Term of Award

Spring 2016

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

C. Thresa Yancey

Committee Member 1

Jeff Klibert

Committee Member 2

Lawrence Locker

Abstract

Stressful life events are correlated with a higher likelihood of engaging in maladaptive coping techniques (Boden et al., 2014; Kohn, Lafreniere, & Gurevich, 1990; Park, Armell, & Tennen, 2004). One type of maladaptive coping technique is engagement in risky behaviors (e.g., high-risk sports, risky sexual behaviors, illicit drug use; Fromme, Katz, & Rivet, 1997). College students are at an increased risk of engaging in these behaviors. Research demonstrates that stressful life events are also correlated with higher levels of depression and anxiety (Kohn, Lafreniere, & Gurevich, 1990). As college students are exposed to a more stressful environment, they are at an increased risk for developing symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to emerging adults not enrolled in college. There is limited research on what may moderate the relationship between stressful life events and engaging in risky behaviors and the relationship between stressful life events and emotional distress indices, (i.e., depression and anxiety). Utilizing adaptive coping techniques may decrease the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors and experiencing depression and anxiety for someone experiencing stress.

The objective of the current study was to examine the role of spirituality as a potential moderator between stressful life events and willingness to engage in risky behavior and emotional distress indices. We hypothesized a positive correlation between stressful life events and willingness to engage in risky behaviors, symptoms of depression, and symptoms of anxiety. We also hypothesized a negative correlation between spirituality and willingness to engage in risky behaviors, symptoms of depression, and symptoms of anxiety. Spirituality was hypothesized to serve as a moderator in the relationships between stressful life events and risky behaviors and depression and anxiety. Participants who report higher levels of stressful life events and higher levels of spirituality were predicted to report decreased risky behaviors and depression and anxiety symptoms, compared to those who report a higher levels of stressful life events and lower level of spirituality. Results of this study supported the first and second hypotheses; significant correlations were found in the expected directions. However, spirituality was not a significant moderator in these relationships in this study.

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