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Coping Behavior and Gender Differences in African American Adolescents

23 July 2010


Both daily hassles and chronic stress have been shown to have negative effects on the physical and psychological well being of adolescents. A mediator of the relationship between stress and its effects is coping. The majority of the literature has found approach-oriented coping strategies to be associated with better outcomes than avoidance-oriented coping strategies; however, the majority of the literature has focused primarily on Caucasian samples. The few studies that have been done with the African American adolescent population have found avoidance-oriented coping to adaptive. It has been asserted that one reason for this disparity is that avoidance-oriented coping strategies may be useful in dealing with uncontrollable stressors and, in general, African American adolescents are exposed to more uncontrollable stressors than youth in other communities. While gender differences in the frequency of utilization of different types of coping strategies have been identified in the literature, the results are mixed. The current study examined the coping behavior of 24 African American adolescents in order to identify gender differences in the frequency of utilization of approach-oriented versus avoidance-oriented coping strategies and to explore the relationship between coping behavior and psychological well being. Although no gender differences were found, a significant positive relationship was found between avoidance-oriented coping and levels of psychopathology. These results indicate that higher frequency of use of avoidance-oriented coping strategies is associated with higher levels of psychopathology and poorer psychological well being. Limitations of the current study and directions for future research are discussed.


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