Life events and personal causation: Some relationships with satisfaction and distress

John W. Reich, Alex Zautra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


Hypothesized that Ss who engaged in more positive origin activities would rate their lives as more satisfying than Ss who engaged in fewer such activities, and both would be more satisfied than control Ss. After completing a series of questionnaires including a life-event inventory, 3 groups of college students were selected from a pool of 141 and given instructions either to (a) engage in 12 activities from a self-selected list of pleasurable activities, (b) engage in 2 activities from that list, or (c) return after 1 mo for retesting only. Ss were then given a pleasantness-of-events test, an event-frequency test, the Perceived Quality of Life Scale, the Beck Depression Inventory, and a 54-item Symptom Check List. Covariance analyses revealed that Ss instructed to engage in either 2 or 12 pleasurable activities reported greater pleasantness and a higher quality of life than controls; there were no differences between groups on reports of psychiatric distress. Prior negative life change was treated as a factor in the design and was found to interact with the activity instructions: Ss reporting many prior negative changes exhibited less psychiatric distress along with greater pleasantness when instructed to engage in 12 activities rather than 2 or none. Results suggest that pleasant activities increase positive aspects of well-being in general, but may reduce distress only for people experiencing considerable life stress. (28 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1002-1012
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1981
Externally publishedYes


  • sense of personal control over life events & participation in pleasurable activities, life satisfaction & distress, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Psychology


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