Type A personality, self-control, and vulnerability to stress

J Pers Assess. Fall 1988;52(3):420-33. doi: 10.1207/s15327752jpa5203_3.


Type A behavior (hard-driving, competitive, time-urgent, hostile-irritable) has been linked to high stress levels and the risk of eventual cardiovascular problems (i.e., coronary heart disease, CHD). However, this pattern of behavior closely resembles the traditional masculine instrumental (goal-oriented) orientation, and, if kept within limits, may be viewed as adaptive in success-oriented, middle-class college students. Hypothetically then, Type A behavior may be displayed by a broad group of individuals, and only in those cases when it is allowed to reach extreme proportions is stress sufficient enough to confer risk. This article considers two lines of reasoning. Is greater self-control required for college women to be Type As, because it involves crossing into traditional male role behavior? Type A women displayed significantly better self-control then Type B women; the opposite result was disclosed for college men with Type As displaying poorer self-control than Type Bs. The question of whether risk-conferring Type A behavior would result from poorer self-control was answered in the affirmative. Self-control assumed moderator status; poorer self-control in both male and female Type As was associated with high levels of day-to-day stress relative to Type As with better self-control. Self-control did not influence stress level in Type Bs. This moderator effect suggests that only Type As who cannot contain their behavior within adaptive limits will be vulnerable to excessive stress and at risk for CHD.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Coronary Disease / psychology
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Personality Tests
  • Psychometrics
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept*
  • Type A Personality*