Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




The present study was designed to investigate the influence of attributional style, perceptions of control, and social support on life stress-illness relationships, in which life stress was assessed by retrospective and prospective accounts using the Life Experiences Survey. During two sessions, college freshmen completed multiple measures of life stress, attributional style, perceptions of control, social support, and psychophysiological, physical and emotional dysfunctioning;In general, life stress in combination with social support, perceptions of control, and/or attributional style accounted for a significant amount of the illness variance. Life stress, in addition to types, availability, frequency, and satisfaction with social support, were all significantly directly related to the illness measures. Consistent with the reformulated learned helplessness hypothesis, the more individuals attributed events to global or internal causes, the more likely they were to be depressed;A vulnerability hypothesis was partially supported in that individuals who tended to attribute the cause of stressful events to unstable factors or who tended to believe they had little control over these events were more vulnerable to the effects of stress than those who did not. Attributions of internality and globality did not moderate the life stress-illness relationships;A directional buffering hypothesis, in which it was hypothesized that high, stable amounts of social support would buffer the relationship between life stress and illness, was not supported by the social support data. On the contrary, less frequent stable social support buffered the effects of stress. Low amounts of opportunity for nurturance (i.e., responsibility for another person's well-being) also buffered the effects of stress. Satisfaction with support, amount of support, and number of helpers did not moderate the life stress-illness relationship. Appropriateness of support does not appear to be as important as frequency of support in moderating this relationship;The influence of social desirability upon subjects' responses to both life stress and illness measures was noted and was discussed.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Barbara Taverna Martin



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262 pages