Sunday, July 13, 2014

Emotion and Problem-Focused Coping

Differences exist between emotion- and problem-focused coping and the situations in which they are effective. For example, as in the case of childhood disease, problem-focused coping can be ineffective because it is not possible to exert control over disease (Carver, 2011). Problem-focused coping can, however, be valuable in finding effective ways to cope. Emotion-focused coping strategies are effective when unchangeable stressors must be managed (Baldacchino & Draper, 2001).

I work with children and adolescents with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their parents. I have found that even though problem solving has an important place in helping parents develop a working strategy, it is the emotion-focused coping strategies that enable them to change the negative and isolating thoughts associated with their stress (their child's condition).

Emotion-focused coping can be instrumental in the process of reevaluating unchangeable stressors, such as disease (Stanton, Kirk, Cameron, & Danoff-Burg, 2000). I find it interesting that children naturally utilize this form of coping. From Clark's (2003) perspective, though, it is not simply that they choose emotion-focused coping, but that it is likely their use of imaginal play that is foundational in their natural coping mechanisms.


Baldacchino, D., & Draper, P. (2001). Spiritual coping strategies: A review of the nursing research literature. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 34, 833-841.

Clark, C. D. (2003). Imaginal coping. In In sickness and in play: Children coping with chronic illness (pp. 91–138). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University.

Carver, C. S. (2011). Coping. In R. J. Contrada & Baum (Eds.), The handbook of stress science: Biology, psychology, and health (pp. 221–229). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Stanton, A. L., Kirk, S. B., Cameron, C. L., & Danoff-Burg, S. (2000). Coping through emotional approach: Scale construction and validation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(6), 1150-1169. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.78.6.1150

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