Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

May 1977


Published in Journal of Human Stress 3 (June 1977), pp. 14–21. Reprinted with permission of the Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation. Published by Heldref Publications, 1319 18th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-1802. Copyright © 1977.


The stability of tension judgments among males and females who were either taking or not taking combination low-progestin oral contraceptive pills was investigated. Judgments of interpersonal pressure in videotaped vignettes provided tension measures. The vignettes were presented in two sessions separated by two weeks. Correlations between pressure judgments of .94 for males, .79 for pill females and .40 for non-pill females (all sig < .002) supported the prediction that non-pill females experience the largest fluctuations in tension across the menstrual cycle. A significant number of non-pill females who changed their scores and who changed from midcycle to premenstrual-menstrual phases or vice versa between the two experimental sessions shifted their tension scores in the predicted direction (p < .04). As predicted, non-pill females scoring in the lower half on premenstrual-menstrual symptomatology were more consistent in pressure judgments than those high on symptomatology, with correlations of .51 (sig < .004) and .24 (NS) respectively. Analysis of pressure judgments as a function of menstrual phase and high-low symptomatology indicated a main effect for symptomatology (sig < .01) with the high group perceiving more pressure. Lack of a main effect for menstrual phase was attributed to large individual variations in tension scores. Results were interpreted as indicating physiological causality underlying the variability in tension across the menstrual cycle. Substituting the Repression-Sensitization dimension for symptomatology yielded no significant results which could lead to a psychological interpretation of such variability.