortisol in psychoneuroendocrine research: recent developments and applications.Psychoneuroendocrinology19(4), 313-333.

The Rosary and Decreased Anxiety

One study, by Anastasi and Newberg, was extremely relevant to my research interests because it dealt with the rosary and anxiety.  They hypothesized that recitation of the ritualized rosary would lower anxiety compared to simply being exposed to a religious video.  Although, their sample size was very small the results were promising and the rosary group reported decreased anxiety.  I thought that it was important that they were interested in the ritual of the rosary having the effect on the test subjects rather than other variables I had read about elsewhere.

Anastasi, M. W., & Newberg, A. B. (2008). A preliminary study of the acute effects of religious ritual on anxiety. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine14(2), 163-165.

PSS – everybody’s doing it

I noticed another blog post about the PSS, and I’m not surprised but it may be the greatest tool.

The perceived stress scale (PSS) has been shown to provide significant representation of stress individuals, while providing quantitative data to researchers. This is super useful in my proposal, as provides a more cultural perception of stress, rather than just a blood or saliva biomarker.


Cohen, Sheldon, Kamarck, Tom., Mermelstein, Robin. 1983 A Global Measure of Perceived Stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 24(4):385-396

Stress and Cortisol responses in Adults

Since salivary cortisol measurements are such an important part of my research proposal I tried to find multiple sources to get an idea of methodology.  This study used salivary cortisol to test the stress levels in students who had lost a parent and perceived their surviving parent to be more or less caring.  Those that had a parent they perceived as less caring had higher salivary cortisol levels after doing something stressful than those with a more caring parent.  I thought this study was interesting and maybe slightly helpful when designing my methods section.

Luecken, L. J. (2000). Parental caring and loss during childhood and adult cortisol responses to stress. Psychology and Health15(6), 841-851.

Galvanic Skin Response Information

I will be using galvanic skin response as part of my data collection for my research and found one article particularly helpful.  It detailed both methods and materials.  They were simply interested in testing whether they could detect stress through GSR but that is all I really need for my purposes as well so it was useful to me.  I would recommend this for someone interested in using GSR.

Villarejo, M. V., Zapirain, B. G., & Zorrilla, A. M. (2012). A stress sensor based on Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) controlled by ZigBee. Sensors12(5), 6075-6101.

Salivary Cortisol in Yoga and Depression

Since the link between meditative and mindful practices like yoga and the rosary clearly exist, albeit weakly, I decided to take a look at the mitigating effects yoga has on stress.  One study “A Yoga Intervention for young Adults with Elevated Symptoms of Depression” by Woolery et al. (2004) was particularly helpful because the young adults self-reported their symptoms before and after the intervention and the researchers took salivary cortisol samples throughout the study to look at stress reduction.  I didn’t see how the article was particularly clear on the results of the salivary cortisol but I hope to use salivary cortisol in my methods as well to measure stress and the possible mediating affect the rosary service may have on stress.

An Ethnographic study of Grief and Coping Mechanisms

I found the article by Doran and Downing Hansen (2006) “Constructions of Mexican American Family Grief After the Death of a Child: An Exploratory Study” to be very interesting as it a more relevant ethnographic overview of grieving practices than I had read anywhere else.  Although the people in the study were Mexican-American and not the population I intend to study they do belong to the same religious group and therefore follow some of the same or similar religious customs when it comes to grieving.  The article mostly covered how the families dealt with their grief including incorporating their faith, Catholicism, into the process.  For many Mexican Americans this includes the novenario, a nine day period of mourning and prayer, similar to what I would like to study with the rosary service but not the same.  The entire article reminded me the grieving process differs depending on religious and cultural context.  The individual’s grieving experience may differ depending on how important they believe those things are in the grieving process.

Impact of Event Scale-Revised

The Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R) will be utilized because the population sample will most likely be older adults, the format is simple, the scoring is in sub-sections and overall, and it suits the research topic and sample well.  In their article “Impact of Event Scale-Revised” Christianson and Marren explain why the IES-R is better suited for an older population than the IES although the Impact of Event Scale is also a good test. Their article also gives an example format of the test and how to score it which is helpful.

Bereavement and the Impact of Event Scale (IES)

For my research proposal I will be using the Impact of Event Scale-Revised as one of my measures to understand psychological stress in the bereaved.  In the research paper by Pennebaker, Mayne, and Francis (1997) “Linguistic Predictors of Adaptive Bereavement” the Impact of Event Scale is just one of the measurements used to understand grief in people who have lost their partners to HIV/AIDS.  The scale helps to understand how a recent relatively traumatic event is affecting an individual’s day to day functioning in their everyday life, emotions, and thoughts.