Adolescent Stress and Coping

Coping with stress during adolescence is a thoroughly documented phenomenon, and there is a growing understanding of its relationship with adolescent mental health and illnesses. The scientific literature on adolescent stress and coping has evolved, cementing the proposition that the two concepts are inextricably linked. For example, Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) frame of reference on stress and coping is applied widely in the scientific literature on adolescent stress and coping. According to this framework, stress is conceptualized as a perception of daily hassles and events. Hassles or events are appraised by an individual as threatening or harmful and thus they are considered to be stress factors.  Resources are then appraised within the immediate environment to cope with the stress factor, and finally, one uses identified resources to cope with the perceived threat or harm.

Coping is typically referred to as a strategy rather than a mechanism. Semantically, the terms strategy and mechanism can be differentiated in that a strategy is more purposeful, planned and conscious, whereas a mechanism is an unconscious “mental and emotional pattern that shapes behaviour in a given situation or environment” (The Free Online Dictionary, n.d.). Coping can take several forms, such as problem-focused and emotion-focused coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). In addition, coping strategies can be either functional or dysfunctional, or similarly conceptualized as adaptive versus maladaptive (O’Connor et al, 2010). Examples of applicable functional coping strategies include social support, parental support, and the above-mentioned problem-focused coping. Dysfunctional coping strategies typically encompass avoidance, wishful thinking, and blame (Carver, Scheier & Weintraub, 1989).

This is an excerpt from a feature OHPE article written by Cameron Montgomery1,2, David Trumpower1, Angus McMurtry1, Shehzad Ghani1, Alix Daubney1, Eva Guerin 2 (1Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa; 2 Institut de recherche de l’Hôpital Montfort)

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