Adolescents cope with stressful situations in a variety of ways, often taking cues from others. But a new study conducted by Jamie L. Abaied of the University of Vermont and Karen D. Rudolph of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, suggests that a mother’s encouragement to put effort into engaging and addressing the stressful triggers may help children develop healthier coping skills. “Effortful engagement includes responses such as attempts to resolve problems, regulate one’s emotions, rethink problems in a more positive light, or seek support from others,” said Abaied. Abaied is clear to distinguish between conscious effortful engagement and involuntary engagement, which involves experiencing negative emotions, emotional excitement or rumination. The team said, “Generally, effortful engagement is thought to be an effective approach to resolving stressful conditions or emotions and thus preventing subsequent adjustment difficulties.”
The researchers examined how youths managed stress from peer relationships, and what influence a mother’s input had on the way they coped. Poor coping mechanisms can lead to behavior problems such as internalizing and aggression. “When parents engage in socialization of coping, they provide cognitive, affective, and behavioral strategies that either reinforce or redirect youths’ typical coping behaviors. According to the psychological resource principle, parents’ influence upon youth development is strongest under conditions of stress or challenge, when youths’ resources are most strained,” said the researchers.
The team interviewed 144 youths and their mothers at two different points over one year. They questioned them about the maternal input, the type of stress, and their coping strategies. The results indicated that the adolescents responded more positively to stressful situations when their mothers offered engagement tips. However, when the stress was minor, the suggestions of the mothers had little influence on coping strategies. “By encouraging purposeful engagement, mothers convey the belief that directing attention toward stressors is safe and that youths are capable of doing so.” The team added, “Training parents to effectively support adaptive coping will be particularly important for youths exposed to chronic stressful environments.”
Abaied, J. L., & Rudolph, K. D. (2011, September 12). Maternal Influences on Youth Responses to Peer Stress. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025439
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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