Theoretical and empirical work on adolescent stress and coping indicates that adolescence is an inherently stressful developmental stage and that adolescents who use active, problem-solving, cognitive coping strategies appear healthier than those who do not. Moreover, coping style, more man the nature of stressors, determines adolescent health. Offer et al. (1981) described healthy adolescents as good copers who are reasonably self-satisfied and comfortable in relationships with parents, peers, and others. Although Lazarus provided the theoretical model for much stress and coping research, few researchers have examined adolescents' self-reported stressors or coping strategies. Coping in all of its forms (i.e., problem-solving coping, emotion-focused coping, and defense mechanisms) is one type of mediator of catastrophic or disaster stressors (Solomon, 1989; Weinrich, Hardin, and Johnson, 1990). No one has yet described healthy coping among adolescents who have faced a catastrophe such as a natural disaster.
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This research was supported by Grant RO1 MH47551 awarded by the National Institutes of Mental Health. The authors express appreciation to Stephanie North, administrative assistant; Keny Cheever and Kathleen Head, research assistants; and Don Morton, media specialist, for their assistance with this research. They are grateful also to the participating schools without whose continuing help and support this study could not have been conducted. Finally, thanks to all of the South Carolina high school students who are teaching us about adolescents and their response to disaster.