Findings: Person-Environment Fit

The Person-Environment (P-E) Fit model, developed in the early 1970s by researchers at the University of Michigan, states that strain develops when there is a discrepancy between the motives of the person and the supplies of the environment (job), or between the demands of the job and the abilities of the person to meet those demands. Motives include factors such as participation, income, and self-utilization. Demands include work load and job complexity (Caplan et al., 1975; Van Harrison, 1978; Baker, 1985).

The major test of the P-E Fit model was a cross-sectional study of 2010 workers in 23 occupations (Caplan et al., 1975). However, these were not a random sample of American occupations, no objective measurements of the work sites were obtained, and the response rate was as low as 25% for some of the occupations. The most important stressor appeared to be workload excess, job complexity misfit, underutilization of abilities, and unwanted overtime. Assemblers and relief workers on the machine-paced assembly lines had the highest stress and strain of any of the 23 occupations (Caplan et al., 1975, p.201). However, the P-E Fit measures together contributed only 1.5-14% additional variance beyond the environment and person questions, separately (Baker, 1985). The investigators warned that the P-E Fit variables supplement, but do not replace, the predictive power of the component measures (French, Caplan and Van Harrison, 1982).


Baker D. Occupational stress. Annual Review of Public Health 1985;6:367-381.

Caplan RD, Cobb S, French JRP, Van Harrison R, Pinneau SR. 1975. Job demands and worker health. Cincinnati, OH: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (Publication No. 75-168)

French JRP, Caplan RD, Van Harrison R. The mechanisms of job stress and strain. New York: Wiley, 1982.

Van Harrison R. Person-environment fit and job stress. In Cooper CL, Payne R (Eds.) Stress at work. Chichester: Wiley, 1978.

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