Ying Dong

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Dr. Robert H. Stupnisky


First-year college students commonly face academic stress that is negatively associated with academic achievement and persistence. It has been found that problem-focused coping (PFC) effectively decreases stress, but emotion-focused coping (EFC) exacerbates stressful situations in the long term (Carver & Scheier, 1994; Kim & Duda, 2003). Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) Transactional Model of Stress and Coping (TMSC) posits that cognitive appraisals determine the selection of stress coping. In the current study, two motivation indicators, causal attributions for academic stress and value of college education, were recognized as cognitive appraisals that were respectively placed into the TMSC to test their role in the relationship between perceived academic stress and the selection of stress coping. Three-hundred and twenty-one freshmen from a medium-sized, research-comprehensive university in the mid-western United States voluntarily participated in the study during the fall semester 2013. Results revealed that when students perceived themselves as stressed, they were more likely to engage in PFC if they attributed their academic stress to personally controllable causes. In addition, if freshmen valued their college education as enjoyable, important, and/or rated its cost value as low, they were more likely to engage in PFC. The theoretical developments of Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) TMSC, Weiner’s (1985) Attribution Theory, and Eccles et al.’s (1983) Expectancy-value Theory, as well as practical implications for freshmen adaptively coping with their academic stress are discussed.