Date of Award

Summer 2001

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Committee Director

W. Larry Ventis

Committee Member

Darlene G. Colson

Committee Member

Michelle Kelley

Committee Member

Neill Watson

Committee Member

Joseph Galano


Welfare reform and the consequent emphasis on employment represent a stressful sequence of events in the lives of women who are already facing the chronic stressors associated with single parenting and poverty. The current study assessed the levels of distress, factors contributing to distress, and coping resources utilized among a sample of 60 mothers who were making the transition from welfare to work. Ninety percent of the women were single or separated, and 71 percent were African American. All were receiving public assistance from two neighboring social services agencies in Virginia.

Psychological distress was measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory (Derogatis, 1993). Coping resources included several specific coping strategies which were measured by the Ways of Coping scale (Folkman & Lazarus, 1988) and dispositional hardiness, measured by the Hardiness Scale (Bar-tone, Ursano, Wright, & Ingraham, 1989). Perceived Social Support from Family and Friends was also assessed (Procidano & Heller, 1983).

Findings greatly augment the research base on hardiness by demonstrating the importance of this construct among a sample of low-income minority women. Results indicated that Hardiness was associated with reduced distress ( r = −.35, p < .01) and with working more months in the last year (r = .27, p < .05). Perceived Social Support from Friends was also associated with reduced distress levels (r = −.29, p < .05). None of the coping strategies from the Ways of Coping scale related to reduced distress; however, women's attempts at Distancing from their problems were related to increased distress (r = .42, p < .01). Only two variables in the study accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in women's distress; these were Hardiness ( R2 = .18, p < .01) Distancing (R2 = .09, p < .05). Findings suggest the importance of assessing among women in job readiness programs. Welfare recipients who try to from problems may experience greater distress and require intervention.


A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculties of The College of William and Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology through the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.


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