What’s in a correlation matrix?

One of the projects I am working on aims to characterize how women adjust psychologically to genetic testing results. The outcomes are fairly standard for health psychology and research with cancer patients, examples include depressive symptoms, positive affect (are you a happy person?), negative affect (are you a moody person?), and intrusive thoughts (are you bothered by thoughts or concerns about cancer?).

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Coping and Adjustment to Illness

Folkman and Moskowitz define coping as the “thoughts and behaviors used to manage the internal and external demands of situations that are appraised as stressful”. Research on coping largely grew out of and as a result of research on stress (see my post on Stress Processes, Personality and Disease Etiology). Differences in coping is one way to explain the great variability in responses to potentially stressful events as well as results of experiencing a stressor (for example adjustment to a serious illness such as cancer). The majority of the coping literature has focused on coping as something reactive (but see a small literature on proactive coping), which comes as no surprise considering that coping and stress research have been closely linked. At the broadest level, the timeline of typical models is:
\[
stressor \implies coping \implies outcomes
\]
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