Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Recreation (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

John Peden


Group development has the potential to contribute to our understanding of stress appraisal and coping among expedition trip leaders. Despite extensive research on the stress-coping process in daily life, there has been little effort to determine how expedition leaders appraise and cope with stress in environments characterized by risk and uncertainty. Group development stages and the stress-coping process have been researched independently, but what remains to be explored is their potential inter-relationship. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between Tuckman's stages of group development, stress appraisal, and coping responses among trip leaders of multi-day wilderness expeditions. More specifically, the study investigated how stress appraisal and coping responses varied among trip leaders at different stages of group development. The nature of this study warranted a qualitative approach, as semi structured in-depth interviews provide an exclusive vantage point for investigating the interplay between group development, stress appraisal, and coping responses among trip leaders. A total of twelve interviews were conducted with employees at an outdoor program dedicated to providing experiential education, life skill development, and adventure experiences to teenagers with mild to severe learning disabilities. The evidence suggests that trip leaders undergo a dynamic stress-coping process that is influenced by group development. Furthermore, there are numerous personal and situational influences that effect not only group development and stress appraisal, but coping efficacy and the outcomes of the trip as a whole. Although stress was most salient in the storming and adjourning stages, it also occurred when groups were norming and performing.