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Example Answers for Stress: A Level Psychology, Paper 3, June 2019 (AQA)

A Level

Last updated 23 Dec 2019

Here are some example answers to the two longer written Paper 3 questions on Stress in the 2019 AQA exams.

Question 21

One reason is that a volunteer sample has been used and it is possible that the members of the self-help group with stress who volunteered had a higher level of stress then most people with stress. This means it would not be appropriate to generalise their ratings on the stress scale to all people with stress. This study could be modified by using a random sample of people diagnosed as suffering from stress, as this should produce a less biased and more representative sample, meaning that the findings could be generalised more widely.

Question 22

Friedman and Rosenman proposed that Type A personality, characterised by time urgency, competitiveness, and hostility was related to negative consequences of stress, especially coronary heart disease (CHD). They also identified Type B personality, which is less likely to be related to stress due to being more relaxed, more tolerant and less competitive.

They provided evidence to support this theory in a study of over 3,000 Californian men. All were CHD free at the start of the study when their personality type was assessed. However, 8 and a half years later 257 men had developed CHD and 70% of them had been assessed as Type A. The type As also had higher levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline and higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This led them to conclude that Type A personality traits lead people to be more vulnerable to stressors because they cause a raised stress response.

However, there has also been contradictory evidence suggesting Type B personality is associated with greater risk. For example, Ragland and Brand followed up some of Friedman and Rosenman’s original sample who had survived their CHD. They found that as time went on, survivors that were Type B were more likely to die than those who were Type A. This may be because the Type As were more motivated to make lifestyle changes after their first heart attack. In addition, some research has shown that not all Type A traits are linked to stress and that hostility seems to be the strongest predictor of CHD. Overall, evidence suggests that the link between Type A personality and stress is more complex than first believed.

Type C is another personality type that has been linked to stress. People with a type C personality are ‘people pleasers’ and tend to repress their own emotions, such as anger, and it is believed this makes them more prone to cancer. Dattore et al. supported this in a study of 200 Vietnam war veterans, 75 of whom had cancer. They found that the cancer patients reported significantly more emotional repression than the non-cancer patients, suggesting that that having a Type C personality might make a person more prone to cancer. However, it has been suggested that this relationship is not straightforward and is probably mediated by age and other factors.

Hardiness is another aspect of personality and those with a hardy personality tend to be more resistant to stress and seem to thrive in stressful conditions. Hardiness consists of three elements – commitment, challenge and control. Hardy individuals are deeply involved in their relationships, activities and life generally (commitment), and also welcome change as an opportunity or challenge, rather than seeing it as a threat. They also have a strong belief that they are in control of things that happen to them.

Evidence to support hardiness comes from Kobasa’s study of 670 American middle and senior managers. She identified those who experienced high levels of stress over a period of 3 years and found variation in terms of illness. Those managers who were more resilient tended to score highly for challenge, commitment and control supporting the idea that hardiness leads people to be more stress resistant.

However, some researchers have claimed that the scales used to measure hardiness may actually be measuring a lack of neuroticism instead. Although more recently scales have been developed, such as the Dispositional Resilience Scale, to address this problem. Despite criticism, the hardiness approach does have useful practical applications. For example, elite units of the US military routinely assess candidates for high levels of hardiness when they apply. This is because their jobs are particularly stressful.

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