Can self-affirmation exacerbate adverse reactions to stress under certain conditions?

Jessop, Donna C, Ayers, Susan, Burn, Flora and Ryda, Corin (2018) Can self-affirmation exacerbate adverse reactions to stress under certain conditions? Psychology & Health, 33 (7). pp. 827-845. ISSN 0887-0446

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Abstract

Objective: Self-affirmation has repeatedly been shown to reduce adverse psychological and physiological responses to stress. However, it is plausible that self-affirmation could exacerbate negative reactions to stress under certain conditions. The current research explored whether self-affirmation would increase negative psychological responses to a stressor occurring in a central life domain characterised by low levels of control.

Design: Female participants (Study 1 N = 132; Study 2 N = 141) completed baseline measures of anxiety and mood. They were then randomly allocated to complete a self-affirmation or control task, before reading a narrative documenting a stressful birth and imagining themselves in the place of the woman giving birth. After completing this task, participants again reported their levels of anxiety and positive mood.

Main outcome measures: Anxiety and positive mood assessed at follow-up.

Results: Study 1 demonstrated that self-affirmed women experienced increased anxiety and less positive mood at follow-up, compared both to baseline and to women in the control condition. Study 2 revealed that the effect of self-affirmation on outcomes was moderated by fear of childbirth.

Conclusion: These results provide preliminary evidence that self-affirmation may worsen negative responses to stressors under certain conditions and for certain individuals.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: self-affirmation, stress, defensive processing, birth story
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Depositing User: Ellena Adams
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2018 14:24
Last Modified: 03 Aug 2020 13:45
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/72890

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