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Thesis

The role of optimism and coping in adolescent social interactions

14 April 2006

Abstract

The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to examine the relationships of optimism and coping responses with aggression, social problems, and the quality of peer relationships among adolescents (N= 103). Research has demonstrated that optimism is tied in with being resilient in adult populations, and lacking optimism has been shown to be a risk factor for a variety of physical and mental health concerns. Optimism is frequently coupled with constructive coping styles, while a lack of optimism tends to be more correlated with non-constructive coping styles. Less research has examined optimism among youth. This study hypothesized that the same trends found in adults for optimism will be found in youth, namely that higher levels of optimism and coping will be correlated with lower levels of aggression and social problems, and a higher perceived quality of peer relationships. It was also hypothesized that engagement coping would interact with optimism to strengthen the relationships with aggression, social problems, and peer relationships, and that disengagement coping would interact with optimism to weaken those relationships. The results indicated that optimism was positively correlated with engagement coping (r = .38), quality of male peer relationships (r = .28), and was negatively correlated with aggression (r = -.38), social problems (r = -.48), and disengagement coping (r = - .40). There was no relationship between optimism and quality of female peer relationships in this study (r = -.04). Also, although optimism and coping were correlated, they were not shown to interact in any way. This study shows that both optimism and coping are important separate factors in influencing the social interactions encountered by youth. Perhaps teaching aspects of optimism and coping could improve the social experiences that are so critical in the life of the adolescent.


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