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Chapter 3

PSYC 3600 Chapter 3: Chapter 3 - Stress and Resilience

Course Code
PSYC 3600
Diane Lawless

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Chapter 3 – Stress and Resilience
The Stress Model and the Definition of Community Psychology
Barbara Dohrenwens stress model described a psychosocial process leading to
the development of psychopathology. In this model, a particular event of set of
events could produce stress reactions. However, the stress event itself was just
one of several factors that would determine whether an individual’s reaction
would be negative.
oAn individual’s personal psychological characteristics needed to be
factored into the process. Examples: a persons temperament or their level of
oSituational characteristics such as when the stress event occurred, the
physical setting and whether other people were present.
oThere are Intervening factors that mediated the impact of the event on the
individual like situational mediators such as social or financial support and
psychological mediators such as coping skills or pain tolerance.
oDohrenwen noted that stress event could cause either a negative or
positive consequence, depending on the combination of factors. She saw that
community psychologists intervening at both the characteristics level and at
the level of mediators.
oThis stress model could be used to direct community intervention efforts
as well as to differentiate how community psychology was distinct from
clinical psychology, which focused on individual and typically occurred after
psychological reactions had developed.
oThe community psychologists dealt with both the individual and situation
and intervened early in the process before severe and chronic problems might
- Barbara Dohrenwend believed that a stress model might provide a unifying theme
or model for community psychology
- Among the stress model variables that Dohrenwend identified, we would find all
of the following: coping skills, social support, material resources
George Albee reiterated the importance of the stress model and its elements. He
believed the stress model might help provide direction for preventative
interventions. Decreasing stress or increasing coping skills and support
heightened disorders and decreased health. Albee outlined ways in which human
potential could be promoted in addition to how psychopathology could be
Rappaport believed that stress considerations were too person focused and clinical
in nature. Calling it “old wine in new bottles” he advocated a broader more group,
system or policy focus for interventions.
Cowen argued that an understanding of the stress process provided valuable
information for those working person centered interventions in the community.
Cowen argued against Rappaport’s disclaim for stress. She said that psychological
wellness derives from a persons ability to deal with stress.

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Situation focused approaches look at specific stressful events and intervene in
those situations
Competency enhancement approaches look to the individual’s skills in coping
with stress in general and work to increase these skills.
The term stress has been used to indicate the occurrence of three things: a stimulus
event, a process and a reaction The stimulus event is a stressor, the process as a
stress process and the reaction as the stress reaction
Stressors Events
Stimulus events that evoke distress are known as stressors. A list of life changing
stressors was devised called the Schedule of Recent Experience. 42 specific life
events on this measure ranged from “death of a spouse” to “getting fired at work” to
a “minor legal violation”. The list of events with their weighting scores is called
Social Readjustments Rating Scale (SRRS). This is the most widely used stressors
A second way of looking at stressful events was proposed by Kanner, Et al. In
their research the smaller everyday hassles were found to be a better indicator of
stress than the major life changes. Hassle could include things like worrying about
one’s weight, having too much work with too little time, forgetting things and
concerns about home repair needs
Vera and Colleagues conducted a study of frequently experiences hassles
experienced by urban ethnic minority adolescents. They found that not feeling safe
in one’s neighborhood was most commonly reported hassle.
Acute versus chronic stress
Wheaton defines acute stressor as a “discrete observable event…possessing a
clear onset and offset”. He defines chronic stressors as “less self limiting in nature.
Typically open ended, using up our resources in coping but not promising
An acute stressor (for ex: having your cellphone stolen) brings activation of the
neuroendocrine and resultant heightened levels of adrenaline and cortisol. The
individual’s physical system is ready for fight or flight.
Chronic stress has been demonstrated to have destructive effects on DNA and to
contribute to aging. It may directly contribute the physical and mental deterioration
of the individuals or groups affected. Notably, the work on African American
psychosocial stress models supports the contention that the presence of a chronic
socially based stressor such as racism could be a significant contributor to
heightened levels of physical disorders.
Racism and Minority Status: an example of stressful social contexts
Those with minority status may be at greater risk for poorer outcomes due to
chronic exposure to the stressor of racism.
Mays, Cochran and Barnes reported data that perception of racism serves as a
chronic social stressor for ethnic minorities.

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Dovidio and his collegues find that subtler, more covert forms of racism may be as
harmful as more obvious forms of racism
Types of interpersonal racism to capture the changing nature of the race relations
referred to as microaggresions.
Microaggressions are brief commonplace, daily…indignities.. that communicate
negative or derogatory slights. Examples are telling Asian Americans that they
speak English well or crossing the street when a black man is walking in a
person’s direction. These micro aggressions may be both unconscious and
oMicroaggressions are found in everyday, ordinary events that
communicate indignities or slights.
Three kinds of microaggresions are identified:
omicroassault (explicit racial belittling remark or action for ex displaying a
swastika or telling a racial joke)
omicroinsult (racial insult or belittling, for ex saying the best qualified
should get the job when a person of color does not get the job)
omicroinvalidation (excluding or denying one’s experiences for ex “I do
not believe racism exists today”—saying that someones report of racism
is not true)
Studying stressors such as racism is an example of how chronic and acute stressors
continue to affect mental health in our current society
Stress as a Process
Lazarus and Folkman defined psychological stress as a particular relationship
between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing
or exceeding his or her resources and engendering his or her well being. They saw
stress as a process that was influences by multiple variables and emphasized that
the appraisal of a given situation was the first step in the process.
Primary appraisal determined whether the event represented a threatening
oIn this model of stress as a process, primary appraisal deals with the
relevancy of the stressor to the person.
Secondary appraisal factors in the person’s expectations of handling the situation.
In the secondary appraisal stage, the individual’s coping skills and other resources
are evaluated as either helpful or not in contending with the situation.
oThe person’s estimation of their ability to cope with the stressor
Thus the stress process was determined by the persons ability to deal with the
environmental demands. The resulting level of distress experienced would be
influenced by how successful the person was in using the available resources.
Thus in this model it is possible for one person to experience extreme levels of
stress in response to an event and another person to be relatively unaffected by the
same event.
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