January 2016: Book Chapter Outlining the Role of Rumination in Stress

Books and book chapters provide an invaluable opportunity to describe the theoretical underpinning of empirical research in a way that isn't possible in concise and focused journal papers, and Derek was invited last year to contribute a chapter to a forthcoming book entitled Stress Concepts and Cognition, Emotion and Behavior (Ed. Fink, G. – Elsevier Press).  

The chapter appears as chapter 31, 'Rumination, Stress and Emotion', and describes the key reasons why rumination provides the clearest and simplest way of defining stress.  The distinction between acute and chronic stress, for example, can best be explained by seeing the acute form as pressure rather than stress.  This is an important distinction we draw in the Challenge of Change Resilience programme: pressure is simply a demand to perform, which will incur raised levels of adrenaline and cortisol to facilitate our response to the demand.  Neither of these are 'stress hormones', just hormones doing what they're designed to do.  The problem comes when they remain at elevated levels even when there isn't anything there to respond to, and it is the continued rumination about emotional upset that has precisely that effect.  

The chapter goes on to explore recent evidence showing that adrenaline and cortisol have compounding effects on cardiovascular function, and places the concept of rumination in the context of self-esteem.

July 2014: The Avoidance Coping Research

The Challenge of Change Profile that participants complete prior to taking part in the Resilience Training programme comprises eight different scales, one of which is avoidance coping.  Avoidance is a well-known term, but surprisingly little was known about how it actually works: for example, does it always involve negative emotion, or can it just be distraction?  And more importantly, how many different dimensions of avoidance are there? 

In an attempt to answer these questions, a study was initiated linked to Lehan Stemmet's PhD project, supervised at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch by Derek Roger.  The first paper to emerge from the project was published in 2014 (General and Specific Avoidance: The Development and Concurrent Validation of a New Measure of Avoidance Coping - Stemmet, L., Roger, D., Kuntz, J. & Borrill, J.: European Journal of Psychological Assessment, Jul 25 2014), and it showed that there were three key components: General Avoidance, Emotional Avoidance and Conflict Avoidance.   

Apart from shedding light on the nature of avoidance and providing a clear way forward for avoidance research, the study also showed that the avoidance scale used in the Challenge of Change Profile comprises items that reflect all three of the dimensions.  From the perspective of the training this was an important finding, showing that the Profile scale is an unbiased measure of avoidance coping.

November 2013: The SPORE Study 

As well as being an accredited training associate and a Master Trainer in the Challenge of Change Resilience programme, Jo Clarke is also on the faculty of the Psychology Department at the University of York, and she was the Lead Researcher in a 2013 study of the factors that contributed to resilience amongst prison service probation staff (SPORE: Sustaining Probation Officer Resilience in Europe).

SPORE was a cross-European investigation of probation staff from Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria and the Netherlands, and included a wide range of potential factors which were thought to be significant in determining resilience. The battery of measures also included the rumination and detached coping scales from the Challenge of Change Resilience Profile and an organisational climate survey developed by Derek.

The outcome measures were adaptive capacity and job satisfaction, and the results showed that overall adaptive capacity was predicted by detached coping, and job satisfaction by the climate survey, in all four countries included in the study. Job satisfaction was also predicted by detached coping in three countries (excluding Bulgaria). The results echo those obtained in the other case studies summarised on the website, and provide a further clear and strong endorsement of the Challenge of Change suite of measures in a comprehensive and carefully controlled study of resilience across different European countries.