2013. Vol.4, No.2, 88-95
Published Online February 2013 in SciRes
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Relationships between Personality and Coping with Stress: An
Investigation in Swedish Police Trainees
Jörg Richter1*, Lars Erik Lauritz2, Elizabeth du Preez3, Nafisa Cassimjee4,
1Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Eastern and Southern Norway, Oslo, Norway
2Basic Training Program for Police Officers, University of Umeå, Umeå, Sweden
3Division of Public Health and Psychosocial Studies, School of Psychology,
Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
4Department of Psychology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, RSA
5Department of Social Work, University of Umeå, Umeå, Sweden
Email: *firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Received November 13th, 2012; revised December 12th, 2012; accepted January 7th, 2013
The aim was to investigate relationships between personality characteristics derived from Cloninger’s
personality theory and ways of coping. We investigated 103 police trainees by the Temperament and
Character Inventory and Ways of Coping Checklist. There were several particularities characterising
trainees within various personality profiles relating to coping. Each WoC scale was significantly predicted
by varying personality subscales with temperament subscales mainly contributing to the prediction. Only
personality domains harm avoidance, reward dependence, and self directedness could significantly be
predicted by coping scales. Some coping behaviours often jointly occur depending on the specific stress-
ful situation; and these combinations are related to particular personality trait constellations.
Keywords: Ways of Coping; Psychobiological Theory of Personality; Temperament; Character; Police
Since Lazarus and colleagues developed the concept of cop-
ing with stress (Lazarus, 1966; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984;
Folkman & Lazarus, 1980, 1985) in the early 1980s much re-
search has been conducted in order to understand the complex-
ity and patterns of coping processes. Coping represents proc-
esses of perception, evaluating and managing circumstances,
making efforts to solve problems, or seeking to master, mini-
mize, reduce or tolerate stress. “Coping is defined as cognitive
and behavioural efforts to manage specific external and/or in-
ternal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the
resources of the person.” (Hancock & Desmond, 2001: p. 85)
The core aim of coping is “change” (Folkman & Lazarus, 1985)
of external or internal conditions in order to achieve a state of
wellbeing or to avoid emotionally negative conditions and
maintaining positive psychological states. These changes need
to occur despite enduring stress (Folkman, 1997) caused by
intentional, conscious, and goal-directed stress-management
(Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).
Folkman and Lazarus (1985) referred to relationships be-
tween personality and coping early in the development of their
coping theory by differentiating between dispositional and epi-
sodic variables affecting coping, with personality traits repre-
senting enduring dispositions and coping itself understood as
specific behaviour applied in particular situations. However,
individuals were found to relatively consistently prefer and em-
ploy particular coping behaviour across a wide range of situa-
tions (Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub, 1989). Since then, various
attempts have been made to conceptualise and to investigate
relationships between personality and coping with statements
ranging from: personality and coping represent comprehensive
and closely interrelated constructs, but are not identical (Fick-
ova, 2001; McWilliams, Cox, & Enns, 2003; Murberg, 2009);
their indicators are interrelated; personality and coping repre-
sent parts of a continuum based on adaptation (Costa, Somer-
field, & McCrae, 1996; Maltby, Day, McCutcheon, Gillett,
Houran, & Ashe, 2004); there are structural similarities between
measures of personality and coping behaviour; personality in-
fluences the appraisal process and consequently the choice of
coping style; personality affects coping strategy selection (Bol-
ger & Zuckerman, 1995); certain personality traits are likely to
facilitate particular coping behaviours (Vollrath, 2001; Suls &
Martin, 2005); personality influences effectiveness of coping
(Bolger & Zuckman, 1995; DeLongis & Holtzman, 2005); per-
sonality and coping partly share their genetic basis (Kato &
Pedersen, 2005; Jang, Thordarson, Stein, Cohan, & Taylor, 2007);
coping as “personality in action under stress” (Bolger, 1990: p.
525); coping responses are only epiphenomena of personality
traits, with no causal status independent of personality traits
(McCrae & Costa, 1986); to “coping ought to be redefined as a
personality process” (Vollrath, 2001: p. 341).
Characteristics of individuals who cope with stress positively
or negatively have long been investigated (Snyder et al., 2005;
Antonovsky, 1987; Taylor & Brown, 1994; Folkman, 1997).
For example, individuals scoring high on the neuroticism di-
mension of the “Big Five” personality model are more often en-
gaged in passive or maladaptive coping behaviours such as
J. RICHTER ET AL.
hostile reactions, escape fantasies, self blame, withdrawal,
wishful thinking, indecisiveness, or other types of passivity,
whereas those scoring high in extraversion more often used
active, approaching and rational problem solving behaviours or
substitution (McCrae & Costa, 1986; Lau, Hem, Berg, Ekeberg,
& Torgersen, 2006). Individuals scoring high in conscientious-
ness have also been characterised by active coping and refrain-
ing from passive coping (Vollrath, Torgersen, & Alnæs, 1998).
Similar but more differentiated findings were reported applying
a personality typology based on high or low scorers on the three
above mentioned personality characteristics by Vollrath and
Torgersen (2000). Even though the correlation between par-
ticular personality characteristics and particular coping behav-
iours were often found of low to moderate effect size (Con-
nor-Smith & Flachsbart, 2007), the variance of personality ex-
plained about 25% of the variation in coping. Therefore, the
investigation of just one particular coping behaviour or one
separated personality characteristic might not be appropriate.
However, “despite hundreds of studies, the influence of per-
sonality on coping, and of both on outcomes, is only partly
understood.” (Carver & Connor-Smith, 2010: p. 695). For ex-
ample, the following problems and questions remain: What
happens to personality and coping under certain circumstances?
How do various personality characteristics interact when an
individual is confronted with a particular stressful situation?
What determines our (coping) behaviour under certain circum-
stances? How inter- and intra-individually consistent and gen-
eralizable are these interactions in relation to coping? How
reliable is our (coping) behaviour under certain circumstances?
As both are partly shaped and developed by life-long learning
processes, are they subject to change by training procedures or
therapies? Furthermore, the impact of coping upon personality
is very rarely conceptualized, and then primarily only in rela-
tion to mastery and self-esteem.
The primary aim of the present study was to investigate rela-
tionships between personality characteristics derived from Clon-
inger’s personality theory (Cloninger, Svrakic, & Przybeck,
1993) and ways of coping. Considering some of the shortcom-
ings of previous research we focused on the interplay between
various temperament and character domains and ways of cop-
ing 1) based on similarities on personality between individuals;
2) based on relationships between variables similar to Ferguson
(1991) who applied joint factor analysis to personality and
coping data; and 3) on regression of personality to coping and
vice versa; as well as 4) on relationships of both personality
characteristics and coping with gender, alcohol use and suicide
attempts in the past.
Since the police is commonly described as a profession ex-
posed to high levels of occupational stress (Chopko, 2010;
Morash, Haarr, & Kwak, 2006; Stinchcomb, 2004) caused by
sudden events of usually short duration which almost immedi-
ately lead to psychological and physiological reactions, we in-
vestigated police trainees from one of the three Swedish police
academies at intake. 103 police trainees voluntarily participated
in the research project within the first 2 weeks after intake.
There were substantially more male (n = 68) than female (n =
35) trainees in the sample with males being older than females.
Most of the participants were single and had already gained
some other university education prior to starting police training.
The trainees received information about the aims prior to the
investigation and gave written consent before the start of the
investigation. Participants were asked to complete a socio-
demographic form and the Temperament and Character Inven-
tory (TCI), the Symptom Checklist (SCL-90-R), the Ways of
Coping Checklist (WoC) and the State Trait Anger Expression
Inventory (STAXI-II). The completion of the four question-
naires took about one hour and the assessment was performed
in the police academy’s rooms. However, the present analysis
was only based on socio-demographic data, the TCI and WoC.
The research project was approved by Regional Ethics Com-
mittee at Umeå University (Sweden). This article forms the
third scientific report about findings from a longitudinal re-
search program on Swedish police officers’ personality devel-
opment (du Preez, Cassimjee, Ghazinour, Lauritz, & Richter,
2009; Ghazinour, Lauritz, du Preez, Cassimjee, & Richter,
2009; Ghazinour & Richter, 2009).
Temperament and Character Inventory
The Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) (Cloninger,
Przybeck, Svrakic, & Wetzel, 1994) was used to assess person-
ality characteristics according to Cloninger’s bio-psychosocial
theory. Cloninger’s psychobiological model of personality (Clon-
inger, Svrakic, & Przybeck, 1993) refers to four independent,
largely genetically determined dimensions of temperament: 1)
novelty seeking (NS), a tendency toward exhilaration in re-
sponse to novel stimuli or cues; 2) harm avoidance (HA), a
heritable bias in the inhibition or cessation of behaviour; 3)
reward dependence (RD), the tendency to maintain or pursue
ongoing behaviours; and 4) persistence (PS), a tendency of
perseverance in behaviour despite frustration and fatigue; and
to three character dimensions, which are supposed to be pre-
dominantly determined by socialisation processes during the
lifespan: self-directedness (SD), the extent to which a person
identifies the self as an autonomous individual; cooperativeness
(CO), the extent to which a person identifies himself or herself
as an integral part of the society as a whole; and self-transcen-
dence (ST), the intensity of identification with unity of all
things. The Swedish TCI version, version 9 (Brändström, Sig-
vardsson, Nylander, & Richter, 2008), consists of 238 true/false
items covering these seven personality dimensions by 26 sub-
scales: exploratory excitability (NS1), impulsiveness (NS2),
extravagance (NS3), disorderliness (NS4), anticipatory worry
(HA1), fear of uncertainty (HA2), shyness (HA3), fatigability
(HA4), sentimentality (RD1), attachment (RD3), dependence
(RD4), responsibility (SD1), purposefulness (SD2), resource-
fulness (SD3), self-acceptance (SD4), enlightened second na-
ture (SD5), social acceptance (CO1), empathy (CO2), helpful-
ness (CO3), compassion (CO4), integrated conscience (CO5),
self-forgetful (ST1), transpersonal identification (ST2), and
spiritual acceptance (ST3). Persistence is assessed by an eight
items single dimension.
Ways of Coping (WoC)
Ways of Coping is a questionnaire with items representing a
wide range of thoughts and acts that people use to deal with the
internal and/or external demands of specific stressful encoun-
ters (Folkman, 1985). The instrument consists of 66 items to be
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 89
J. RICHTER ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
answered on a 4-point Likert scale (0 = does not apply and/or
not used; 3 = used a great deal) which are combined to eight
scales (confrontive coping, distancing, self-controlling, seeking
social support, accepting responsibility, escape-avoidance, plan-
ful problem-solving, positive reappraisal).
Usually an encounter is described by the subject in an inter-
view or in a brief written description saying who was involved,
where it took place and what happened. Sometimes a particular
encounter, such as medical treatment or an academic examina-
tion, is selected by the investigator as the focus of the ques-
tionnaire (Folkman, 1985: p. 1). Therefore a stressful scenario
that will frequently be encountered by police officers was pre-
sented as the basis for responding to the WoC. The participants
were encouraged to read the scenario: “Last week you were
called to a car accident and you found a small child bleeding
A cluster analysis, Ward’s method, squared Euclidian dis-
tances with standardised z-scores by variable, was performed in
order to define groups of individuals of similar personality
characteristics based on TCI domains. Means and sds of TCI
domains and WoC scales were presented by cluster. MANO-
VAs based on TCI domains and WoC scales were calculated
testing for differences between clusters and for the impact of
gender. Factor analysis, principal axis factoring, varimax rota-
tion, based on TCI domains and WoC scales and based on TCI
subscales and WoC scales were carried out searching for
groups of related variables. To test for predictability between
personality and coping scales sets of multiple regression analy-
ses were performed firstly with WoC scales as independent
variables and TCI domains and subscales as dependent vari-
ables; and secondly with TCI subscales as independent and
WoC scales as independent variables. Non-parametric tests
were applied in testing for relationships of personality and cop-
ing variables, gender and dichotomised variables suicide at-
tempt in the past—yes versus no—and self reported alcohol
consumption, never or seldom versus sometimes or often. Since
this represented an explorative study, no correction for multiple
testing was done.
Cluster analyses were performed on TCI dimensions with
solutions between 3 and 7 clusters. The 5-cluster solution was
chosen to reflect the differences between these clusters best.
We decided on 5 clusters because of the relatively equal sizes
of all groups (13.5%, 21.2%, 32.7%, 16.3%, 16.3%, respec-
tively). Furthermore, the change between every successive
cluster was considerable from 3-cluster solution to 5 clusters,
but the difference between 5-cluster solution and 6-cluster was
small, therefore we decided on the 5-cluster solution as most
adequate. The police trainees in the various clusters can be
characterised as follows (Table 1):
- Cluster 1: highest scores on SD (SD1 - SD5), lowest on ST
(ST1 - ST3) compared to the others combined with medium
scores on NS (high: NS1, NS4, medium: NS2, NS3), PS,
and CO (CO1) and lowest scores on HA (lowest: HA1,
HA3, HA4, low: HA2) and RD (RD1, RD3, RD4);
- Cluster 2: highest score on PS and lowest on NS (NS2, NS3,
NS4, low: NS1), medium scores on all other personality
dimensions (except for high CO2);
- Cluster 3: highest score on RD (RD3, RD4, high: RD1),
low on HA (lowest: HA2, HA4, low: HA1, HA3), high
scores on SD (highest: SD1, SD3, SD4, high: SD2, SD5),
high scores on CO (highest: CO1, CO2, CO3, high: CO4,
CO5) and high scores on NS (highest: NS1, high: NS3, me-
dium: NS2, NS4) combined with medium scores on PS and
ST (medium: ST1, ST3, low: ST2);
- Cluster 4: highest score on NS (NS1, NS3, NS3, high: NS2),
CO (CO2, CO4, CO5, high: CO1, CO3) and ST (ST1 -
ST3), high scores on RD (highest: RD1, high: RD3, me-
dium: RD4), high scores on SD (highest: SD2, SD4, high:
SD3, medium: SD1, SD5) and medium on HA (medium:
HA2, HA3, HA4, low: HA1) combined with low PS;
- Cluster 5: highest score on HA (HA1 - HA4), lowest scores
on PS, SD (SD1 - SD5) and CO (lowest: CO1, CO3, CO4,
CO5, medium: CO2), high scores on NS (highest: NS2,
NS4, high: NS3, lowest: NS1) combined with medium
scores on RD (high: RD4, medium: RD1, low: RD3) and
ST (ST1 - ST3) (Table 1).
A MANOVA with TCI domains as dependent variables and
cluster as fixed factor revealed that the main effect on all TCI
domains were significantly different between clusters with high
effect size (Pillai’s trace = 2.02; F(28/304) = 13.92; p < .001; 2
= .504; with high effect sizes for tests of between-subject-ef-
fects ranged from .349 for CO to .469 for RD).
The proportion of males and females significantly differed
among clusters (contingency coefficient = .36; p-value = .005).
All police trainees in group1 were men; groups 2 and 5 were
mostly men (about three quarters of the clusters) whereas there
was no difference in gender-ratio in group 3 and 4.
A MANOVA with coping scales as dependent variables and
cluster as fixed factor did not support a main effect of cluster
(Pillai’s trace = .34; F(32/390) = 1.11; p = .323; .2 = .085).
However, there was a significant difference between the clus-
ters on scale positive reappraisal of medium effect size with
TCI dimensions by cluster (mean ± SD).
Cluster NS HA RD PS SD CO ST
1 21.1 ± .92 7.3 ± 1.04 12.6 ± .53 4.0 ± .42 38.0 ± 1.10 33.6 ± .77 5.6 ± 1.00
2 16.7 ± .73 10.0 ± .83 16.2 ± .42 6.5 ± .34 35.5 ± .88 36.3 ± .61 11.0 ± .78
3 22.9 ± .59 7.5 ± .67 18.0 ± .34 5.5 ± .27 37.0 ± .71 37.4 ± .49 8.9 ± .63
4 25.5 ± .83 10.1 ± .95 17.9 ± .48 3.9 ± .38 36.5 ± 1.00 38.1 ± .70 16.4 ± .89
5 22.2 ± .83 16.7 ± .95 15.4 ± .48 3.1 ± .38 27.7 ± 1.00 32.5 ± .70 11.8 ± .89
Note: NS: Novelty Seeking; HA: Harm Avoidance; RD: Reward Dependence; PS: Persistence; SD: Self-Directedness; CO: Cooperativeness; ST: Self-Transcendence.
J. RICHTER ET AL.
significant higher scores for cluster 4 compared to cluster 1 and
2 (test of between-subject-effect: F(4) = 3.29; p = .014; 2
= .117) and a tendency for scale escape avoidance. Neverthe-
less, there were some particularities characterising the indi-
viduals within the various clusters relating to coping (Table 2):
- Cluster 1: lowest scores on confronting coping, highest on
distancing, and lowest on accepting responsibility, escape
avoidance and positive reappraisal;
- Cluster 2: highest scores on distancing combined with low-
est scores on escape avoidance and planful problem solv-
- Cluster 3: lowest scores on self control and escape avoid-
- Cluster 4: highest scores on confronting coping, support
seeking, accept responsibility, and planful problem solving,
and positive reappraisal combined with lowest scores on
distancing and self control;
- Cluster 5: highest scores on self control and escape avoid-
ance combined with lowest scores on support seeking.
Furthermore, in a MANOVA with coping scales as depend-
ent variables and gender, age, marital status and educational
level as fixed factors, the results were as follows:
Age, educational level and marital status found to be non-
significant factors relating to coping scales. There was only a
significant main effect of large effect size (Pillai’s trace = .24;
F(8/94) = 3.60; p = .001; 2 = .235) for gender based on the
impact on distancing, self control and positive reappraisal. Men
were found to score higher on distancing and self-control while
women had higher score on positive reappraisal.
Both, the Kaiser-Guttman criterion and the scree plot of the
joint factor analysis based on TCI domains and WoC scales
suggested a five-factor solution explaining 62.6% of the vari-
ance in the data with two exclusive coping factors, two exclu-
sive personality factors (SD, -HA, and CO/-NS and PS), and
only one mixed factor with RD, HA, CO and negative loadings
for distancing and self-control. A seven-factor solution was
preferable for joint analysis based on the TCI subscales and
WoC scales, explaining 53.8% of the variance in the data. Two
were mixed factors (first: all HA subscales with negative load-
ing, four SD subscales with positive loading, and a positive
loading for distancing; sixth: all ST subscales and PS positively
with self control negatively); two clear coping factors (second:
accept responsibility, escape avoidance, positive reappraisal,
and confronting coping all with positive loadings; fourth: plan-
ful problem-solving, support seeking, self control, and con-
fronting coping); and three clear personality factors (third:
positively all RD, four CO, and two SD subscales; fifth: all RD,
two SD, and all RD subscales; seventh: three NS subscales
combined with negatively loading PS).
When testing the predictive power of personality subscales
relating to WoC scales in multiple regression analyses, variance
of the personality variables could explain significant variation
only in confrontive coping and distancing when all personality
subscales were used simultaneously (method: enter 11% and
14%, respectively) (Table 3). If the program is permitted to
reduce the number of personality variables (method: stepwise),
each of the WoC scales can be significantly predicted explain-
ing between 4% (positive reappraisal by RD1) and 13% (dis-
tancing by NS3 and HA2, and escape avoidance by RD1 and
HA2) of the variance, with temperament subscales mainly con-
tributing to the prediction. Only accept responsibility was ex-
clusively determined by character subscales SD1 and CO5 and
on confrontive coping and self control a mix of temperament
and character subscales (SD1 and CO4, respectively) were of
From the opposite perspective, only the personality domains
HA, RD, and SD could significantly be predicted by coping
scales (between 9%—RD and 17%—SD) (Table 4). Domains
NS and CO could not even be predicted by applying a stepwise
method. Variance in coping scales distancing and escape avoid-
ance was mainly responsible for prediction of variation in tem-
perament subscales, particularly in HA, whereas variance in
self control and confronting mainly contributed to the explana-
tion of variation in character subscales, especially in SD sub-
scales combined with a negative impact of escape avoidance
coping. Positive reappraisal significantly contributed to the
exclusive explanation of variation on ST subscales, whereas
support seeking was predictive for RD and CO subscales.
One third of those trainees who reported a suicide attempt
once during their lifetime were categorised in cluster 3 and one
fourth of them belonged to cluster 2, whereas only one trainee
with a suicide attempt was in cluster 1. Those individuals who
reported a suicide attempt in the past showed higher HA (HA1,
HA3, and HA4), lower SD (SD2, SD5) combined with a ten-
dency to more escape avoidance (Mann-Whitney U-test, exact
significance: .027, .022, and .085, respectively) than those
without such an event.
The distribution relating to drinking alcohol never or seldom
versus sometimes or often did not differ across clusters 1, 2,
and 4. However, trainees in cluster 3 (60% versus 40%) and 5
(87% versus 13%) more often reported drinking alcohol some-
times or often than drinking never or seldom. When comparing
police trainees who reported drinking alcohol never or seldom
with those reported as drinking alcohol sometimes or often, the
latter showed higher NS (NS2, NS4) and lower PS combined
with more self controlling coping and more escape avoidance
(Mann-Whitney U-test, exact significance: .042, .013, .024
and .062, respectively). There was a significant relationship
Coping scales by personality cluster (mean ± SD).
Cluster Confr. Dist. S. C. S. S. A. R. E. A. P. P. S. P. R.
1 6.8 ± .66 6.6 ± .76 12.0 ± .78 11.1 ± .63 3.6 ± .50 5.9 ± .78 11.5 ± .70 8.9 ± .68
2 7.0 ± .53 6.6 ± .60 11. 5 ± .62 12.2 ± .51 3.8 ± .40 5.9 ± .62 10.9 ± .56 9.7 ± .55
3 7.1 ± .42 5.8 ± .49 11.1 ± .50 11.9 ± .41 3.9 ± .32 5.9 ± .50 11.8 ± .45 10.6 ± .44
4 8.4 ± .60 5.6 ± .69 11.1 ± .71 12.5 ± .58 4.3 ± .46 6.9 ± .71 11.9 ± .63 11.9 ± .62
5 8.2 ± .60 5.8 ± .69 12.6 ± .71 10.9 ± .58 3.9 ± .46 7.6 ± .71 11.0 ± .63 10.8 ± .62
Note: Confr.—Confrontive; Dist.—Distancing; S. C.—Self Control; S. S.—Seeking Social Support; A. R.—Accept responsibility; E. A.—Escape Avoidance; P. P.
S.—Planful Problem-Solving; P. R.—Positive Reappraisal.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 91
J. RICHTER ET AL.
Multiple regressions with personality subscales as independent and coping scales as dependent variables (1st row: method enter; further rows: method
Independent Dependent Standardized β t p Adjusted r2 F p
PS Support seeking
NS1 Planful problem solving
RD1 Positive reappraisal
between the personality clusters and the dichotomised alcohol
drinking variable (Fisher’s exact test = 7.71; p = .049) mainly
caused by the fact that there were substantially more individu-
als in cluster 5 who reported drinking alcohol sometimes or
often rather than never or seldom (87% versus 13%).
The major aim of the present study was to investigate the
complex interplay between personality characteristics derived
from Cloninger’s personality theory (1993) and ways of coping
in police trainees shortly after admission to the police academy.
The relationship coefficients were not as high as expected but
only somewhat lower than reported in the literature (for exam-
ple, Murberg, 2009). There are various possible reasons for this
negative finding. First of all, the trainees were asked to respond
to a theoretical event when answering the WoC even though
there is a reasonable likelihood that they had already experi-
enced such an event. Moreover, various variables other than
personality characteristics might impact upon the choice of
coping behaviours such as gender, professional experience,
having children. Furthermore the findings may be biased by the
sample that was highly selected and dominated by healthy,
male and highly educated individuals compared to the Swedish
general population (Ghazinour et al., 2009), which might have
let to smaller variance in the variables.
The low correlations were consequently reflected by the lack
of a substantial specificity of relationships between personality
clusters and coping behaviours, by the small overlap between
personality variables and coping scales in joint factor analyses,
and by non-significant regression coefficients or coefficients of
low effect size. However, there were several remarkable ten-
dencies and some particularities caused by the predefined situa-
tion presented in the application of the WoC.
The main finding was that the use of some coping behaviours
often jointly occur, in the sense that a coping style and a com-
bination of personality characteristics seem to be related to the
“coping styles” described below. Overall, seeking support and
planful problem solving were the most often applied and escape
avoidance, accept responsibility, and distancing the less often
used coping behaviours. This combination matches the implicit
demands of the particular situation offered to the participants.
When analysing in more detail the complex interplay be-
tween coping behaviour and personality based on personality
clusters in the particular situation of a child bleeding heavily
after a car accident the following picture could be observed:
Those trainees (Cluster 1) who tried the hardest to stay de-
tached from the situation (distancing) compared to the others,
were also those who took the lowest risk in changing the situa-
tion (confronting); acknowledged their role in the situation
(accept responsibility) to the lowest level; and showed the low-
est tendencies to wishful thinking (escape avoidance). This
combination of coping behaviour expressions was related to the
most relaxed, courageous, composed and optimistic tendencies
(lowest HA) combined with the most practical and tough
minded attitudes (lowest RD). Additionally, they were charac-
terised by the most intensive impatience and rationalism (low-
est ST) but also the most maturity, responsibleness, goal-ori-
entedness, and integrity (highest SD).
When the most intensive detachment from the situation (dis-
tancing) was combined with the lowest levels of situational
avoidance or wishful thinking (escape avoidance) and the least
problem-focused efforts to alter the situation (planful problem
solving), trainees were on average characterised by the slowest
engagement in new activities, mainly sticking with familiar
routines (NS) combined with the most intensive persistence,
stability despite frustration, and perfectionism (Cluster 2).
The highest level of deliberate problem-focused efforts or
analytic approach (planful problem solving) was substantially
related to the lowest efforts to escape or to avoid the problem
(escape avoidance); and the lowest efforts to regulate one’s own
feelings were substantially associated with the highest sensitive-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
J. RICHTER ET AL.
Multiple regressions with coping scales as independent and personality variables as dependent variables (1st row: method enter; further rows: method
Independent Dependent Standardized β t p Adjusted r2 F p
Planful problem solving
Coping NS2 .04 .46 .879
Coping NS4 .01 1.14 .346
Coping NS .02 1.30 .251
Planful problem solving
Escape avoidance HA4
Self control RD3
Support seeking PS
Self control SD2
Escape avoidance SD3
Escape avoidance SD
Coping CO1 .02 .725 .669
Coping CO2 .01 1.11 .361
Seeking support CO3
Self control CO4
Coping CO5 .04 .54 .825
Coping CO .03 1.38 .214
Coping ST2 .02 1.31 .250
Positive reappraisal ST
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 93
J. RICHTER ET AL.
ity to social cues facilitating warm relationships and under-
standing of others’ feelings (RD) in combination with high
responsibility for one’s own behavioural choices, reliability and
trustworthiness (SD), high acceptance of other people, empathy,
tolerance, compassion, and service-mindedness (CO), and highly
relaxed, courageous, composed and optimistic feelings (HA)
Individuals in Cluster 4 were characterised by the most com-
plex interplay of coping behaviours as well as of associated
expressions of personality characteristics. Their coping efforts
represented a combination of the highest tendencies in risk
taking (confrontation), the highest commitment in trying to put
things right (accept responsibility), the highest level of prob-
lem-focused efforts to alter the situation (problem solving), and
the highest efforts to view the situation positively by focusing
on their personal growth (positive reappraisal), associated with
the most intensive seeking of social support (support seeking),
the lowest efforts to minimise the significance of the situation
(distancing) and regulate their own feelings (self controlling).
Consequently they are characterised by the highest level of
excitability, exploration, enthusiasm, and impulsiveness (NS),
the highest social sensitivity, emotional warmth, and sociability
(RD), the highest identification with and acceptance of others,
empathy, and compassion (CO), and the highest levels of pa-
tience, selflessness, and creativity (ST). The opposite emotional
and behavioural tendencies in RD and ST might possibly de-
termine the opposite coping tendencies relating to confronting
coping, distancing, and positive reappraisal among those indi-
viduals grouped in cluster 1.
The highest efforts to regulate one’s own feelings and actions
(self controlling), the most intensive wishful thinking and ten-
dencies to escape the situation (escape avoidance) combined
with the lowest efforts in social support seeking (seeking sup-
port) were associated with the highest levels of cautiousness,
fearfulness, nervousness, and discouragement (HA), the highest
inactivity, unstableness, and unreliability (PS), the weakest,
most destructive, ineffective, and unreliable behavioural ten-
dencies (SD), as well as the most self absorbed, unhelpful,
lacking empathy and compassion (CO) (cluster 5). This “self-
ish” coping style corresponds perfectly to the rather neurotic
personality characteristics. Interestingly, most of the trainees in
this cluster comprised about one sixth of the sample reporting
relatively high alcohol consumption levels.
The complexity of the associations between personality
characteristics and coping behaviour can be observed, for ex-
ample, when analysing differences between trainees from clus-
ter 1 compared to trainees in cluster 2. They both share the
lowest scores on distancing and escape avoidance coping, but
when these coping behaviours were associated with the lowest
accept responsibility and positive reappraisal behaviours, the
trainees are characterised by lowest HA, lowest RD, lowest ST,
and highest SD (the latter seemingly an expression of over-
evaluation) (cluster 1), whereas the highest PS and lowest NS
were related to the combination with the lowest planful prob-
Another example can be seen in the differentiation between
trainees from cluster 3 and 4 who share the lowest scores on
self controlling and highest scores on planful problem solving.
When this condition was related to high SD and low HA, es-
cape avoidance coping was rarely preferred (cluster 3). When it
was related to very high confrontive coping and very high ac-
ceptance of responsibility, then highest scores on NS and ST
Unexpectedly, temperament subscales were mainly of pre-
dictive impact upon coping behaviours. However, acknowl-
edging one’s own role in the problem (accept responsibility)
was substantially determined exclusively by character subscales
responsibility (SD1) and integrated conscience (CO5) reflecting
reliability and trustworthiness combined with honesty and sta-
ble ethical principles. Confrontive coping in a sense of aggres-
sive efforts to alter the situation and some risk taking was pre-
dicted by responsibility (SD1) combined with preference for
intimacy in social relationships (RD3), whereas self control, in
the sense of making an effort to regulate one’s own feelings and
actions, was explained by compassion and benevolence com-
bined with sentimentality and sympathy (RD1).
Cognitive efforts to detach oneself from the problem or to
minimise the significance of the situation (distancing) in com-
bination with wishful thinking and behavioural efforts to escape
from the situation or to avoid the problem (escape avoidance)
were mainly predictive for temperament subscales, particularly
for HA subscales. Support seeking coping efforts were mean-
ingfully predictive for the RD and CO subscales, whereas ef-
forts to develop a positive meaning of the stress (positive reap-
praisal) substantially explained variance in ST subscales.
Summarising the findings of the presented investigation we
conclude that the detailed analysis of the complex interplay
between coping and personality based on TCI subscales relating
to a specific stressful, profession-related situation could make
an important and meaningful contribution to the understanding
of both phenomena in a particular group (police trainees) that
may be generalisable to other samples and situations. However,
the interpretation of the present findings is limited by the ex-
plorative nature of the study, the small sample size limiting the
possibilities of statistical analysis. Even though the presentation
of a standardised stressful situation as target stimulus for as-
sumed personal coping behaviour implied the possibility of a
direct comparison and group analysis on coping, the theoretical
nature of the situation can be evaluated as a disadvantage of the
study because of the many controllable variables that might
have biased the responses to the WoC items (for example, the
current emotional state of the trainee, prior experience of such a
situation, or his or her ability to imagine the presented situa-
tion). Furthermore, the exclusive use of self report data cer-
tainly represents a limitation of the study.
Our findings support once again that 1) personality and cop-
ing are comprehensively interrelated (Fickova, 2001; McWilliams,
Cox, & Enns, 2003; Murberg, 2009); 2) that some coping be-
haviours often jointly occur depending on the specific stressful
situation, event or a class of events, and that these combinations
are related to particular personality trait constellations; 3) that
structural similarities exist between personality and coping; 4)
that certain personality traits are likely to facilitate particular
coping behaviours and, thereby affect coping strategy selection
(Bolger & Zuckerman, 1995; Vollrath; 2001; Suls & Martin,
2005); but 5) our findings do not support the suggestion that
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