Purpose: The purpose of this review was to examine the conceptualization and measurement of coping in adolescent research.Design: A review of the literature published and abstracted in four scientific databases was undertaken between July 2008 and June 2009 with the following key words: adolescent(s), cope/coping, stress(ors), and adaptation/psychological.Methods: A total of 367 articles were initially identified, and review of published abstracts yielded 104 empirical articles to retrieve and examine more closely for inclusion. Criteria for inclusion in the review were that the study (a) measured coping, (b) presented original data, (c) primarily targeted adolescent participants, (d) was reported in English, and (e) was published between 1998 and June 2009. Fifty-nine subsequent articles were organized using a matrix approach that facilitated cross-study comparisons of purpose, sample, and dependent variables.Findings: Fewer than half of the studies reviewed included a specific statement defining coping. Instead, many authors described coping in the context of stress response by identifying particular types or ways of coping or naming specific coping strategies used. The theoretical frameworks guiding examination of coping varied across studies. A range of measures, congruent with adolescent developmental processes, were used to assess adolescent coping. A wide range of stress-related risks or conditions were examined, including psychological stressors such as eating disorders, suicidal ideation, and depression; physical stressors such as chronic illness, HIV infection, sports participation, violence, or sexual abuse; familial stressors such as domestic violence or interparental conflict; social stressors such as romantic relationships or difficulties in settings such as school, prison, or a homeless shelter; and societal stressors such as discrimination.Conclusions: Coping is an important construct in understanding how adolescents react to the extensive stressors and adjustments they experience. Coping is a complex construct yet worthy of examination because it can be a critical point of intervention in the health trajectory of adolescents and young people. Research is needed to advance the conceptualization and measurement of adolescent coping such that interpretation of findings across studies is enhanced. In this way, future research, including interventions targeting coping, will work synergistically to advance the science and adolescent well-being.Clinical Relevance: Nursing and other healthcare providers working with adolescents understand the need for interventions that promote use of healthy coping strategies and minimize unhealthy coping. Findings from this study demonstrate the state of coping conceptualization and measurement in adolescent research and indicate a need for research that will advance the science and improve the usefulness of adolescent coping data.
- Literature review