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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1988 Oct;55(4):652-60.

Adjustment to the stress of simulated captivity: effects of emotion-focused versus problem-focused preparation on hostages differing in locus of control.

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Federal Bureau of Investigation-Training Division, Quantico, Virginia.


We instructed 57 subjects about to be exposed to a simulated abduction and 4 days of captivity in either problem- or emotion-focused coping techniques, or we gave them a control orientation presentation. Retrospective self-report data obtained on the Ways of Coping Checklist indicated that subjects tended to use coping processes consistent with the type of prestress preparation they had received. Dramatic fluctuations in State Anxiety scores over the course of captivity indicated that the simulation was perceived to be highly stressful. Subjects given emotion-focused preparation reported the lowest anxiety and emotional distress levels and were rated as exhibiting the lowest levels of behavioral disturbance during captivity. Externals engaged in more emotion-focused coping than internals, but externals given problem-focused preparation responded the most poorly of all subgroups on all response measures. Overall, locus of control differences were of secondary impact (vs. situational variables) in influencing anxiety and adjustment. We discuss the characteristics of the stressor that may have accounted for the major findings and the stressful circumstances under which emotion-focused versus problem-focused coping may be of differential utility.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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