The results found that higher levels of neurotics are linked to the use of emotion-focused strategies hill higher levels of openness and conscientiousness are linked with problem-focused strategies. Findings for openness were not significant, with the exception of behavioral disengagement. Therefore the hypotheses proposed in this study were partially supported based on the direction predicted. It was concluded that the type of coping strategies individuals use is in part, influenced by the different levels Of personality traits they possess.
Associations Between Personality Traits and Coping Strategies Stress can affect individual health physically and psychologically (Ender, 1997). Therefore it is important to consider the ways in which people deal with stress, known as coping strategies. Described by Boucher (2003), coping strategies occur when an individual’s resources are exceeded by the demands Of intellectual and physical efforts within their external and internal environments. Openly and Tomato (2002) describe the physical, more action- based efforts as problem-focused coping strategies, and the more intellectually based efforts as emotion-focused coping strategies.
Boucher (2003) shared Openly and Tomato’s (2002) view of coping as a multidimensional construct and made note of the influential role of rationality using McCrae and Costar’s (1987) Big Five model of neurotics (N), extroversion (E), openness (O), agreeableness (A), and conscientiousness (C). Costa and Massacre’s (1992) definition of personality traits, as cited in Boucher (2003) are identified as the different characteristics of individuals that develop throughout the lifespan and becoming more consistent in adulthood.
McCrae and Costar’s (1987) model has been integrated by other previous studies to measure the concepts of problem- and emotion-focused coping and investigate differences in their associations with personality traits Pickoff 2009; Lucky et al 2012; openly & Tomato 2002). In Buckboard’s (2003) study, higher levels of neurotics showed a positive association with emotion-focused coping whilst higher levels of openness showed a positive association with problem-focused coping.
These findings are consistent with Openly and Tomato (2002), however openness was found to be negatively associated with emotion-focused coping, where Boucher (2003) found no association. Additionally, Openly and Tomato (2002) found conscientiousness was positively associated with problem-focused coping, a trait that was not assured in Boucher (2003). The integration of cognitive appraisals within the previous research suggests they are limited in making a valid conclusion on the influence Of personality.
TO provide a greater clarification of personality as an influencing factor, the current study disregarded the use of cognitive appraisals as a variable in the hopes of eliminating interference. Boucher (2003) recognized cognitive appraisals as the perception an individual has towards a stressful event, and notes their relation to emotion- focused coping. The absence of this variable in the current study therefore, is expected to result in lower scores for emotion-focused coping than observed in the previous research.
This study aims to investigate relations between personality and coping proposed by Boucher (2003), and Openly and Tomato (2002), in terms of problem- and emotion-focused coping strategies. To allow for consistency, the current study replicated the previous research by using the NEO Personality Inventory to measure personality. Openly and Tomato (2002) were replicated further with use of undergraduate students for participants. The current study extended the previous research with the SE of the Carver’s (1997) COPE questionnaire to assess coping strategies. Boucher (2003) was further extended with the use of conscientiousness.
Based on the previous research, the current study sought support for three hypotheses. Firstly, higher levels of neurotics would be associated with greater use of emotion-focused coping strategies. Secondly, higher levels of openness to experience would be associated with greater use of problem- focused coping strategies. Lastly, higher levels of conscientiousness would be associated with greater use of problem-focused coping strategies. Method Participants This study used 239 undergraduate students (42 males, 125 female) enrolled in a first year psychology course at Griffith University.
The participants ranged in age from 17 to 55 years with a mean age of 22 years. Materials Carvers (1997) Brief COPE questionnaire was used to measure participants coping strategies. Problem-focused coping consisted of three subspaces: planning, active coping and instrumental support. Planning was measured through statements such as “l try to come up with a strategy about what to do”, active coping through statements such as “l take action to try to make the tuition better, and statements such as “I get help and advice from other people” for instrumental support.
Emotion-focused coping consisted of three subspaces: behavioral disengagement, positive reframing, and self-blame. Behavioral disengagement was measured through statements such as “I give up the attempt to cope”, positive reframing through statements such as “l try to see it in a different light, to make it seem more positive”, and statements such as “l blame myself for things that have happened” for self- blame. Personality traits were assessed through the use Of Costa and Massacre’s (1992) revised NEO personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R; Costa & McCrae, 1992).
A 30;item (NEO-PI;R) scale was used to measure neurotics, with statements such as “l often feel tense and jittery’, and openness with statements such as “l rarely experience strong emotions”, as well as statements such as “l have a lot of self-discipline” for conscientiousness. Each item was valued through self-ratings ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Reverse scoring was applied to 2 items from each trait measured, followed by the summation of total scores for each subspace. Procedure
Questionnaires were handed out to the students at the beginning of their tutorial, taking approximately 20 minutes to complete. Students were not under strict conditions however they were asked to complete the questionnaires honestly, quietly and independently. Results Correlation coefficients were calculated to evaluate associations between personality traits and coping strategies with the alpha level set at . 05. Neurotics was found to be significant, showing a weak positive correlation (r = . 9) with emotion-focused coping. All subspaces for emotion-focused coping were significant for neurotics. A moderate positive correlation was observed for behavioral disengagement (r = . 35) and self-blame (r = . 40), while a weak negative correlation (r = -. 27) was observed for positive reframing. Openness to experience was non-significant for both coping strategies, showing a weak positive correlation (r – . 16) with problem-focused coping and a weak negative correlation (r = 10) with emotion-focused coping.
Behavioral disengagement was found to be the only significant coping strategy associated with openness, showing a weak negative correlation (r -. 25). Conscientiousness was found to be significant for robber-focused coping with a moderate positive correlation (r = . 44). Two problem-focused subspaces showed significance for conscientiousness, revealing a moderate positive correlation with planning (r . 42) and active coping (r = . 40). All subspaces were found to be significant for emotion- focused coping. Behavioral disengagement showed a moderate negative correlation (r -. 6), while positive reframing (r = -. 22) and self-blame (r -. 28) showed a weak negative association with conscientiousness. Refer to table 1 for a complete summary of correlation coefficients. Table 1 Correlation Coefficients for Problem- and Emotion-focused Coping Neurotics Openness Conscientiousness Problem-focused Planning -. 19 . 17 Active coping -. 15 . 20 Instrumental support -. 05 -. 12 . 18 Total Emotion-focused Behavioral Dissent. Positive reframing Self-blame -. 17 . 35* -. 27* . 29* . 16 -. 25* . 19 -. 14 -. 10 -. 36* -. 28* -. 21 . 05.
Discussion In support of the hypotheses, the results showed a significant positive association between neurotics and emotion-focused coping. This suggests that individuals with higher levels of neurotics are more likely to engage in rater use of emotion-focused coping strategies. Upon further inspection, behavioral disengagement resulted as being the only significant coping strategy subspace associated with openness (refer to previous analysis). This suggests that individuals with higher levels of openness are less likely to engage in behavioral disengagement as an emotion-focused strategy’.
Overall, openness indicated a positive association with problem-focused coping, despite being a non-significant finding. This suggests that individuals with higher levels of openness are more likely to engage in greater use of robber-focused coping. Therefore, openness was in partial support of the hypotheses, based on the direction that was predicted. The results for conscientiousness were significant for both coping strategies, with the exception of instrumental support and the overall score for emotion-focused coping.
In support of the hypotheses, conscientiousness resulted in a positive association with problem-focused coping suggesting that individuals with higher levels of conscientiousness are more likely to engage in the use of problem-focused coping. These findings were consistent with Boucher 2003) due to the association found between neurotics and both emotion- and problem-focused coping. The findings for openness were partially consistent with Boucher (2003) due to the significant association with the emotion-focused coping strategy of behavioral disengagement.
This inconsistency was unexpected as the absence of cognitive appraisals was thought to result in lower scores of emotion-focused coping than the previous research. The differences in participants may explain this inconsistency. It may also explain why the current study found more consistent findings with Openly and Tomato (2002). The findings within the current study provide a further insight into the workings of how people deal with stress. The absence of cognitive appraisals aimed to give greater focus on personality traits, however revealed a conflicting finding for openness and emotion-focused coping.
To account for reliability, this confliction should be addressed by future research. Therefore this study could be extended by future studies with a greater focus on openness in relation to emotion- focused coping strategies. By gaining a stronger reliability and consistency within this area of research, future investigations can put more focus and attention towards effectively minimizing the intellectual and physical affects of stress experienced by individuals. The current study acknowledges the gender ratio of participants as a limitation.
Addressed by Boucher (2003), there is a measurable difference of favored personality traits between males and females. Therefore when interpreting the findings of this study, appropriate contrast measures should be made. At the expense of keeping the current study simple and accurate, the three traits measured from McCrae and Costar’s model prevented a holistic insight into the influence of rationality traits on coping strategies, that otherwise may have been gained by including all five traits.
As Costa and McCrae (1992) note, individuals are not characterized by one single trait, rather they have varying levels of all five traits. Therefore, future research could also extend this study by applying McCrae and Costar’s (1987) complete model. Overall, this study confirmed that people favor emotional coping where higher levels of neurotics are present, while people who have higher levels of openness and conscientiousness are more likely to deal with their stress problematically. Conversely, people with lower levels of openness and conscientiousness are less likely to engage in emotional coping.
However, the disregard for cognitive appraisals in this study has presented additional insight into the relations between openness and emotion-focused coping. This requires further investigation by future studies aiming to explain such findings.