Narrative centrality and negative affectivity: Independent and interactive contributors to stress reactions

Journal Article

Reactions to stressful negative events have long been studied using approaches based on either the narrative interpretation of the event or the traits of the individual. Here, we integrate these 2 approaches by using individual-differences measures of both the narrative interpretation of the stressful event as central to one's life and the personality characteristic of negative affectivity. We show that they each have independent contributions to stress reactions and that high levels on both produce greater than additive effects. The effects on posttraumatic stress symptoms are substantial for both undergraduates (Study 1, n = 2,296; Study 3, n = 488) and veterans (Study 2, n = 104), with mean levels for participants low on both measures near floor on posttraumatic stress symptoms and those high on both measures scoring at or above diagnostic thresholds. Study 3 included 3 measures of narrative centrality and 3 of negative affectivity to demonstrate that the effects were not limited to a single measure. In Study 4 (n = 987), measures associated with symptoms of posttraumatic stress correlated substantially with either measures of narrative centrality or measures of negative affectivity. The concepts of narrative centrality and negative affectivity and the results are consistent with findings from clinical populations using similar measures and with current approaches to therapy. In broad nonclinical populations, such as those used here, the results suggest that we might be able to substantially increase our ability to account for the severity of stress response by including both concepts. © 2013 American Psychological Association.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Rubin, DC; Boals, A; Hoyle, RH

Published Date

  • 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 143 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 1159 - 1170

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0096-3445

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/a0035140