Mentor:Dr. Mark Vosvick
Current Research Topic:Life Regard, Perceived Social Support, HIV symptom load and Forgiveness: Correlates of Optimism in an HIV-Positive Sample
Abstract:Optimism is a recognized predictor of positive health factors. Identifying variables associated with an optimistic mindset, particularly in people living with HIV, is crucial given the nature of a chronic illness with numerous complications (Rasmussen, Scheier, & Greenhouse, 2009). A low degree of life purpose in people living with HIV is common (Lewis et al., 2006). Developing an individual’s ability to find meaning in life may promote disease management through adaptive coping mechanisms, which uphold overall physical and emotional well-being (Lewis et al., 2006). Optimistic people have a positive perception of social support sources; important for those coping with chronic illnesses in that perceived social support may be associated with less depressive symptomatology, than those who lack social support resources (Mosher et al., 2006). Both optimism and social support promote positive adjustment and a lower incidence of avoidant coping strategies (Mosher et al., 2006). While forgiveness plays a significant role in emotional well-being, the discussion of forgiveness in relation to overall mental health is still new. However, evidence exists supporting the importance of forgiveness in coping with HIV (Worthington et al., 2005). Using the transactional model of stress and coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) as a theoretical framework, we hypothesize that life regard, forgiveness and perceived social support are positively correlated with optimism, and HIV symptom load is negatively correlated with optimism. Our measures include the Life Regard Index-Revised (α=.92), Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (α=.85-.91), the HIV symptom checklist, the Heartland Forgiveness Scale (α=.92) and the Life Orientation Test-Revised (α=.78). Diverse participants (N=212) were recruited from the DFW metroplex and were all HIV-positive.