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An Analysis of Coping in a Middle-Aged Community Sample

Susan Folkman and Richard S. Lazarus
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 21, No. 3 (Sep., 1980), pp. 219-239
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136617
Page Count: 21
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An Analysis of Coping in a Middle-Aged Community Sample
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Abstract

This study analyzes the ways 100 community-residing men and women aged 45 to 64 coped with the stressful events of daily living during one year. Lazarus's cognitive-phenomenological analysis of psychological stress provides the theoretical framework. Information about recently experienced stressful encounters was elicited through monthly interviews and self-report questionnaires completed between interviews. At the end of each interview and questionnaire, the participant indicated on a 68-item Ways of Coping checklist those coping thoughts and actions used in the specific encounter. A mean of 13.3 episodes was reported by each participant. Two functions of coping, problem-focused and emotion-focused, are analyzed with separate measures. Both problem- and emotion-focused coping were used in 98% of the 1,332 episodes, emphasizing that coping conceptualized in either defensive or problem-solving terms is incomplete-both functions are usually involved. Intraindividual analyses show that people are more variable than consistent in their coping patterns. The context of an event, who is involved, how it is appraised, age, and gender are examined as potential influences on coping. Context and how the event is appraised are the most potent factors. Work contexts favor problem-focused coping, and health contexts favor emotion-focused coping. Situations in which the person thinks something constructive can be done or that are appraised as requiring more information favor problem-focused coping, whereas those having to be accepted favor emotion-focused coping. There are no effects associated with age, and gender differences emerge only in problem-focused coping: Men use more problem-focused coping than women at work and in situations having to be accepted and requiring more information. Contrary to the cultural stereotype, there are no gender differences in emotion-focused coping.

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