Personal and contextual determinants of coping and anxiety in an evaluative situation: A prospective study

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This prospective study, based on 198 college students assessed under neutral and evaluative test situations, was designed to shed light on the contextual and personal determinants of coping behaviors and situational anxiety. At time 1 (neutral daily routine situation), about 4 weeks before finals, data were gathered on students' coping styles, trait and state anxiety, depressive tendencies, and academic hassles. At time 2, during final exam period, students' state anxiety and situational coping responses were assessed. Consistent with predictions, a significant interaction was found between the situation (neutral vs evaluative) and social evaluation trait anxiety (high vs low) on state anxiety. Accordingly, greater increments in state anxiety were found among high trait anxious than low trait anxious students in the shift from neutral to evaluative conditions. Students high on negative affectivity (depressed, high evaluative trait anxiety) tend to employ more palliative and less active coping behaviors in dealing with an evaluative ego-threatening situation. They also show elevated levels of academic strain as well as state anxiety under both daily routine and evaluative situations. Personal variables (i.e. social evaluation trait anxiety, depression) appear to bear a direct impact on anxiety rather than working through coping styles. Emotion-focused coping behavior was a significant predictor of state anxiety at time 2, suggesting that emotion-oriented coping is associated with poor adaptation to stress. Furthermore, students who experienced a greater number of academic hassles also reported greater situational anxiety at both points in time and also showed increased emotion-focused coping. Task-oriented coping behaviors moderated the effects of ongoing academic hassles on anxiety in a stressful evaluative encounter. Coping styles were predictive of congruent coping responses at time 2. The data provides additional support for the interactional model of anxiety in an evaluative encounter and suggest that any account of the determinants of coping responses and situational anxiety in an evaluative situation needs to consider both personal factors as well as daily hassles in the individuals' environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-918
Number of pages20
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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