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Victims' Symptom : glossary:coping-strategy
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Coping strategies

Coping strategies refer to the specific efforts, both behavioral and psychological, that people employ to master, tolerate, reduce, or minimize stressful events (Aldwin & Revenson, 1987). Two general coping strategies have been distinguished: problem-solving strategies and emotion-focused strategies. Problem-solving strategies are efforts to do something active to alleviate stressful circumstances. Emotion-focused coping strategies are efforts to regulate the emotional consequences of stressful or potentially stressful events. Research indicates that people use both types of strategies to combat most stressful events (Aldwin & Revenson, 1987). The predominance of one type of coping strategy over another is determined by personal style and by the type of stressful event.

Other distinction in coping strategies is between active and avoidant coping strategies. Active coping strategies are either behavioral or psychological responses designed to change the nature of the stressor itself or how one thinks about it, whereas avoidant coping strategies lead people into activities (such as alcohol use) or mental states (such as withdrawal) that keep them from directly addressing stressful events (Carver, Scheier & Weintrauma, 1989). Active coping strategies (behavioral or emotional) are better ways to deal with stressful events than the avoidant coping strategies. Avoidant coping strategies are a psychological risk factor or marker for adverse responses to stressful life events.

Broad distinctions, such as problem-solving versus emotion-focused, or active versus avoidant, have only limited utility for understanding coping, and so research on coping and its measurement has evolved to address a variety of more specific coping strategies, noted below in the measurement section (Folkman & Lazarus, 1980; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Holahan & Moos, 1987).



  • Folkman S, Lazarus, RS. An analysis of coping in a middle-aged community sample. Journal of Health and Social Behavior,1980; 21: 219-239.
  • Holahan CJ, Moos RH. (1987). Risk, resistance, and psychological distress: A longitudinal analysis with adults and children. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1987; 96: 3-13.
  • Aldwin C, Revenson TA. Does coping help? A reexamination of the relationship between coping and mental health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1987;53:337-348.
  • Carver C, Scheier MF, Weintrauma JK. Assessing coping strategies: A theoretically based approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1989; 56:267-283.

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