Personal agency in the stress process

J Health Soc Behav. 2006 Dec;47(4):309-23. doi: 10.1177/002214650604700401.


Stress researchers have typically controlled for the role of personal agency, or self-selection, in the stress process, rather than examining it. People in better mental health (those with high levels of coping resources and low levels of distress or disorder) should be more likely to exercise agency. Such individuals should, through problem-solving efforts and purposeful acts, experience fewer negative controllable events and more positive controllable events in their lives and be able to transform or compensate for stressors that they cannot avoid or eliminate. These agentic processes may account for the stress-buffering effects of coping resources; and, because coping resources are unequally distributed by social status, these processes should further help to explain how status differences in mental health are maintained and amplified over time.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Life Change Events
  • Mental Health*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Environment
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*