Conceptualizing stress: Stress often has a negative connotation. Failure, illnesses, distress are often marked as stress. Stress can also be a result of factors like job promotion, transfers, first love and the like.
Ivancevich and Matteson (1980) defined stress as an adaptive response mediated by individual characteristics or psychological process that is a consequence of any internal action, situation or event that places special physical or psychological demands upon the person. Hans Selye’s (1974) pioneering work shed light on stress, and introduced the concept of stress into scientific circle. As seen above different psychologists have given different definitions to stress. Bourne and Ekstrand (1982) define stress as “any state during which the body tends to mobilize its resources and during which it utilizes more energy that originally would produce.” According to Shanmugham (1981) stress is any condition that strains the coping capacities of the person.
Stress can also lead to physical disorders because the internal body system changes in order to cope with stress. Some physical disorders have short term effect such as an upset of stomach and others have longer term effects such as stomach ulcer. Stress over a prolonged time also leads to degenerative disease of hear, kidneys, blood vessels and others parts of the body. Researches have revealed certain personality variables which make the individual to be more vulnerable to stress. Certain occupations were also found offering more stress. Lachman (1983) has cited examples of experiencing higher work stress by nurses in intensive care units as compared to those on general duty. Dharmangadan (1988) reported that policeman score significantly higher on stress than other occupational groups. Irrespective of the wide research attacks and theoretical contemplation, the field of stress lacks an integrative frame work which can explain the majority of research results in a logical and theoretical manner (Cooper, 1983).
Several studies have attempted to identify and explore different areas and dimensions of stress. (Pestonjee, 1992, Balagangadharan and Bhagavathy, 1997). Most widely used instruments to assess stress include schedule of Recent Experiences (Holmes and Rahe, 1967) Personal Stress Assessment Inventory (Kindler, 1981) and Life Experience Survey (Sarason et al.1979).Different methodological issues in stress assessment are discussed in Rabkin and Struening (1986). Sarason et al. (1978) has concluded that a measure of life stress should possess three characteristics, a) It should include a list of events experienced by the population being investigated. b) It should allow rating by respondent themselves. c) It should allow for individualized rating of the personal impact of the events experienced.
Based on the writing of James (1982), Sutherland and Cooper (1990) and Pohorecky (1991) the investigator identified 8 areas of stress measures the global stress of the individual subject.
1. Stress as a predisposition: The concept of viewing stress as a predisposition evolved over many years in response to experimental findings, clinical observation, theory formulation and prospective validation. Friedman and Roseman (1974) Observed a pattern of behavior particularly in young coronary patients, which later came to be known as Type A Behavior. Type A people are those who are engaged in a relatively chronic struggle to obtain more and more in shorter time.
2. Source of stress in family: House can be a potential source of stress. Both regular and unexpected situations demand adaptive and coping style of the individual. Interpersonal relationships, marriage, communication barriers, unexpected incidents like shifting of the residence, illness or bereavement of a family member add stress to persons.
3. Source stress in occupation: Occupation is another potential source of stress. Regular situations like taking up a risky job, which is against the interest. Working for low wages. Insecurity of job, lack of appraisal from the employer, receiving contradictory directions from higher authorities are stressful to any individual. Along with these, loss of employment, delayed payments and strained interpersonal relations among the colleagues also cause stress.
4. Subjective assessment of situations: Individual’s subjective assessment about a situation is important in labeling a situation as stressful. A situation which is highly stressful for a person, for example a transfer in job, may be viewed as an opportunity to meet new people and see new places by another.
5. Somatic outcomes of stress: Somatic outcomes like migraine headache, angina, loss of appetite, constipation, respiratory problems, excessive sweating are often regarded as indices of stress.
6. Psychological outcomes: Psychological outcomes like insomnia, nightmares, irritability, and hopelessness, anger towards criticism, anxiety,
tiredness, excessive smoking and substances abuse can be counted as to reflect stress.
7. Specific patterns of responding to stress: Individual’s patterns of response to stress are an indicator of his personality. Some persons show hatred and irritability in stressful situations whereas same others become desperate and confessing.
8. Engagement in tension reduction activities: In day to day life, people come across a number of situations which arouse stress. Deliberate or unconscious desire to get out of stress is obvious in the in creased rate of interest shown in sports and games, joining clubs, rearing of pets, watching movies etc.
SELECTION OF ITEMS
On the basis of related literature and detailed discussion with experts in the field, it was planned to construct an inventory to measure stress on a five point scale. 15 to 20 items were constructed on each area of stress evolved in the discussions. Maximum care was taken to see that each item corresponds to the specific area under which it was constructed and they do not overlap each other.
The listed items were constructed in the form of statements. Each statement was related to situation creating or resulting in subjective experience of stress. Altogether 140 statements were constructed and the following precautions were taken while constructing the test items.
1. Each item was constructed in simple Malayalam so that it could be easily understood.
2. Careful attention was taken to make the items free from the factor of social desirability.
3. Sufficient care was paid to see that each item was closely related to stress.
4. In order to control the acquiescence set of subjects, items were constructed in both positive and negative forms.
The test items were randomly arranged and were applied to an unselected group of 50 school teachers. No time limit was given to the subjects and they were asked to read carefully each of the items and express their own opinion in terms of any of the five alternatives, ‘fully agree’ ‘agree’, ‘undecided’, ‘disagree’ ‘fully disagree’ as the case may be. They were also asked to mention, if the statements were either vague or different in respect of their meanings. The test items were again checked on the basis of the responses obtained in the tryout. Statement which belonged to any of the following categories was dropped.
1. Statements which were responded to either favorably or unfavorably almost invariably.
2. Statements which elicited a high proposition of ‘undecided’ responses.
3. Statements which were considered difficult or vague.
Thus, out of the 140 items, 28 items were rejected totally. The remaining 112 statements were given to teachers of Psychology to judge the clarity and face validity of each item. In the light of their judgment 11 more items were dropped and the rest 101 items were retained for final tryout and item analysis.
The item analysis of 101 items on the response of a sample of 300 college students was made on a Liker type 5 point scale ranging from ‘fully agree’ through ‘undecided’ to ‘fully disagree’. Response score of each individual was summed across 101 items. (After converting negative item score to positive). 75 high scoring and 75 low scoring subjects were screened out. These two extreme groups were used to check the discriminative indices of each of the adopting the criterion of internal consistency suggested by Likert (1932). t-value was calculated to compare the mean scores of two extreme groups on each item. All the t values are given in appendices. Those items whose t values were significant at 0.01 level were retained in the inventory. Thus 66 items were selected for the final form.
In order to ascertain the reliability of the inventory, internal consistency as determined by split half method was calculated on the basis of responses given by a sample of 50 college students. The product moment co-efficient of internal consistency as corrected by Spearman- Brown formula was found to be 0.74. To test the temporal consistency, the inventory was administered to the same of 50 college students after 4 weeks. Test-retest coefficient of correlation was found to be 0.79 and temporal consistency to be 0.88.
To ascertain whether HSI was a valid tool, the content validity was determined. The items were given to five teachers in Psychology (as mentioned earlier) who had sufficient orientation and experience in this area. They read every item and judged carefully the degree of stress expressed by each. For this purpose the judges were given a table in which they were required to place every item under one of the following 5 categories, fully agree/agree/undecided/disagree/fully disagree. Judges were also requested to mention such items which were either not well worded or difficult to understand. On the basis of their opinion only 101 items were subjected to item analysis and out of them 66 items which full filled the criteria were finally included in the inventory.
Dr. Hari S.Chandran, M.Phil (Psy), Ph.D, PGDPC is working as Cons. Psychologist ,Department of Deaddiction&Mental Health,St.Gregorios Mission Hospital, Parumala. Kerala, dr_hari@sancharnet
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