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Discuss research into the role of personality in modifying the effects of stress. (12)
There have been a large number of studies into Type A behaviour and stress. Rosenman's study in
1976 looked at 3,454 middle aged men on the west coast of America who were categorised as with
Type A or Type B Behaviour. This was done using structured interviews during which the interviewer
observed the participant and noted any signs of Type A behaviour. The participants were followed
up for eight and a half years, during this time there were 257 heart attacks. 69% of these were in the
Type A group which was significant even when lifestyle factors were controlled for. Rosenman
concluded from this that an individual with high Type A behaviour was vulnerable to heart disease.
Although the study does control for some lifestyle variables such as obesity and smoking, but it
cannot have controlled for all. There may still be some individual or lifestyle variables that affect the
results. The study is also culturally and gender specific - all males living on the west coast of America
meaning it's difficult to generalise the findings to women and other cultures. This study doesn't raise
any ethical issues, the participants were volunteers that gave their full consent and were not
manipulated. As the study is a longitudinal one this could raise issues. Some participants may have
dropped out during the course of the study.
There have been studies conducted that find the opposite to Rosenman. In 1985 Shekelle et al
studies over 12,000 males who were assessed for Type A Behaviour with a questionnaire and
structured interview. Over a course of seven years they found there was no difference in the number
of heart diseases between Type A and Type B groups. This study was very similar to Rosenman's, and
can be linked to the same evaluation points.
The idea of hardiness was investigated as it seemed that high Type A Behaviour people managed to
cope well with stress, suggesting some of the characteristics protect them against the negative
effects of stress. Kobasa introduced the concept of Hardiness in 1979 and studied it in 1982. This
study and Beasey et al's 2003 study found that University students who scored highly on hardiness
showed reduced levels of psychological stress.