Coping as a Moderator and Mediator between Stress at Work and Psychosomatic Complaints

  • Michael Frese
Part of the The Plenum Series on Stress and Coping book series (SSSO)


Coping has become a central variable in psychological stress research. The concepts of coping and defense have been introduced to explain phenomena that cannot be explained by a simple stress—strain model. Some people react strongly to minor stressors, whereas others do not react even to major stressors. There are two ways to explain this. Coping or defense may be either a mediator or a moderator. (For ease of presentation, I shall use the term coping to stand for both coping and defense in the following presentation.) This distinction, between moderator and mediator, has rarely been made in the literature:
  1. 1.

    Coping serves as a mediator when it is related to both the stressors and the stress reaction or, more specifically, when it links the stressors to the stress reaction. The causal impact of stressors on the stress reaction works via coping (see Figure 1). Theoretically, this may mean that the stressor situation influences a certain type of coping response that, in turn, leads to psychological health or dysfunctioning. More technically, this can be examined with a partial correlation procedure (Simon, 1954).

  2. 2.

    Coping can function as a moderator when the relationship between stressors and stress reaction is dependent on whether a person is a “good” or a “bad” coper (or defender).



Coping Strategy Psychological Stress Positive Outlook Demand Characteristic Daily Hassle 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Frese
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für PsychologieUniversität MünchenMünchen 22Federal Republic of Germany

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