The relationship of belief systems and environmental structure to the mental health of adults

Amelio Anthony D'Onofrio, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship of differential belief systems functioning and varying degrees of environmental structure to the mental health of adults. Conceptual Systems Theory, as originally presented by Harvey, Hunt, and Schroder (1961) and as subsequently articulated by Gore (1985), served as the theoretical rationale for this study. All hypotheses were derived in a manner consistent with the investigator's interpretation of this theory. The sample consisted of 168 adults selected from different occupational settings categorized according to Holland's (1966) occupational themes. Each participant was given the Belief Systems Questionnaire, the Life Experiences Survey, the Environment Structure Scale, and the Mental Health Inventory-18. Participants were divided into groups according to their predominant belief system and then, further subdivided into two groups of high and low environmental structure with the median score distinguishing the membership. Two sets of hypotheses were tested in this study. The first set examined a matching model of mental health based on Lewin's (1935) B = f(P * E) equation. The second set was designed to examine the assumption that higher belief system functioning is a more powerful predictor of mental health than lower system functioning. No interaction effect was obtained in the analysis of the data. However, main effects for both belief system and environmental structure were obtained. The most salient results of the investigation indicated that environmental structure was a more powerful predictor of mental health than belief systems functioning. Regardless of an individual's belief system, those who reported work and home environments to be highly structured also reported experiencing a significantly greater number of negative life events and lower levels of mental health than individuals in environments of low structural complexity. Several conceptual and methodological issues were discussed in an effort to integrate present findings with past research regarding Belief Systems Theory and the Person/Environment relationship. Recommendations for future research were also made.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Mental health

Recommended Citation

D'Onofrio, Amelio Anthony, "The relationship of belief systems and environmental structure to the mental health of adults" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9543452.