Anxiety, Depression and Coping Strategies: Improving the Evaluation and the Understanding of These Dimensions during Pre-Adolescence and Adolescence

Article excerpt

Abstract

The aim of this study is to investigate and refine three different scales which measure depression, anxiety and coping strategies. The relation between these scales is also verified in a non-clinical school population of pre-adolescents and adolescents. Lastly, the moderating effects of age, gender, grade failure and family type are tested. This study used depression, anxiety and coping strategy scales to check moderating effects. The sample consisted of 916 Portuguese pupils, 54.3% females, aged 10 to 22 (M = 14, 44). The participants were randomly selected from the 5th to the 12th grades of public schools. The CDI (Kovacs, 1981), the MASC (March, 1997) and the CRY-Y (Moos, 1993) were used. Scales revealed a good internal consistency and suggested that girls are more anxious than boys are and that older students are more depressed, but use more coping strategies than younger learners. A set of exploratory factorial analyses (EFA) was then carried out with the objective of getting the most representative factor from the anxiety (MASC), the depression /CDI) and the coping (CRY-Y) scales. Reduced scales were identified and they strongly correlated with the previous measures, but better differentiate between a set of moderators. A confirmatory model (CPA) was carried out. Also, adjustment indexes suggested a good fit for the model, but consider both genders separately and the two age groups independently. An analysis of the items retained provided suggestions for school based interventions.

Keywords: anxiety, depression, coping, adolescents, schools

There is an increase in the prevalence of different psychological disorders in childhood and adolescence, which affects children and adolescents' academic performance, as well as their behavior as individuals, members of a family and of a particular social environment (Maag & Irvin, 2005; Windle & Davies, 1999). These emotional disorders are often related with the use of negative or maladaptive coping strategies under stressful situations. Furthermore, they have an impact on the psychosocial adjustment of children and adolescents (Hussong & Chassin, 2004).

Several studies are unanimous in considering depression as a very common pathology in childhood and in adolescence. In addition, they consider that the heterogeneity of depressive symptoms is related to different periods of childhood/adolescence - when comorbidity appears (Harrington, Rutter, & Trombone, 1996; Mash & Wolfe, 2002).

In general, studies suggest that depression symptoms appear before children are 12 years of age, and that by that age boys present higher values of depression (McGee, Feehan, Williams, & Anderson, 1992). Moreover, as age increases, there is a substantial increase of the number of depression symptoms. According to some researchers, the differences increase between the ages of 13 and 15 and drastically increase between the ages of 15 and 18, where there's a higher prevalence among the feminine gender (Duggal, Carlson, Srouf, & Egeland, 2001; Scraedly, Gotlib, & Hayward, 1999).

Depression can also affect school performance. Atienza, Cuesta and Galán (2002) carried out a cross-sectional study related to this issue, with 264 adolescents aged 12 to 16, from public and private schools. In this study, they observed that depressed adolescents present low interest in school matters, as well as attention and concentration difficulties.

Anxiety appears as a common, functional and transitory experience and its nature and intensity can vary largely depending on the individuals' developmental stage. Considering these characteristics, anxiety allows children and adolescents to engage in new, unexpected or dangerous situations (Rosen & Schulkin, 1998). However, the intensity of anxiety can increase and often become chronic and dysfunctional from a social and emotional point of view (Fonseca, 1998). To corroborate this assertion, Essau, Conradt and Petermann (2000) found that from a sample of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 females present more anxiety symptoms than males and that this symptom tends to increase with age - generally between the ages of 12 and 15. …