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Emotional Expression and Positive Affect in Latina and non-Latina White Women Coping with Chronic Financial Stress

  • Author(s): Moreno, Patricia Ingrid
  • Advisor(s): Stanton, Annette L
  • et al.

The aim of this dissertation was to examine emotional expression and positive affect in a sample of Latina and non-Latina white female undergraduate students at UCLA experiencing chronic financial stress. In order to assess the influence of dispositional emotional tendencies, stressor-specific coping, and cultural factors on outcomes of induced emotional expression, the first study examined the main and moderated effects of induced emotional expression on depressive symptoms, intrusive thoughts, negative affect, and positive affect. The second study examined a unifying model in order to elucidate possible pathways by which positive affect is sustained over time in the context of chronic stress through its relationship with dispositional emotional tendencies and stressor-specific coping. Method: After being screened to establish at least moderate chronic financial stress, women (N = 136) were randomly assigned to discuss the emotions regarding their financial stress (induced emotional expression) or the facts regarding their finances (control) during two laboratory sessions. Depressive symptoms, intrusive thoughts, negative and positive affect were assessed at baseline and one- and ten-week follow-ups. Study 1 Results: Multilevel modeling analyses demonstrated that approach-oriented dispositional and stressor-specific processes predicted better psychological adjustment over time, whereas avoidance-oriented processes predicted greater distress over time. Stressor-specific coping self-efficacy uniquely predicted better psychological adjustment across all four outcomes. There was no significant main effect of condition; however, the effect of condition was moderated by dispositional and stressor-specific factors. Induced emotional expression predicted lower distress across time than the control condition at high levels of avoidance processes and predicted greater positive affect across time than the control condition at low, mean, and high levels of stressor-specific coping self-efficacy and approach processes, with the magnitude of this effect increasing at higher levels of these processes. Study 2 Results: Path model analyses demonstrated that dispositional emotional acceptance and reflection were associated with higher baseline positive affect, which in turn was associated with greater stressor-specific coping self-efficacy. Both baseline positive affect and stressor-specific coping self-efficacy predicted greater positive affect at one week, which subsequently predicted greater positive affect at ten weeks. Conclusions: Findings suggest that induced emotional expression both counteracts engagement in avoidance-oriented processes to reduce distress and capitalizes on stressor-specific coping self-efficacy and approach-oriented processes to increase positive affect. Furthermore, stressor-specific coping self-efficacy predicts better psychological adjustment across time and specifically plays a role in the sustenance of positive affect over time in the context of chronic stress. Taken together, the two studies underline potential benefits associated with stressor-specific coping self-efficacy in young women coping with chronic financial stress and suggest that it may be a good target for intervention.

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