Project & Workgroups

Stress is one of the few research areas, which are part of many different scientific disciplines. Selye (1982, S. 7) already stated from his medical point of view over 30 years ago “Nowadays, everyone seems to be talking about stress” and Lazarus and Folkman wrote with a psychological background (1984, S. 1) “it is virtually impossible today to read extensively in any of the biological or social sciences without running into the term stress”. Especially the topic “stress and work” has come into focus of public interest. Recently the “Stressreport 2012” of the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin) or the „Health Report 2014“ of DAK (a large German health insurance company) draw a wide range of attention by the media. Especially the rapid increase of psychological stress and the correlated down times (sick leave, occupational disability etc.) are often focused on. The number of days of absence due to mental illness has strongly increased during the last years. In the year 2012 mental diseases were responsible for more than 53 million days of illness in Germany and already 40% of early retirements were based on psychological reasons. Not only the health and quality of life of the employees are sustainably affected, but the economic damage is substantial, too. The federal office for statistics has estimated the costs to mental diseases at 29 billion Euro. Meanwhile politicians and lobbyists have realized that psychological safety at work is no side issue. In September 2013 the ministry of work and social affairs, the federal congregation of employers (BDA) and the head organization of the German unions (DGB) emphasized in a mutual statement, that the promotion/support of psychological safety at work is not only an ethic question but also an economic necessity. To avoid long terms of absence it is important to early identify and minimize the negative effects of work-related psychological stress. Considering the demographic change, which implies a diminishing amount of working people and an increasing average age of the employees, it is important to create a work situation which allows the employees to work healthy, motivated and fit until their retirement.

Despite the enormous practical relevance there are still theoretical deficits in research. In the literature, the lack of explicit consideration of time in defining core concepts and in the empirical analyses of stress has been criticized several times (McGrath & Beehr, 1990). The aim of the graduate college “Dynamic Aspects of Stress at Work” (DAS-GC) is to examine the dynamics of work-related stress with an interdisciplinary team. The psychological approaches, which use verbally formulated theories and empirical methods should profit from the much more exact economic models. Economic approaches could be completed with many of so far ignored concepts, which have been very helpful in psychological research.

During the last years, calls have been made again for more consideration of time aspects in theoretical and empirical analysis (Dormann & Van de Ven, 2014; Roe, 2008; Sonnentag, 2012; Sonnentag, Pundt, & Albrecht, 2014; see also Mitchell & James, 2001 and Völkle, Oud, Davidov, & Schmidt, 2012). Using an overlapping research concept and considering several time-related aspects, research of the DAS-GC has three major foci:

  1. Development of dynamic mathematical models and empirical model testing: Virtually all stress theories work implicitly with a dynamic approach without giving a detailed description thereof. An exact account of the dynamic aspects of stress will be made using stochastic differential equations by the workgroup Wälde. This theoretical account is mirrored by the empirical dynamic analysis of social stress processes, which will be also carried out with stochastic differential equations by the workgroup Dormann. Here the focus is on the determination and optimization of time intervals for repeated measurements. The implicit consideration of time in the workgroups Wälde and Dormann is complemented by the explicit modeling of time in the workgroups Hahn and Rigotti. Workgroup Hahn examines the course of recovery processes with latent growth modeling. Workgroup Rigotti uses latent growth mixture modeling to identify different clusters of trajectories of demands and resources over time by describing non-linear processes. The development of theoretical models and empirical analyses at the same time with parallel workgroups will produce a significant progress from both perspectives for the scientific community.
  2. Time-related dynamics of crossover processes: The dynamic of stress events is not only restricted to intra-individual processes, but the most influential stress models (i.e. Bakker & Demerouti, 2007; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Selye, 1982) are confined to such intra-individual processes. Recently more research has been investigating inter-individual processes based on concepts like crossover or transfer. Crossover processes describe the transfer of stress from one individual to another. Meanwhile several authors regard crossover processes as highly significant to the development of stress and – in best case – to overcome stress. However so far there is scarcely anything known about the time related characteristics of crossover processes. The time-related aspects of crossover processes are theoretically described in the workgroup Wälde referring to spouses and life partners. Positive crossover processes during recovering of dual earner couples are empirically investigated in the workgroup Hahn. Crossover processes between superior and colleagues are investigated in the workgroup Dormann. All workgroups commonly aim at analyzing the time-related characteristics of transfer processes more exactly in order to describe the duration as well as middle- and long-term intensity of stress effects.
  3. Resilience – time-dependent interaction effects: All teams investigate time-related aspects of interactions between stressors and resources. All workgroups focus on potential resilience factors as personal resources, which can prevent or reduce short-, middle, and long-term strain. Workgroup Hahn focusses especially on the question which resilience factors positively impact on the courses of recovery. Workgroup Rigotti investigates the change of resilience factors over time. Workgroup Dormann examines resilience factors which buffer negative crossover between superior and colleagues. Workgroup Wälde examines resilience factors with a theoretical approach by integrating them into stochastic differential equation models. Because there is no description and analysis of the dynamic effects of psychological resilience factors so far, this mutual research project potentially makes an important contribution to the literature.

References

Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2007). The job demands-resources model: State of the art. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22(3), 309–328.

Dormann, C. & Van de Ven, B. (2014). Timing in methods for studying psychosocial factors at work. In M. Dollard, A. Shimazu, R. B. Nordin, P. Brough & M. Tuckey (2014). Psychosocial factors at work in the Asia Pacific (pp. 89-116). New York: Springer.

Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Psychological stress and the coping process. New York: Springer.

McGrath, J. E. & Beehr, T. A. (1990). Some temporal issues in the conceptualization and measurement of stress. Stress Medicine, 6, 93-104.

Meijman, T. F., & Mulder, G. (1998). Psychological aspects of workload. In P. J. D. Drenth, H. Thierry & C. J. de Wolff (Eds.), Handbook of work and organizational psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 5-33). Hove, England: Psychology Press.

Mitchell, T., & James, L. (2001). Building better theory: time and the specification of when things happen. Academy of Management Review, 26(4), 530-47.

Roe, R.A. (2008). Time in applied psychology: Studying what happens rather than what is. The European Psychologist, 13(1), 37-52.

Selye, H. (1982). History and present status of the stress concept. In L. Goldberger and S. Breznitz, (eds.), Handbook of Stress: Theoretical and Clinical Aspects. New York: The Free Press.

Sonnentag, S. (2012). Time in organizational research: Catching up on a long neglected topic in order to improve theory. Organizational Psychology Review, 2, 361-368.

Sonnentag, S., Pundt, A., & Albrecht, A.-G. (2014). Temporal perspectives on job stress. In A. J. Shipp & Y. Fried (Eds.), Time and work, vol. 1: How time impacts individuals. Current issues in work and organizational psychology (pp. 111-140). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Voelkle, M. C., Oud, J. H. L., Davidov, E., & Schmidt, P. (2012). A SEM approach to continuous time modeling of panel data: Relating authoritarism and anomia. Psychological Methods, 17, 176-192.