Mediators and Moderators of Social Problem Solving

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In chapter 1 of this volume, D'Zurilla, Nezu, and Maydeu-Olivares define social problem solving in terms of its components and processes. The following chapters richly outline the important role of social problem solving in psychological adjustment and well-being and its prevention of maladaptive coping, disease, and psychopathology. This chapter considers the complexity of this dynamic and multivariate process by examining important mediators and moderators of social problem solving. In other words, we seek to discover the biopsychosocial factors that transact to determine or influence social problem-solving capabilities, competencies, and performances. Moderators are variables that interact with problem situations to modify how problems are experienced and dealt with, and they provide some insight into why one individual is generally effective in solving social problems and another person generally is not. Mediators are intervening variables that "come between" the problem-solving situation and the social problemsolving process to explain how differences in social problem solving come about. Social problem solving is embedded within transactionalism and the stress and coping paradigm. At any given point in time a variable can serve as an antecedent, a mediator, a moderator, or a consequence in the social problem-solving process (Lazarus, 1981). For example, at one point in time dtspositional optimism may moderate the effects of social problem solving on adjustment, and at another point in time social problem solving mediates the effects of optimism on adjustment. In addition, mediational and moderational processes may not be mutually exclusive. Individual differences in trait affectivity may moderate social problem solving, whereas the effectiveness of sttuational problem solving is mediated by current affective states. The research on moderators and mediators of social problem solving is in its infancy, and only a few studies have used the methodologies recommended by Baron and Kenny (1986) for testing for moderating and mediating effects. In addition, comparison across studies is difficult because of differing operational definitions of social problem solving and the use of different problem-solving measures. With this caveat in mind, we start by examining theory and research on potential genetic and early environmental influences on the development of social problem solving. Person factors are considered next, followed by a review of studies on the role of various contextual variables in influencing social problem solving. Our major focus is on theory and research pertaining to D'Zurilla and colleagues' social problem-solving model (D'Zurilla, 1988; D'Zurilla & Goldfried, 1971; D'Zurilla & Maydeu- Olivares, 1995; D'Zurilla & Nezu, 1982, 1999), but relevant research generated from other models is included.

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Mediators and Moderators of Social Problem Solving, in E. C. Chang, T. J. D'Zurilla, & L. J. Sanna (Eds.), Social problem solving: Theory, research, and training p. 29-45