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The phenomenon of resilience reflects positive adaptation despite contexts of risk, significant adversity, or trauma (Masten and Powell 2003; Luthar 2006). The purpose of this investigation was to propose a mediation model to explain the relation between stress and some psychological and social resources that enhance positive adaptation throughout the entire adult life cycle, and to explore the moderator role of age and country of origin. The indicator of positive adaptation was life satisfaction (LS). The sample comprised 171 Mexicans and 154 Spaniards (N = 325), aged between 18 and 87 years. Mediation was tested by means of various hierarchical regression analyses, which revealed that the positive adaptation process is enhanced by a group of psychological and social resources that mediate the effects of stress on LS. Self-esteem, optimism, internal control, coping aimed at acceptance, and coping aimed at seeking emotional support, as well as social contacts can mediate the negative effects of stress. Finally, it was found that age moderates the internal control but none of the remaining variables whereas the country does not moderate the relation of the variables. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
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1 23
Journal of Happiness Studies
An Interdisciplinary Forum on
Subjective Well-Being
ISSN 1389-4978
Volume 13
Number 5
J Happiness Stud (2012) 13:833-848
DOI 10.1007/s10902-011-9294-2
Psychological and Social Factors that
Promote Positive Adaptation to Stress and
Adversity in the Adult Life Cycle
M.Guadalupe Jiménez Ambriz, María
Izal & Ignacio Montorio
1 23
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RESEARCH PAPER
Psychological and Social Factors that Promote Positive
Adaptation to Stress and Adversity in the Adult Life
Cycle
M. Guadalupe Jime
´
nez Ambriz
Marı
´
a Izal
Ignacio Montorio
Published online: 7 September 2011
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011
Abstract The phenomenon of resilience reflects positive adaptation despite contexts of
risk, significant adversity, or trauma (Masten and Powell 2003; Luthar 2006). The purpose
of this investigation was to propose a mediation model to explain the relation between
stress and some psychological and social resources that enhance positive adaptation
throughout the entire adult life cycle, and to explore the moderator role of age and country
of origin. The indicator of positive adaptation was life satisfaction (LS). The sample
comprised 171 Mexicans and 154 Spaniards (N = 325), aged between 18 and 87 years.
Mediation was tested by means of various hierarchical regression analyses, which revealed
that the positive adaptation process is enhanced by a group of psychological and social
resources that mediate the effects of stress on LS. Self-esteem, optimism, internal control,
coping aimed at acceptance, and coping aimed at seeking emotional support, as well as
social contacts can mediate the negative effects of stress. Finally, it was found that age
moderates the internal control but none of the remaining variables whereas the country
does not moderate the relation of the variables.
Keywords Positive adaptation Resilience Stress
Life satisfaction Adult life cycle
1 Introduction
When faced with severe and extreme circumstances, most people tend to adapt and achieve
some balance in their lives; this has been called ‘resilience’ (Bonanno 2004). Despite the
M. G. Jime
´
nez Ambriz (&) M. Izal I. Montorio
Facultad de Psicologı
´
aMo
´
dulo, Universidad Auto
´
noma de Madrid, 2/Despacho 52,
Campus de Cantoblanco, C/Ivan P. Pavlov, 6, 28049 Madrid, Spain
e-mail: guadalupe.jimenez@uam.es
M. Izal
e-mail: maria.izal@uam.es
I. Montorio
e-mail: ignacio.montorio@uam.es
123
J Happiness Stud (2012) 13:833–848
DOI 10.1007/s10902-011-9294-2
Author's personal copy
different nuances in the concept of resilience, there is a general consensus to define it as a
phenomenon or process that reflects a relative positive adaptation despite contexts of risk,
significant adversity, or trauma (Luthar 2006). Whereas some experts consider that, after
having undergone an adverse experience, especially in old age, maintaining one’s physical
and cognitive functions are sufficient indicators of resilience (Greve and Staudinger 2006),
other investigators believe that, in order to consider a response resilient, there should be
‘improvement’’ or ‘growth’’ in some area or domain of the individual (Bonanno 2004). In
any event, instead of developing psychopathological disorders, adaptation is currently
considered the normal response to adverse and extraordinary events, although it involves
complex processes that require more attention from investigators (Masten 2007). This
viewpoint is reinforced by the positive psychology movement initiated by Seligman and
Csikszentmihalyi (2000), which grants special importance to seeking factors to promote
the adaptation of people who have experienced negative events.
Resilience has been studied from diverse perspectives, such as displaying adequate
development despite a series of risk factors that pose a threat to such development,
functioning well under adverse conditions, or recovering normal functioning after a
disaster or adversity (Masten 2007). The theoretical postures and ways of understanding
resilience are also different because they consider it either a personality trait or a dynamic
process. For the former perspective, resilience is a trait that is fixed and stable over time,
and the main research goal is to determine the individual differences that may explain why
some individuals perform better than others in adverse contexts (Campbell-Sill et al. 2006).
The second perspective considers resilience as a stage resulting from the combination of
diverse protection and risk factors, that is, a dynamic process that ‘‘protects’’ the individual
from adversity (Rutter 2007). This latter perspective states that resilience may develop at
any moment of one’s lifetime and can change as a function of one’s personal, family, and
social resources, as well as of one’s context and age.
An integrative alternative of these two proposals is that resilience can be conceptual-
ized, on the one hand, as a series risk factors and, on the other, as the result of development
that includes the regulation of losses and gains and which, along with the person’s
structural characteristics (biological attributes, personal competences) would enhance
adaptation in moments of adversity (Leipold and Greve 2009). There are many ways to
achieve resilience. Currently, there is sufficient information to identify certain resources
consistently associated with the processes of resilience, adaptation, and recovery. For
example, in a meta-analysis of 170 British articles on recovery and mental health (Boney
and Stickley 2008), it was found that hope and optimism were recurrent and central
elements of recovery of mental health and resilience. Other repeatedly observed resources
are: positive feelings and emotions (Ong et al. 2006), positive identity (Greve and Stau-
dinger 2006), personal control (Jime
´
nez 2008; Visdo
´
mine and Luciano 2006), self-efficacy
(Joop and Rott 2006), self-esteem (Ong et al. 2006), optimism (Seligman 2002), spirituality
(Ve
´
lez et al. 2005), social support, especially when one is willing to accept it (Fredrickson
and Branigan 2005), and some specific strategies to regulate stress (Coifman et al. 2007)
and to maintain well-being in the context of adversity (Davidson 2000).
Life satisfaction is the cognitive dimension of subjective well-being and also is a
construct widely validated in longitudinal investigations as indicator of successful ageing
(Baltes and Baltes 1990; Dienner et al. 2003; Gow et al. 2007; Krause 2004; Lachman et al.
2009; Ryff 1982). It constitutes a resource that includes competences such as autonomy,
control beliefs, positive emotions, emotional regulation, problem solving, adaptation, and
balance throughout the whole life cycle. In this paper, we consider life satisfaction as an
indicator of subjective well-being and the ability to achieve positive adaptation.
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With regard to the study of resilience in older adults, investigators consider it the ideal
population to understand the resilience process and the mechanisms that lead to its
achievement (Ryff et al. 1998). The reason for this is that, at advanced ages, people have
usually been exposed to more stressful states, such as a decrease in their physical functions
and a possible cognitive and social decline, which place them in situations of higher
fragility and, despite all this, most of them manage to remain active and to age actively and
successfully (Baltes and Freund 2003; Montorio and Izal 1998). In old age, resilience can
be considered the bridge between coping and development, in which there is a crucial link
with continuity and change, which ensures that individuals achieve tolerable or satisfactory
results in the face of challenges and stress (Leipold and Greve 2009). This perspective is
especially interesting to understand the stages of old age because, without having to
undergo highly traumatic experiences, the normative stress characteristic of this stage of
life is a threat to personal balance, which makes coping and self-regulation processes vital
to recovering and maintaining well-being. Specialists in the study of life span have sug-
gested that resilience and successful ageing share underlying processes. In particular,
Baltes et al. (1998) indicated that the processes of selection, optimization, and compen-
sation are crucial and necessary elements to compensate the decline and losses of older
persons. However, the transition crises of each life stage—for example, from middle age to
old age—do not only trigger processes of development; they also involve processes of
adaptation and resilience in the face of adversity (Heckhausen 2001).
Luthar et al. (2000) proposed a model of resilience as a process in which diverse
psychological and social variables mediate the negative effects of stress throughout the
entire adult life cycle. In accordance with their perspective, in this research, we focus on
identifying these psychological variables (which may be traits or behaviors learned over
time) and social variables that can mediate the negative effect of stress on life satisfaction
increasing and allowing the adaptation process that leads to emotional balance throughout
the adult life cycle.
To achieve this goal, we first examined the effect of high levels of stress on life
satisfaction and second, we selected the psychosocial dimensions that the literature has
shown to have a higher relation with positive adaptation processes and subjective well-
being. We expect them to act as a buffer against the negative impact of stress. In addition,
we explored the influence of age, under the assumption that, if no influence is found, the
model obtained would be valid through the whole adult cycle, even in aged individuals.
Finally, we proposed to explore whether living in different countries—although with
cultural similarities such as familism or the predominance of a collectivist culture—would
affect the model of positive adaptation. Thus, with participants from Mexico and Spain, our
hypothesis suggested that the country would have a moderating effect on the variables that
conform the model of positive adaptation.
2 Method
The research design was cross-sectional, correlational, multivariate, and cross-cultural.
2.1 Participants
A convenience sample with voluntary participation included 171 Mexicans and 154
Spaniards (N = 325), aged from 18 to 87 years. Formal letters were sent requesting the
collaboration of two cultural institutions, two community centers for the elderly, and two
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educational centers from Madrid and Mexico City, respectively. Once collaboration had
been accepted, we invited the users of programs and workshops to participate voluntarily,
ensuring the confidentiality of their data, and participants and investigators signed an
informed consent form. This study conforms with the ethical standards of the Ethics
Committee of the Autonomous University of Madrid.
Inclusion criteria were, firstly, being of Mexican or Spanish nationality; secondly,
having an adequate cognitive functioning, which was assessed by the Mini Mental Status
Examination (Folstein et al. 1975) in participants over 65 years of age. Four cases with a
score below 23 were excluded. Thirdly, to have undergone an adverse event, as assessed by
nine items of the Stressful Events Scale—EAE (Ferna
´
ndez Seara and Mielgo Robles
1992), which asked participants whether they had suffered the death of a spouse, parent,
sibling, child, or other loved one; whether they or a loved one had a serious disease or a
severe physical disability, had undergone surgery, a miscarriage, had suffered an accident,
or had lost their home because of a natural disaster or an accident. Twenty-seven cases
were excluded.
The sample comprised 65% women and 35% men. As shown in Table 1, the distri-
bution of the Spanish and Mexican samples by age groups, marital status, and educational
level was homogenous. To determine participants’ economic situation, they were asked
whether they were undergoing any economic difficulty at that time. The data indicated
significant differences between the countries in the perceived financial difficulties at the
time of test administration (Table 1), with the Spaniards perceiving fewer economic
difficulties.
3 Variables and Instruments
Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Pavot et al. 1991). This is made up of 10 Likert-type
items, ranging from 1 (totally agree)to4(totally disagree). The internal consistency
indexes of this study were, for the Spanish sample a = .81, and for the Mexicans, a = .84.
Rosenberg’s Self-esteem Scale (Rosenberg 1965, Spanish version by Demo 1985),
which includes 10 Likert-type items, ranging from 1 (completely disagree)to4(completely
agree). The internal consistency index both for the Spanish and the Mexican sample was
a = .80.
Perceived Personal Control Questionnaire An ad-hoc instrument was created based on
Levenson’s (1975, 1981) Internal, Powerful Others, and Chance Scale and the cross-
sectional model of perceived control of Kunzmann et al. (2002). Seven items were
excluded because they do not fit in the entire adult cycle. The final instrument had 23
Likert-type items with responses ranging from 1 (completely agree)to4(completely
disagree). The internal consistency index for the Spaniards was a = .71, and for Mexicans,
a = .72. Some examples of the items are, ‘When I make plans, I’m pretty sure to carry
them out,’ ‘To a large extent, I can determine what will happen in my life.’
Life Orientation Test-revised (LOT-R; Scheier et al. 1994) This includes 10 Likert-type
items, ranging from 1 (very much agree)to4(very much disagree), which assess dispo-
sitional optimism. The reliability index of the Spanish sample was a = .59, and of the
Mexican sample, a = .63.
The Agreeableness Subscale of the Big Five Questionnaire (Caprara et al. 1998
; Costa
and McCrae 1992) is made up of 12 Likert-type with five response options, ranging from 1
(completely true for me)to5(completely false for me). It assesses cooperation and empathy
through items such as ‘‘I easily notice if someone needs my help,’’ ‘‘If necessary, I have no
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problem in helping a stranger.’ The reliability obtained with the Spanish participants was
a = .52, and with the Mexicans, a = .51.
Stressful Events Scale—EAE (Ferna
´
ndez Seara and Mielgo Robles 1992). This
dichotomous scale measures psychosocial stress based on major life events, which are
defined as important events relating to one’s family, personal economy, employment, or
health, involving some kind of change from the usual setting such as moving, divorce,
death of spouse or child, dismissal from work, etc. These major life events may cause
Table 1 Sample composition and differences between countries
Variables Mean (SD) gl F
Age of adults N
Spanish
Young 62 25 (6,4) 1, 3 1.71 ns
Middle 45 44.4 (7,3)
Older 50 70 (5.2)
Mexican
Young 43 27.9 (4.3)
Middle 48 48.8 (9.4)
Older 50 74.2 (6.1)
Life satisfaction
Young 104 15.6 (3.2) 2, 292 2.2 ns
Middle 92 14. 9 (2.5)
Older 99 15.6 (2.5)
%
Marital status
Single 34.7 1, 295 0.93 ns
Married 49.2
Separated 5.1
Widowed 11.1
Educational level
No studies .7 1,294 0.15 ns
Elemental studies 16.1
High school level 7.4
Technical career 40.8
First years of university 10.1
Professional career finished 11.5
Postgraduate studies 13.2
Economical situation
Very difficult situation 4.3 1, 293 8.22*
Difficult situation 15.1
Its situation was normal 46.5
Do not have economic difficult 32.8
Young adults 18–35 years, Middle 36–64 years, Older over 65 years
* p \ .05
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diverse psychological reactions. There are different versions of the EAE scale: The EAE-G
is for adults under 65, and the EAE-A is for adults of 65 years and older. The mean level of
stress in the sample under 65 years old (EAE-G) was 38.1 (SD = 21.1) and for 65 years
and older, it was 32.0 (SD = 19.8). Both means were higher than the average stress
reported by the authors with the normative groups: G version mean = 22.53 (SD = 8.9)
and A version mean = 25.07 (SD = 916). The reliability of the scale was examined by its
authors with the test–retest procedure and with the split-half correlation, with subsequent
correction of the Spearman-Brown index. Following the same procedure, for the Spanish
sample, our data produced a test–retest reliability coefficient for the A version of .87 and
for the G version of .83. Likewise, the correlation coefficients of the split-half items for the
Mexican sample were .74, for the A version and .85 for the G version.
Brief COPE (Carver et al. 1989). This scale is made up of 28 Likert-type items, with
four response options, ranging from 0 (never)to3(always). This scale assesses situational
and retrospective coping. Factor structure exploration of the scale, with principal com-
ponents and varimax rotation, yielded seven coping styles with internal consistency
indexes (Cronbach’s alpha) ranging from .51 to .79: Coping by Seeking Emotional Sup-
port, Positive Reappraisal, Coping through Acceptance, Active Coping, Avoidance,
Emotional Expression, and Self-Blame. Second-order factor analysis identified four fac-
tors: Active Coping, Coping through Acceptance, Seeking Emotional Support Coping, and
Positive Reappraisal Coping (Jime
´
nez et al. in press). These factors were used in the
analyses.
The Socio-demographic Questionnaire was created ad hoc. It contained questions about
personal information such as age, marital status, educational level, economic situation,
occupation, leisure activities, volunteerism, etc. (Table 1)
3.1 Procedure
The data were collected individually at the institution the participants attended. For the
adults between 18 and 64 years, the paper-and-pencil form was distributed to be self-
applied. Participants were invited to ask for clarification if necessary from a trained psy-
chologist while completing the protocol. The time needed for the administration was
between 40 and 55 min. For the adults over 65 years, the procedure was, first, to verify
their cognitive functioning through the MMSE by a trained psychologist; subsequently, the
protocol and the socio-demographic questionnaire, in the form of an interview, were
applied to those who exceeded the cut-off point. The time needed for older participants was
about 60–75 min.
3.2 Statistical Analyses
We tested the mediating role of the psychological and social variables that have been
shown to have a relation with positive adaptation, which was defined through life satis-
faction, the cognitive aspect of the dimension of subjective well-being. As a prerequisite of
the mediation analysis, we explored the relation between the variables using product-
moment correlation analysis. To determine the psychological and social variables that best
predict life satisfaction (indicator of positive adaptation), we performed two hierarchical
stepwise regressions, using the backward method, with life satisfaction as the dependent
variable. We chose this method because it allows calculating the contribution of each
variable in the t test of significance, gradually removing from the model the variables that
do not contribute to the prediction of the dependent variable. Each time a predictor is
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eliminated, the model is newly estimated with the remaining predictors until only the
predictor variables that have a significant effect on the dependent variable remain. With the
variables that best predicted life satisfaction, we conducted communality analysis, with
Pedhazur’s (1982) method, estimating the unique and common variance of the psycho-
logical and social dimensions. This method consists of two multiple hierarchical regres-
sions to estimate the differential weight of the psychological resources compared to the
social resources, and the common variance in the prediction of life satisfaction.
In the first regression analysis, we used stress as the predictor, and in the second one,
psychological and social resources and stress, introduced, respectively, in three steps, with
stress as the final predictor in the last equation. The mediator effect will be met if, in the
first analysis, stress significantly predicts the dependent variable and, in the second
regression analysis, this effect is decreased or suppressed by the variables that precede
stress.
Lastly, to explore whether living in different countries (despite sharing similar cultural
aspects) and age have specific weight in the variables that mediate the effect of stress on
life satisfaction, we conducted two final regression analyses, which constituted the study of
moderation. In the first step, the aforementioned psychological and social variables, and
country (Mexico = 1, Spain = 0) were entered in one of the analyses, and age in the other.
In the second step of each regression, we entered the products of the variables that
interacted with country or age, respectively, and in the last step, stress. Additionally,
differences in life satisfaction by age (young, middle-aged, and older adults) and by
country (Spain and Me
´
xico) were tested (Table 1). The results showed that life satisfaction
did not differ by age but, it did so by country. The main goal of these analyses was to
determine that life satisfaction does not vary with age, as could be thought because of older
people’s normal physical and health decline (Resnick and Inguito 2011).
4 Results
If the presence of the psychosocial dimensions included in the model decreases the effects
of stress on life satisfaction, as the indicator of positive adaptation, this suggests the
existence of a process that enables people to overcome adversity and threats.
Firstly, we estimated the central tendency measures and the product-moment correla-
tions of the psychological and social variables under study (Tables 2, 3).
The next two multiple regressions allowed us to determine the psychological and social
variables that could predict life satisfaction. The results of the first one, with regression
coefficients of R
2
= .53 and F(8, 199) = 27.24, p \ .001, showed that five psychological
variables successfully predicted life satisfaction: internal control (b = .28, p \ .000), self
esteem (b = .27, p \ .000), optimism (b = .32,p\ .000), acceptance coping (b = .10,
p \ .05), and coping through seeking emotional support (b = .11, p \ .05). The second
analysis (R
2
= .042 and F(6, 277) = 2.19, p \ .05) showed that the social variables that
predict life satisfaction were social contact (b = .13, p \ .05) and perceived economic
difficulty (b = .12, p \ .05). The following variables did not provide meaningful infor-
mation about the prediction of the dependent variable and were therefore excluded from
the next analyses: positive reappraisal coping, empathy, and cooperation—within the
psychological dimensions—and leisure activities, educational level, marital status, occu-
pation and volunteering—within the social dimensions.
Next, in order to differentiate the unique and common variance of the psychological and
social variables, we conducted communality analysis by means of two hierarchical
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Table 2 Means, standard deviations, and product-moment correlations between the psychological variables and stress
M (SD) Life
satisfaction
Self
esteem
Internal
control
External
control
Optimism Active
coping
Acceptance
coping
Seeking
emotional
support
coping
Positive
reappraisal
coping
1. Life satisfaction 15.4 (2.8) 1
2. Self esteem 32.8 (4.6) .507** 1
3. Internal control 24.2 (3.4) .527** .395** 1
4. External control 32.9 (5.6) -.225** -.334** -.146* 1
5. Optimism 18.4 (2.6) .561** .557** .458** -.382** 1
6. Active coping -.03 (1.1) .07 .04 .122 .006 .190** 1
7. Acceptance coping .03 (1.1) .177** -.03 .130* .315** .111 .00 1
8. Coping through seeking
emotional support
-.00 (1.0) .078 -.133** .062 .013 -.005 .02 .02 1
9. Positive reappraisal coping -.02 (1.1) -.01 -.103 .049 .234** -.031 .009 .00 -.01 1
10. Stress 36,1 (20.8) 2.271** 2.148** -.030 .102 2.102 .204* .009 .099 .209*
Coping were compute from second factor analyses score
* The correlation is significant at the level .05
** The correlation is significant at the .01 level
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regression analyses. In the first step, we entered the block of psychological variables (self-
esteem, internal control, optimism, acceptance coping, and seeking emotional support
coping) in the first regression equation, obtaining coefficients of R = .73 (p \ .001) and
DR = .527. In the second equation, we entered the block of social variables (number of
social contacts and perceived economic difficulties), obtaining R = .74 (p \ .001) and
DR = .024. In the next regression analysis, we entered each block of variables in inverse
order, that is, the first equation included the block of social variables, obtaining the
coefficients R = .21 (p \ .01) and DR = .044 and, in the next equation, the block of
psychological variables, which yielded the coefficients R = .74 (p = .000) and
DR = .508. The common variance was calculated by the difference between the DR from
the first model of the first regression analysis and DR from the second model of the second
regression (DR = .527 - DR = .508) = .019, which represents the variance shared by the
psychological and the social variables. Note that the same result would be obtained if the
difference of the inverse models were calculated. The unique variance corresponds to the
DR of the second block of each analysis, thus, the unique variance of the social variables
was DR = .024, and that of the psychological variables was DR = .508.
Summing up, the psychological variables (self-esteem, internal control, optimism,
acceptance coping, and seeking emotional support coping) explained 50.8% of life satis-
faction, and 2.4% was explained by variables from the social domain (perceived economic
difficulties and number of social contacts). The psychological and social domains shared
1.9% of the variance, and 44.9% of the variance was explained by variables that were not
included in this investigation.
To complete the mediation study, we carried out two further hierarchical regression
analyses. The first one with life satisfaction as the dependent variable and stress as the
independent variable confirmed that stress explained part of the variance of life satisfaction
(b =-.24, p \ .05). The regression coefficients were R
2
= .05 and F(1, 293) = 14.48,
p \ .000. The second hierarchical regression analysis revealed that the variables that make
up the model—internal control, self-esteem, optimism, coping by seeking emotional
support, and coping through acceptance, as well as the number of social contacts—mediate
the negative effects of stress obtained in the previous analysis, and the former level of
significance was canceled out in this analysis, b =-.06, p [ .05 (Table 4).
Table 3 Means, standard deviations, and product-moment correlations between the sociodemographic
variables and life satisfaction
M (SD) Life
satisfaction
Age Gender Marital
status
Hobbies Social
contacts
Studies
1. Life
satisfaction
15.4 (2.8) 1
2. Age 47.8 (20.2) -.04 1
3. Gender .05 .10 1
4. Marital status -.06 .56** -.07 1
6. Hobbies -.04 .28** .15** .08 1
7. Social
contacts
7.1 (4.03) .08 -.04 -.11 -.01 .06 1
8. Studies .07 2.61** -.04 2.36** 2.13* .06 1
9. Perceived
economic
difficulty
3.1 (.81) .12* .10 .07 -.005 .06 -.05 .12*
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Table 4 Mediation analysis with multiple regressions
Variables Mediation of psychological and social resources in the relation of stress and life satisfaction
Step 1 Step 2 Step 3
BESbb FIV B ES bb FIV B ES bb FIV
Constant 6.218 2.23 4.74 2.30
5.24
2.35
Internal control -.06 .02 .17*** 1.53 .22 -.06 -.16* 1.61
-.06
.02 -.16* 1.61
Self-esteem .17 .04 .27*** 1.67 .16 .04 .27*** 1.70
.16
.04 .26*** 1.73
Optimism .35 .08 .35*** 1.97 .34 .08 .33*** 2.0
.34
.08 .33*** 2..89
Coping through seeking emotional support .36 .15 .13* 1.03 .43 .15 .16** 1.06
.44
.15 .33*** 1.07
Acceptance coping .26 .19 -.98** 1.12 .46 .14 .18** 1.16
.46
.14 .18* 1.16
Perceived economic difficulty .40 .19 .12* 1.13
.37
.19 .11 ns 1.53
Social contacts .07 .04 .10 ns 1.05
.08
.04 .11* 1.07
Stress
-.007
.008 -.06 ns 1.12
R
2
= .480***
DR
2
=-.48***
F
(5, 184)
= 33.97 p \ .000
R
2
= .500***
DR
2
=-.020*
F
(7, 182)
= 26.00 p \ .000
R
2
= .503***
DR
2
=-.003 ns
F
(8, 181)
= 22.87 p \ .001
Life satisfaction as the dependent variable and psychological and social variables as mediator of stress
*** p \ .000. ** p \ .001
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Two regression analyses tested the moderating effect of country and age on the vari-
ables that make up the model of resilience. The regression coefficients for country as
moderator were R
2
= .532, F(13, 197) = 17.22, p \ .000; the standardized coefficients
indicated that country does not moderate any of the variables: internal control, self-esteem,
optimism, coping through acceptance, coping by seeking emotional support and number of
social contacts and, lastly, stress (p [ .05 in all cases). On the other hand, when regression
analysis used age as the moderator, the coefficients were R
2
= .560 and F(13,
197) = 19.26, p \ .000. The standardized coefficients indicated that age could moderate
the variable internal control (b =-.19, p = .001) but none of the remaining variables
(p [ .05 in all cases). An explanation for this last result may be that one’s sense of control
tends to change throughout the life span because it depends on diverse aspects, such as
health, the influence of a nonnormative stressor, and threats to well-being (Heckhausen
2001; Wolinsky et al. 2009). Furthermore, the transition from middle age to old age, when
people tend to weigh their personal achievements against their goals, can represent a period
of crisis. The way to recover emotional balance would be to apply strategies to exert
control, such as redefining goals and managing the dissonance between one’s expectations
and reality (Brandtsta
¨
dter and Renner 1990). Also, personal control is known to vary with
age (Wolinsky et al. 2009),and the general patterns of research findings suggest that, as
people age and face increasing losses, their sense of control declines (Lachman et al.
2011). These are some explanations of how internal control moderates the variables that
conform the meditational model.
5 Discussion
The central goal of this study was to identify the psychological and social variables that
can mediate the negative effect of stress on life satisfaction throughout adulthood. The age
of the participants ranged from 18 to almost 90 years, so the entire adult life cycle was
addressed. Moreover, they had encountered high levels of adversity, as confirmed through
the Stressful Events Scale (Ferna
´
ndez Seara and Mielgo Robles 1992).
The resources in mediation model may form a sort of armor that protects people when
they face adversities (Greve and Staudinger 2006) and lead to successful adaptation to
stress and risks. We expected the psychosocial dimensions that lead to positive adaptation
to be relevant for young adults, middle-aged adults, or old people. In this sense we confirm
the sample of this study face a high level of adversity so this is confirmed in both the
stressful scale measured through a major life events and the average stress which is
approximately a Typical Deviation higher than the normative group stress reported in the
EAE manual scale (Ferna
´
ndez Seara and Mielgo Robles 1992). In our view, the mediation
model supports the theoretical assumption of resilience, incorporating characteristics
considered either individual traits or behaviors learned over time (Resnick and Inguito
2011), which protect (Greve and Staudinger 2006) and enable people to adapt in the face of
tragedy, trauma, adversity, hardship, and ongoing significant life stressors (Newman 2005).
Specifically, psychological resources: internal control, self-esteem, optimism, and coping
strategies of acceptance and seeking emotional support, on the one hand, and social
contacts on the other, conjointly moderate the negative effect of stress on life satisfaction.
Empirical evidence supports the importance of each of the variables that conform the
proposed model. It is well known that perception of internal control triggers cognitive
strategies that are useful in difficult situations and it intervenes in a balanced appraisal of
problems (Joop and Rott 2006).The result of the regression analysis with age as moderator,
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highlights that internal control is the only variable significantly affected by age, which we
believe could be explained because perceived control can vary over the life span and, in
advanced stages, older people may experience a reduction of control in comparison to
young and middle-aged adults (Ma
´
rquez et al. 2008; Lachman et al. 2011). Self-esteem
emerges as a protector element of the negative effects of adversity. Self-esteem moderates
coping with threats and stress (Aspinwall 2001) and at the same time, it is a precondition to
mobilize and accept social support. Nevertheless, self-esteem can also decrease due to the
presence of adversity (Greve and Staudinger 2006) although when it interacts with other
resources, such as a sense of control, optimism, or positive coping, it is less likely to
decrease. Optimism also mediates the effects of stress, especially when it is accompanied
by adequate self-esteem (Jackson et al. 2005) or perceived control (Joop and Rott 2006),
particularly in older people.
In stressful situations, positive coping facilitates problem solving, promotes emotional
regulation, and provides cognitive meaning to events (Folkman and Moskowitz 2000).
Specifically, the strategies that contribute to the model of resilience in this work were
coping aimed at seeking emotional support and coping through acceptance. McCrae (1982)
reported that, in threatening situations, seeking help favors satisfactory adaptation, active
coping through acceptance indicates that adults of any age make cognitive adjustments that
allow them to adapt to stress, probably because they reduce dissonance and emotional
maladjustments, especially when facing events that cannot be changed. It has also been
reported that other ways of coping that are contrary to acceptance, such as avoidance
(Uribe et al. 2007) or distraction (Ma
´
rquez et al. 2006), can lead to unhealthy emotional
maladjustment. Summing up, among the diverse coping strategies, seeking emotional
support and acceptance are useful throughout the entire life cycle although, in general,
active problem-focused coping is especially relevant among young adults.
It might be argued that self-esteem, optimism, and sense of control, which conform part
of the positive adaptation model, are personal traits of people considered resilient (Connor
and Davidson 2003; Waugh et al. 2008), as well as being attributes that may correlate with,
or result from, resilience. As pointed out by Kinard (1998), distinguishing between factors
that define resilience and those that promote or reduce resilience may be difficult. Whether
resilience is best conceptualized as a personality trait (e.g., Connor and Davidson 2003;
Wagnild and Young 1990) or a dynamic developmental process (e.g., Luthar et al. 2000;
Rutter 2007) is an issue that researchers have yet to resolve. Richardson (2002) pointed out
that these opposing conceptualizations are a progression in the field chronological waves in
the study of resilience, and each one contributes to understanding the mechanisms by
which individuals successfully adapt to adversity, either through resilient traits or because
the process reveals the negotiation between psychosocial resources and adversity to reach
positive adaptation (Werner 1995; Gucciardi et al. 2011).
In this study, the psychosocial resources that mediate the negative effect on life satis-
faction and lead to positive adaptation also support the theoretical assumption of resilience
(Newman 2005). Although resilience can be operationalized in many different forms, the
fact that individuals are enriched and empowered by these variables highlights the
importance of stimulating and promoting them from an early age to very advanced old age,
as this would strengthen personality and protect people from adversity.
The social variable that fit the model is the number of social contacts, which, along with
the psychological dimensions, is a key element to favor positive adaptation and resilience
(Kessler and Staudinger 2007). The protector role of social relations in the face of
adversity and chronic stress at any point in one’s lifetime, as well as the mediator role of
processes related to well-being and happiness, are again revealed. Social relations play a
844 M. G. Jime
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special role when other resources decrease, becoming a personal reserve in the face of
stress. It has also been reported that social relations mediate adults’ perceived self-efficacy
and feelings of happiness (Masten 2007). Because relationships are a source of
acknowledgement and of sharing experiences, they strengthen feelings of self-efficacy and
self-worth, they reinforce competences and encourage people to carry out plans, which, in
turn, increases their sense of well-being, happiness, and their positive view of life, espe-
cially significant in older people (Joop and Rott 2006).
Lastly, responding to the investigation of the moderating effect of age and country, the
result of the analyses indicated that, for participants of this study, age affected their sense
of control, which may reinforce or undermine the positive adaptation model. This result is
consistent with the assumption that one’s sense of control changes throughout one’s
lifetime, because it depends on diverse internal or external variables and on the stressors
that used to predominate in old age and cause a weakening sense of control and a loss of
confidence (Wolinsky et al. 2009; Lachman et al. 2011). And, on the other hand, the
analysis of moderation by country shows that being Mexican or Spanish had no specific
weight on the variables that make up the model of positive adaptation. This may be
because both countries are similar in cultural aspects such as familism or collectivism,
which, in turn, are both a result of and influenced by social and cultural norms. The
moderation analysis shows that, despite the fact that each country has its own history and
specific socioeconomic conditions, the mere fact of belonging to one or the other did not
affect the variables that mediate the relationship of stress and life satisfaction.
This study presents some limitations, and there are some suggestions for future research.
Firstly, on the one hand, a cross-sectional study makes it difficult to determine the effect of
each variable at each adulthood stage and how they might buffer subjective well-being
from stress. A longitudinal study would be an optimal method, which of course, would
require a large amount of resources. On the other hand, the nonrandomness and size of the
sample, as well as the fact that it had slightly more women than men (which might skew
the results toward a trend of women’s responses), limit the generalization of the results. We
recommend replicating the model with a larger number of representative participants from
the entire spectrum of adulthood, preferably with random sampling to test the variables
identified herein as protectors from stress, and their relative weights. A second weakness of
the study is the low Cronbach alpha of the Life Orientation Test (for the Spaniards) and of
the Agreeableness subscale of the Big Five Questionnaire. The first case could be
explained because of the few items that form the scale. These results should be interpreted
with precaution.
Thirdly, although the results show a series of variables that favor balance and emotional
health throughout entire adulthood, there are other variables strongly related to positive
adaptation and resilience that did not were included in this study, such as emotional
regulation, positive emotions, self efficacy, genetic and neuro-endocrine function, intelli-
gence, etc. Future research should take these variables into consideration and explore how
each one, isolatedly and conjointly, interact in the process of positive adaptation. In order
to explain the lack of differences between Spaniards and Mexicans, it would be interesting
to analyze the specific cultural variables, such as belief systems, attitudes, familism, life
conditions, or specific economic conditions, and even—from a transactional and ecological
perspective—the proximal and/or distal variables and their interactions that threaten
adults’ adaptation in each country (Feldman and Masalha 2007). Finally, it would be
interesting to establish programs and intervention actions based on the evidence of this
study to promote the processes of resilience throughout adulthood and that, as frequently
noted, should be well grounded on diverse levels of study, including the social,
Psychological and Social Factors 845
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psychological and biological level, which are now attracting more attention from the
scientific community (Luthar and Brown 2007; Masten 2007).
Acknowledgments This investigation was partially funded by a grant from the Consejo Nacional de
Ciencia y Tecnologı
´
a [National Council of Science and Technology] (Mexico) awarded to the first author
for her doctoral studies, and partially as a research project funded by the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacio
´
n
[Ministry of Science and Innovation] (Spain) through the project PSI2008-02338/PSIC Emotional Infor-
mation-Processing in Later Adulthood. Special thanks to Dr. Ursula Staudinger for her theoretical and
statistical advice in this study. We thank the reviewers of this manuscript for their helpful comments that
improved this paper.
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... Strengths researchers maintain that shining a spotlight on an individual's strengths and enhancing the use thereof promotes growth and wellbeing (Clifton and Hodges 2004). In addition, it is also broadening and building the resources needed for coping with future difficulties; and enhances creativity, learning, and personal growth (Fredrickson 2001;Jiménez et al. 2012;Snyder et al. 2011). The enhanced positive affective states created by strengths awareness and use broadens one's attention, perspective, thoughts, and activities; and builds resilience, creativity, learning, and personal growth; thus enabling one to better appreciate and embrace the positive aspects of one's life. ...
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... Desde un punto de vista aplicado, los resultados de este estudio contribuyen a considerar prometedoras las intervenciones derivadas de la psicología positiva como una alternativa para envejecer con éxito. Aumentar las ganas de vivir de las personas mayores a través de favorecer el afecto positivo, estimular el sentimiento de gratitud y dotar de sentido a la propia vida para potenciar el envejecimiento con éxito es un planteamiento coherente con la perspectiva teórica y aplicada de la psicología positiva 60,61 . De forma adicional, esta propuesta recupera el valor del factor conativo -las ganas de vivirpara los tratamientos psicológicos, como elemento fundamental para motivar a la acción y estrechamente relacionado con los procesos de cambio. ...
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... This was supplemented with variables that emphasize people's subjective perception such as satisfaction with aging or attitudes toward one's own aging [5]. Contrarily, we included the PP dimensions that reflect the difference between hedonic well-being (positive affect, happiness) and eudaimonic well-being (personal growth, resilience, meaning in life) [11, 23+ as well as Seligman's main proposals of strengths, with special emphasis on optimism or gratitude, that have shown a predictive value for well-being among older individuals [33,36]. Finally, among the PP variables, we included the dimension will to live, which represents the optimistic expectations about the aging process and is currently considered an important variable for older people's well-being [37]. ...
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... The correlational analyses indicated that our hypothesis is correct. Many previous studies have analyzed the relationships among stress, life satisfaction (66,67), and resilience (38,39). Furthermore, our correlational analyses showed that the relationship between stress and social support is negative. ...
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This study investigated the potential mediating roles of resilience and social support in the relationship between stress and life satisfaction. A total of 426 individuals, who have substance use disorder, from the Shifosi and Dalianshan rehabilitation facilities in China participated in the study. They were tested using the Perceived Stress Scale, Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, Connor–Davidson Resilience Scale, and Satisfaction with Life Scale. Results showed that the serial multiple mediation of social support and resilience in the relationship between stress and life satisfaction was significant. Furthermore, the findings corroborate the important roles of perceived social support and resilience in alleviating stress. Finally, we discussed ways to enhance the life satisfaction for individuals who have substance use disorder and analyzed the limitations of this study.
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