City Research Online

Can self-affirmation exacerbate adverse reactions to stress under certain conditions?

Jessop, D., Ayers, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6153-2460, Burn, F. & Ryda, C. (2018). Can self-affirmation exacerbate adverse reactions to stress under certain conditions?. Psychology & Health, doi: 10.1080/08870446.2017.1421187


OBJECTIVE: Self-affirmation has repeatedly been shown to reduce adverse psychological and physiological responses to stress. However, it is plausible that self-affirmation could exacerbate negative reactions to stress under certain conditions. The current research explored whether self-affirmation would increase negative psychological responses to a stressor occurring in a central life domain characterised by low levels of control.

DESIGN: Female participants (Study 1 N = 132; Study 2 N = 141) completed baseline measures of anxiety and mood. They were then randomly allocated to complete a self-affirmation or control task, before reading a narrative documenting a stressful birth and imagining themselves in the place of the woman giving birth. After completing this task, participants again reported their levels of anxiety and positive mood.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Anxiety and positive mood assessed at follow-up.

RESULTS: Study 1 demonstrated that self-affirmed women experienced increased anxiety and less positive mood at follow-up, compared both to baseline and to women in the control condition. Study 2 revealed that the effect of self-affirmation on outcomes was moderated by fear of childbirth.

CONCLUSION: These results provide preliminary evidence that self-affirmation may worsen negative responses to stressors under certain conditions and for certain individuals.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Psychology & Health on 19 February 2018, available online:
Publisher Keywords: self-affirmation, stress, defensive processing, birth story
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
Text - Accepted Version
Download (271kB) | Preview



Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login