For my master’s thesis at Fordham University, I investigated relationships among college student’s perceived spiritual support (and nonsupport), appraisal style and psychological adjustment in the context of everyday, ongoing challenges, or “hassles.” Participants were 51 introductory psychology students at Fordham University, a private university in New York City. Measures included: The Hassle Scale (Kanner, Coyne et al., 1981), the Domain-Specific Appraisal Survey (Gallette, 2000), the G-d Image Scales (Kirkpatrick & Shaver, 1990), the Religious Salience Scale, the Perceived Spiritual Support Scale (Adler, 1999), and the Mental Health Index (Veit & Ware, 1983). Among the findings were: perceived spiritual support and positive appraisal were related to each other, but only positive appraisal was related to well-being. Perceived spiritual nonsupport and negative appraisals were related to each other and to distress. Perceived spiritual nonsupport and negative appraisal together accounted for 25% of the variance in distress.
Whereas previous research has indicated that stressful events are important predictors of hopelessness and suicidal behavior (Dixon et al., 1992) as well as psychological distress (Lay & Nguyen, 1998) and depression (Brilman & Ormel, 2001), to date almost all the research has defined stressors in terms of major traumatic life events. However a growing literature suggests that daily hassles should not be neglected since they consistently contribute more to predicting depression, hopelessness and suicidal ideation than do major negative life events (e.g. Kanner et al, 1981; Dixon et al. 1992). Previous research has examined the relationship between perceived spiritual support in the context of life events and adjustment (Gaisin & Procidano, 1998) and between domain-specific appraisal of life events and adjustment (Galette, 2000), but not between perceived spiritual support and domain-specific appraisal, in the context of hassles, and not their joint contribution to psychological adjustment. Considering research that suggests the minor daily hassles consistently contribute more to predicting a variety of adjustment difficulties than major life events, this study constitutes an important contribution to the literature on spirituality in everyday living.
This study suggests that spirituality plays a significant role in how college students cope with everyday hassles. Furthermore, the relationship between perceived spiritual support and appraisal style of these daily challenges is consistent with Folkman and Lazarus’ (1984) contextual coping model, in which religion may be viewed as secondary appraisal. In light of these findings and specifically the role that spiritual nonsupport plays in accounting for the variance in distress, it appears that more research and clinical intervention should ensue that considers the involvement of both these constructs in everyday living. Finally, given the problems that arise for college students due to stressful circumstances, it would be important to continue researching this population, as well as to test the generalizability of these findings in other contexts and settings.