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Example Answers for Section C Stress Topic Paper 3 June 2018 (AQA)


Last updated 14 Aug 2018

Here are a series of suggested answers for the Stress topic questions in AQA A Level Psychology Paper 3 (Section C) in June 2018.

Question 30: (2 marks)

Stress inoculation therapy is a cognitive therapy for stress management. It involves three stages which are conceptualisation (identifying and understanding the stressors), skills acquisition (learning coping skills) and application (trying out skills in a safe environment).

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Question 31 (2 Marks

One limitation is that it is a demanding therapy in terms of both time and effort. This means that the person has to be very motivated in order for it to be effective, as it involves many sessions and a lot of self-reflection. Some people may find drug treatment a much less demanding option and so drop out.

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Question 32: (4 marks)

Group A’s scores suggest a normal distributed as the mean, median and mode are all almost the same (22). However, group B’s scores suggest a positively skewed distribution as the mean (26) is higher than both the median (22.5) and the mode (16).

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Question 33: (16 marks)

If someone is suffering from chronic stress it can lead to immunosuppression. This is because cortisol produced by the stress response means that lymphocytes are not produced in order to fight off infection. This was demonstrated in a study by Kiecolt-Glaser et al. with medical students. Blood samples were taken one month before their exams and on the day of their first exam. Findings were that the activity of their NK and T killer cells decreased and this effect was greater for students who reported feeling lonely or experiencing other sources of stress.

Further evidence to support the role of stress in immunosuppression comes from another study by Kiecolt-Glaser et al. with carers of relatives with dementia. A punch-hole biopsy was taken and it was found that the carers took an average of 9 days (24%) longer to heal than a control group of non-carers. The findings of both studies clearly support the view that chronic stress depresses the functioning of the immune system and leads to illness. However, some research has shown that mild stressors can actually have an enhancing effect on the immune system. For example, Dharbhar subjected rats to mild stressors and found that this stimulated an immune response, rather than inhibited it. This shows that the relationship between stress, the immune system and illness is more complex than was previously understood.

Cardiovascular disorders such as coronary heart disease (CHD) have also been linked to chronic stress. For example, Yusef et al. compared 15000 people who has had a heart attack with a similar number who hadn’t. They found several chronic stressors such as workplace stress and stressful events were linked to heart attacks and that the contribution was greater than obesity and third to smoking and cholesterol levels. This is thought to occur because people who react excessively to stressors, perhaps due to Type A personality traits, place strain on several body systems (e.g. raised blood pressure, increased heart rate) which creates wear and tear in the cardiovascular system.

Evidence to support this link comes from Friedman and Rosenman. 3500 men were screened at the start of the study to ensure they showed no signs of CHD and at the end of the study their cardiovascular health was recorded. It was found that over an 8-and-a-half year period 257 had developed CHD and those with Type A patterns ( e.g. competitive, time-urgency, hostility) were twice as likely to suffer from CHD (a stress-related illness) than those with Type B patterns. This study strongly suggests that there is a link between chronic stress and CHD, but rather than stress having a direct effect on CHD, it is more likely that it is a precipitating factor in that it increases someone’s vulnerability. For example, Orth-Gomer et al. were able to show that stress caused by marital conflict created stress that tripled the risk of a heart attack in women that already had a cardio-vascular disorder. A further problem when assessing the role of stress in the development of CHD is that chronic stress might increase someone’s risk of CHD through indirect effects such as smoking, drinking or eating more.

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