In general, individuals who view themselves as masterful and in control of their lives are more likely to adapt successfully to stressful situations than are those who perceive life to be beyond their control (Bandura, 1982; Folkman, 1984; Rotter, 1966). Self-esteem is also associated with coping abilities. High self-esteem and high sense of mastery have been shown to be related to effective personal efforts to overcome stressful situations and the tendency to use active strategies to cope with stress (Bandura & Schunk, 1981; Compas, Banez, Malcarne, & Worsham, 1991; Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub, 1989; Weinberg, Gould, & Jackson, 1979). Low esteem and low sense of mastery are related to tolerance of, avoidance of, or withdrawal from a difficult situation, that is, the use of more passive, less effective coping strategies (Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub, 1989; Parkes, 1984; Tyszkowa, 1990).
Apart from an individual's psychological coping resources, support from interpersonal networks, such as family and friends, is an important coping resource (Folkman, Schaefer & Lazarus, 1979; Pearlin & Schooler, 1987). In addition, Patterson and McCubbin (1987) maintain that the coping practices of family members, as well as parental instruction, help adolescents acquire coping behaviors.
The coping repertoires that individuals tend to use under a broad range of stressful situations can be regarded as their coping style (Lee, Chan, & Yik, 1992). Empirical data support the notion that the nature of the family environment (e.g., level of cohesion, degree of conflict, and organization) is strongly associated with adolescent coping style (Rutter, 1983; Shulman, Seiffge-Krenke, & Samet, 1987; Siddique & D'Arcy, 1984). Family environment also influences adolescent coping ability via its effect on self-esteem and sense of mastery. Some studies have shown that the more conflictual and less cohesive the family environment is perceived to be, the lower the individual's level of self-esteem (Cheung & Lau, 1985; Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong, 1992).
The aims of the present study were fourfold. First, it investigated the characteristics of adolescents' family environment (e.g., level of cohesion, degree of conflict, and organization), classifying them into family types. Second, adolescents' self-esteem and sense of mastery, which are associated with coping ability, were investigated for the identified family types. Third, it sought to identify the characteristics of the family environment that are associated with the adoption of a more constructive coping style. Finally, since few studies concerning family environment have been carried out with Chinese adolescents, we explored the different family types in Hong Kong, which provides a unique socioeconomic context that combines urbanization, Westernization, and Chinese culture.
Adolescent coping has been conceptualized using different dimensions (Hwang, 1977; Pearlin & Schooler, 1987; Moos & Billings, 1982; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Patterson & McCubbin, 1987; Shek & Cheung, 1990; Compas, Banez, Malcarne, & Worsham, 1991; Seiffge-Krenke, 1995), and there are many similarities between Western and Eastern findings. For example, seeking information and advice, obtaining social support, relying on oneself to solve the problem, appealing to a supernatural power or religiosity, doing nothing, exercising or using relaxation techniques, and blaming others appear to be commonly used coping methods in both cultures. However, adopting a do-nothing approach, such as shui-chi tzu-an (let nature take its course), I pu-pien ying wan-pien (coping with shifting events by sticking to one unchangeable way), and k'an-k'ai (to see a thing through), is rooted in the Taoist philosophy of self-transcendence to promote a sense of inner tranquillity (Yue, 1994, 2001), and made explicit in the socialization of Chinese children. The Taoist philosophy of nonaction is different from what Western cultures call avoidance or escaping from reality. Self-transcendence emphasizes achieving internal harmony and balancing one's expectations with external demands. As a result, this coping strategy may "foster a sense of enlightened awareness of the dynamics of conflicts in this mundane world and that of attainment of inner harmony" (Yue, 1994, p. 65). Moreover, jen-nai (forbearance) has also been shown to be a Chinese coping strategy (through the dimension of mobilization of personal resources) and originates from the Confucian ethic of self-cultivation (Lee, 1995).
The pattern of coping strategies among people in Hong Kong has been investigated (Lee, Chan, & Yik, 1992; Lam & Hong, 1992; Shek & Cheung, 1990; Shek & Mak, 1987). The results suggest that it is appropriate to classify coping strategies into internal strategies, which include using personal resources, doing nothing, and avoidance, and external strategies, which include using social resources and appealing to supernatural forces (Shek & Cheung, 1990; Shek & Mak, 1987). In the present study, a composite coping scale, based on analyses of coping styles in both Eastern and Western cultures, was developed to assess the coping style of Hong Kong adolescents.
Family Environment, Self-Esteem, and Coping
The Family Environment Scale (Moos & Moos, 1981) divides family environment into three broad dimensions: relationship, personal growth, and system maintenance. The relationship dimension includes three subdomains: cohesion, expressiveness, and conflict. Personal growth includes five subdomains: independence, achievement, intellectual-cultural orientation, active-recreational orientation, and moralreligious emphasis. System maintenance includes two subdomains: organization and control. To investigate family environment in the present study, the participants' family characteristics were classified into different family types based on the distribution of scores on the subdomains.
Hoelter and Harper (1987) found that family support had a significant effect on self-esteem for both adolescent boys and girls. Family support exerted its influence through sensitizing children to their selfworth (Gecas, 1972) and enhancing achievement motivation, which in turn increased their self-esteem (Hoelter & Harper, 1987). Moreover, in several studies, perception of family cohesiveness, organization, and expressiveness was associated with positive self-esteem whereas perception of family conflict-proneness and control was associated with negative self-esteem in seventh and eighth graders (Burt, Cohen, & Bjorck, 1988; Leung, Salili, & Baber, 1986; Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong, 1992). These results are consistent with Cheung and Lau's (1985) study, which showed that self-esteem was more strongly related to family than to classroom social environment, and that cohesion and conflict were the two most important predictors of self-esteem. Since family environment dimensions such as suppor t, cohesion, organization, expressiveness, conflict, and control have shown a strong association with adolescents' self-esteem, the present study examined adolescents' self-esteem and sense of mastery under different family environments.
A study by Stern and Zevon (1990) supports the view that a negative perception of family environment is associated with the use of more emotion-focused coping strategies, such as withdrawal, denial, and tension reduction. A positive perception of family climate is related to the use of more problem-focused strategies, such as active coping.
In terms of developmental tasks, family context has been shown to play an important role in adolescents' autonomy achievement and identity formation. In families that encourage independence as well as closeness, adolescents have been shown to be more likely to …