How a person copes with overbearing situations or problems often times tells you a lot about what kind of person he or she may be. “Coping is a fundamental process in cognitivetransactional models of stress, which has been conceptualized as the cognitive and behavioral responses that moderate the effects of stress on outcomes” (Felsten, 1998). Common stressful events include dealing with pain that accompanies with an injury or surgery, your boyfriend breaking up with you, experiencing financial problems, academic problems, or finding out that you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness.
It can be anything really. Coping involves cognitive and behavioral strategies used to help you manage your stress efficiently (Martin et al. , 2011). A person’s biological sex can be a determinant of how he or she will cope with a situation. Females and males have been known to exhibit many different types of coping strategies. Coping strategies tend to overlap one another and that could be a significant reason for why there have been complications in trying to interpret results from studies trying to relate gender and coping to each other (Felsten, 1998).
Men and women may handle stressful situations differently and choose different coping strategies because they face different stress situations in everyday life (Lee & Mason, 2014). Gender is an important determinant of how a person will cope, but so is a person’s age and ethnicity. Some forms of coping strategies have been shown to be less effective for older adults than for younger adults. The age difference could lead to difference responses like in the study done by Shimanoe et al. (2013), the researchers found that there were different responses due to stress.
Two well known fundamental coping strategies are problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping. Problem-focused coping is an approach to stressful situations where a person tries to change the stressor and directly handle the stressor to make things better and return to normal, stress-free functioning (Helgeson, 2012). To engage in problem-focused coping, you have to find a solution to the problem and come up with a plan on how to approach the problem. Whereas, when individuals use emotion-focused coping, he or she tries to attempt to accommodate themselves to the stressor (Helgeson, 2012).
Avoiding the problem, denying the problem, and distracting oneself from the problem are all common techniques that a person may engage in when using emotion-focused coping. According to the research that I have read, women and men have been shown repeatedly to differ in their physiological and psychological responses to stress. On a psychological level, women tend to report greater frequency of stress than men, and women tend to use various coping strategies than men (Martin et al. , 2011). Most research has found that women partake in greater use of emotion-focused coping, while men report greater use of avoidance.
Perhaps the reason why women are accredited with using more emotion-focused coping strategies is because women have a bigger social circle than men. Women seek social support from their friends, family, and/ or neighbors. Social support has been known to influence a person’s well-being positively. “Specifically, there is evidence that greater social support is associated with lower blood pressure, less atherosclerosis, lower cortisol levels, increased oxytocin, and greater immune function” (Martin et al. , 2011).
Avoidant coping involves unhealthy strategies such as selfblame, using substances to cope like alcohol, and behavioral disengagement (Martin et al. , 2011). Research has shown that the use of avoidance strategies carries negative health risks such as higher levels of depression and suicidal thoughts across all ages (Kim, Han, Trksak, & Lee, 2014). Avoidant coping strategies may have the most negative impact on one’s psychological health and well-being. “Among adolescents and younger adults, avoidant coping is a significant predictor of depression” (Boals, vanDellen, & Banks, 2011).
During your adolescence years, can be a time of psychological stress (Helgeson, 2012). In your adolescence years, a person is faced with multiple decisions about his or her future that can cause a magnitude of stress on an individual. In a study done by Boals, vanDellen, & Banks (2011), the researchers found that the lack of self-control was significantly related to using avoidant ocused coping. The lower self-control a person has, the higher the rate of avoidant coping. The implications of their study was to provide insight on how stress may affect self-control behaviors.
In Gary Felston’s (1998) research, he found that avoidance coping was a powerful predictor of depression in both men and women. Kim, Han, Trksak, and Lee (2014) found that females were significantly more likely than males to engage in activities such as venting emotion by talking to others, eating, listening to music, sleeping, watching television, singing, and online chatting as strategies for coping with stress. According to the results from their study, females are more likely to engage in safer activities to cope with stress. Females are more likely than males to confide in others about the problems that they are experiencing.
In contrast, the activities that males were more likely to report engaging in were different, but also predictable. To cope with stress, males tend to play sports, play online games, smoke cigarettes, drink alcoholic beverages, and read a book (Kim, Han, Trksak, & Lee, 2014). The socialization hypothesis suggests that because of stereotypes and expectations that people face on a daily basis, men are expected by society to use more active and instrumental coping behaviors, whereas women are expected to use more emotionfocused behaviors and to look to their friends for support (Felsten, 1998).
Assumptions about gender places the wrong values on each type of coping strategy. The different roles that a woman or man carry out on a daily basis can effect the type of coping strategies that a person might use. Different roles lead to different stressors and different constraints on coping behaviors. Felsten (1998) found no gender differences in the use of social support when men and women occupied similar roles or experienced similar stressors. Stress is unavoidable and a part of every normal human’s life.
The effects of stress are even more significant among adolescents as studies have shown that excessive stress during the teen years can have a harmful impact upon both physical and mental health later in life” (Lin & Yusoff, 2013). Adolescents face more stress than any other age group. Adolescents experience more stress due to the transition to college, peer pressure, underage drinking, being on their own, etc. People use coping strategies when they are stressed to try and manage their stress. Lin and Yusoff (2013) found that the top ten stressors perceived by students enrolled in school were all related to academic matters.
Self-distraction was reported to be used most frequently by distressed individuals in college (Lin & Yusoff, 2013). More teachers, parents, school, and advisors should train students in their early adolescent years how to cope positively with stress to improve their psychological health. Negative coping strategies were commonly used by distressed students (Lin & Yusoff, 2013). The coping strategies that a person chooses to exhibit influences their health-related behaviors. Doron et al. (2014) used a cluster analysis approach and found that females and males were significantly different across four coping clusters.
By using a cluster analysis approach, the study added to a growing literature on coping by identifying students’ coping profiles and their associations with perceived stress and health-related behaviors” (Doron et al. , 2014). The cluster analysis approach showed that women were high copers and men were low copers. According to the results, high copers tend to report higher levels of perceived stress and engaged in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking (Doron et al. , 2014). Low copers reported lower levels of perceived stress which is good, but the low copes also reported alcohol consumption (Doron et al. 2014).
Gender appeared to influence the usage and motivations for alcohol consumption (Doron et al. , 2014). Gender identity disorder is defined as identifying yourself with the opposite sex and not being comfortable in your own body (Helgeson, 2012). A person who experiences discomfort with their own sex is a life challenge. This challenge can create surmounts of distress and carry negative side effects to a person’s psychological health and well-being. It is crucial for patients with gender identity disorder to learn how to cope with this stressful situation for their own sake (Matsumoto et al. , 2009).
Coping by the patients with gender identity disorder was evaluated using the Lazarus Stress-Coping Inventory. “The Lazarus Stress-Coping Inventory questionnaire showed that female-to-male gender identity disorder patients scored significantly higher on positive reappraisal and distancing subscales than male-to-female gender identity disorder patients” (Matsumoto et al. , 2009). Positive reappraisal lets the person with gender identity disorder know that he or she is accepted by their family, peers, and society. Overall, from the studies about coping strategies that I read, females were more likely to use emotion-focused coping strategies.
However, males use an array of coping strategies. Each study showed different results for which coping strategy men exhibit more. The type of stressors directly influence the type of coping strategy men choose to use. “Females consistently report relying on social support, expressing emotion, and displaying more active coping skills” (Lee & Mason, 2014). Women are more likely to seek help when they are experiencing problems and stressful situations. Because of women being more likely to seek help, they are healthier psychologically and physiologically.
Men cope independently and do not seek outside help as much as they should. “Perceived support appears to bear the most positive associations with health, while received support has either mixed or negative health associations” (Martin et al. , 2011). The socialization hypothesis is a good explanation for why females and males differ in coping styles and why there are problems with studying coping styles because of the different roles that females and males partake in. These research studies mentioned show that there are indeed significant gender differences in coping styles