Appraised control, coping, and stress in a community sample: A test of the goodness-of-fit hypothesis


Lazarus and Folkman proposed one of the most comprehensive theories of stress and coping in the psychology literature, but many of their postulates have received little empirical attention, and some of the existing research has yielded contradictory findings. This longitudinal study sought to clarify the associations among control appraisal, coping, and stress within this theoretical framework. The theory postulates that coping strategies used tend to match the level of appraised controllability of the stressor (matching hypothesis). It further states that the effects of problem-focused versus emotion-focused coping are moderated by the appraised controllability of the stressor (goodness-of-fit hypothesis). An alternative to the latter is the main-effects hypothesis, which states that problem-focused coping is generally more effective in reducing distress regardless of appraisal. These hypotheses were tested on 72 adults who completed questionnaires on coping and control appraisal. Stress was assessed using self-report (Symptom Checklist-90-Revised) and a behavioral measure (proofreading task) at two times approximately 2 months apart. Appraised control significantly predicted type of coping such that greater control was associated with more problem-focused and less emotion-focused coping. Although the main-effects hypothesis was not supported, the goodness-of-fit hypothesis was partly confirmed by a significant control by emotion-focused coping interaction predicting both self-report and behavioral measures of stress.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sandra G. Zakowski Ph.D..

Additional information

We acknowledge Laura Redwine, Ph.D. for her contributions to the research project; Michele Hayward, M.S. and Janel Alberts, M.S. for their help with data processing; and Kimberly Laubmeier, M.S. for her comments on an earlier version of the article.

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Zakowski, S.G., Hall, M.H., Klein, L.C. et al. Appraised control, coping, and stress in a community sample: A test of the goodness-of-fit hypothesis. ann. behav. med. 23, 158–165 (2001).

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