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Issue Date: 1993
Abstract: This thesis examines the extent to which the social positions of lawyers in Singapore affect their cognitive appraisals of stress and the way they go about coping. Several areas of interest have informed this study: (1) the types and nature of work stressors and coping strategies of lawyers; (2) the relationship between perception of stress and coping strategies; (3) the impact of personality on stress perception and coping; and (4) the extent and type of social support. The primary objective of this thesis is to examine how and why social patterns or regularities exist in the occurrences of stressors and coping behaviours. Quantitative and qualitative research methods have been used to collect the required data. In the former, the survey earned the cooperation of 450 lawyers practising in the private sector, marking a total response rate of 51%. As for the qualitative method, the 27 lawyers who were interviewed gave detailed descriptions of their stressful work experiences and the respective coping strategies. It is postulated in this study that different social positions (operationalized by gender and occupational designation) have differential impact on the way individuals look at themselves and their relationships with others in their social environment. The social arrangement of individuals in the social structure predisposes them to differential work stressors and influences their cognitive perception of the relationship between the stressors and their abilities to cope. In other words, social science theories informing this are Pearlin's conceptualization of the social arrangements of stress and coping, and Lazarus' cognitive appraisal theory and processual model of stress and coping. In view of the saliency of interpersonal stress found among lawyers in Singapore, one chapter of this thesis is devoted to the examination of lawyers' interpersonal relations at work. It also attempts to explain how differential social positions connote power differentials, which is integral to our understanding of the dynamics of stressful interpersonal relations. From the conflict perspective, interpersonal relations can be seen as power relations where the party with more resources will possess more social power to influence the other. Such power relations were found to prevail among lawyers and people they interact with at work -- with power drifting from one to the other, depending on their relative social positions in the relationships. The conception of social position determining the stress and coping experiences of lawyers however does not negate the fact that man is also an active agent of his social environment -- he is capable of effecting changes in the social structure by actively utilizing personal and social resources. This reflects the dialectical reality in the relationship between man and society, in which man can be seen as actively strategizing to attain more freedom in action while negotiating with the constraints of society. It is this process of negotiation of power between self and others that makes the study of interpersonal stress and coping an area worthy of increased attention.
Appears in Collections:Master's Theses (Restricted)

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