University of Sussex
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Children’s strategies for coping: links with social anxiety and depressive symptoms

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:41 authored by Mark Lee Wright
Cognitive and behavioural theories of social anxiety and depression provide clear explanations for the links between these conditions and the strategies children use to cope with peer conflict situations. However, empirical research in the area has left several unresolved issues, warranting further investigation if we are to understand more fully the links between coping and emotional adjustment. This programme of research was designed to develop a comprehensive measure of children?s coping, particularly in the context of peer stressors, and to examine the links between specific coping strategies and social anxiety and depression over time. In a series of seven studies, reported in four papers, a total of 833 primary and secondary school children completed measures of social anxiety, depression, coping, and a sociometric survey, as well as measures of goals and appraisals. In Paper 1, seven distinct coping strategies were revealed across several interpersonal situations that were related to children?s feelings in distinct ways, and that meaningfully mapped onto differences between a mainstream school sample and a sample of pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties. In Paper 2, six of the seven coping subscales identified in Paper 1 were confirmed and these specific ways of coping were differentially associated with social anxiety and depression. Generally, social anxiety and depression were longitudinally associated with distinctive profiles of coping strategies over a period of 9 months. In Paper 3, coping was found to have these differential associations with social anxiety and depression across a range of peer conflict situations, and there was also evidence of mediating effects of children?s appraisals and goals. Finally, in Paper 4, coping was found to be predictive of changes in depression over one year, but associations between coping and emotional adjustment did not hold up over a two-year period. These findings are discussed in relation to the existing coping literature and theories of social anxiety and depression.


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