The Interactional Context of Problem-, Emotion-, and Relationship-Focused Coping: The Role of the Big Five Personality Factors


  • The research for this article was supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC 410–91–1596 and 410–94–1718) to the second author and fellowships from the Medical Research Council of Canada and the SSHRCC to the first author. This research was conducted as part of Tess O'Brien's master's thesis at the University of British Columbia. The authors would like to thank Darrin Lehman, Dimitri Papageorgis, Del Paulhus, Ron Pound, Melady Preece, and Jerry Wiggins for their suggestions and comments.

Address correspondence to Anita DeLongis, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4. E-mail may be sent to


ABSTRACT This study examined the role that personality and situational factors play in three forms of coping responses: problem-, emotion- and relationship-focused. Coping responses were strongly associated with whether the situation involved a primarily agentic (work) or communal (interpersonal) stressor. Among communal stressors, the involvement of close versus distant others was also associated with coping responses. Situational factors were linked most strongly with the use of problem-focused (planful problem solving) and relationship-focused (empathic responding) modes of coping. Dimensions of personality derived from the five-factor model (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness) had important associations with coping responses. Coping responses were best predicted by models that included both the additive and multiplicative effects of person and situation factors. Taken together, the findings suggest that a model of coping that considers both agentic and communal dimensions of stressful situations, includes interpersonal dimensions of coping, and considers personality and situation factors in tandem is needed to increase the predictive utility of current models.