Coping

This text is drawn from www.goete.eu/glossary

Coping describes the process of dealing with challenges in different spheres of interaction in the life-span especially if they are stressfull, complex and contradictory. In order to solve personal and interpersonal problems coping strategies are efforts to reduce tensions which are generated by conflict or stress. Coping strategies are strongly connected with the individual ability to mobilise resources of resilience and competencies of action and reflection. There are two ways of coping: the assimilative and the accomodative way. The first is characterised by efforts to reduce the discrepancy between a stressful situation and personal goals by changing the indivuals environment, the second by flexible adaptation to the given resources. Distinction is to be made between problem-orientied, emotion-regulated and cognitive coping in order to create a reappraisal of the person-environment relationship. In different phases of the life span stressfull events can cumulate in situations of transitions especially between kindergarten and school, between steps inside the school system, between school and labour-market. Events in personal life as illness or death of a family member, changing of work-place and residence or exclusion from working life can bring special challenges to cope with and indicate a need of professional support.

Over the years coping has acquried a variety of conceptual meanings and is frequently used interchangeably with concepts such as mastery, defence and adaptation. The researchers working in this area develop their own working definition and use different descpriptors. Coping is made up of the responses (thoughts, feelings and actions) that an individual uses to deal with problematic situations that are encountred in everyday life and in particular circumstances. The procedure for determing how people deal with their concerns in daily life involves observation of behavior in situations or trough the reporting by self or others (questionnaire, interviews, written text). Much of the theory and research on coping has been driven from adult-centric orientation, and it has been pointed out that particular characteristics of children and adolescents need to be taken into account. In particular, since children and adolescents are dependent on resources and the circumstances in wich they find themselves, the social context and how the young person experiences and perceives the context needs to be considered, along with cognitive and social development and tempetrament. Coping by young people relates to both current and future well-being and is integral to the educational, clinical, and counselling arenas. Frydenberg and Lewis (1997) presents conceptual groupings of coping strategies (Adolescent Coping Scale – Solving the problem (1), Non-productive coping (2), Reference to others (3)) that have been derived from talk with thousands of young people.

References

Brandstädter/Lerner (1999): Action and self-development: Theory and research through the life span, Thousand Oaks, Sage.

Frydenberg, E. (1997). Adolescent Coping. London an New York: Routledge.

Frydenberg, E., Lewis, R.(2009). Relations among well- being, avoidiant coping, and active coping in a large sample of Australian adolescents, Psychological Reports, Jun2009, Vol. 104 Issue 3, p745-758.

Lazarus, R.S., Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, Appraisal and Coping. New York: Springer.

Lazarus, Richard (1999). Stress and Emotion. London: Free Association Books.

Oerter, Rolf/Montada, Leo (eds.) (2008): Entwicklungspsychologie, München, Urban& Schwarzenberg

Moos, R., Billings, A.G. (1982). Conceptualising and measuring coping resources and processes, in L. Goldberger, S. Brenitz (eds), Handbook of Stress: Theoretical and clinical aspects, New York: Free Press, pp. 212 – 230.

Pinkerton J., Dolan, P. (2007). Family support, social capital, resilience and adolescent coping.Child and Family Social Work, 12, pp 219–228.

(Rainer Treptow and Alenka Kobolt)