Research on Coping with Stress in the Research Institute for Child Psychology and Pathopsychology in Bratislava

Article excerpt


The study presents an overview of the results of the "coping with stress" team coming from the Institute of Child Psychology and Pathopsychology. The variety of results does not allow abrief summary, but the conclusions, research examples and references are to understand the strategies and results of the scientific work of the research team, which are discussed in the text.

Key words: Coping with stress, coping strategies, personality, Big Five

Research on coping with stress in the Research Institute for Child Psychology and Pathopsychology in Bratislava

The onsets of researches on coping processes following the conception of R. S. Lazarus' (1960) transaction theory were in 1984-85, when this issue started to be dealt with by a small group of our Institute's workers (J. Senka, M. Zvalovâ, E. Medved'ovâ). The tendency to contribute to the knowledge of this important issue and to find means to utilize findings on information finally gave birth to gradual formation of three projects accepted for solution by the Scientific Grant Agency of Ministry of Education of SR and Slovak Academy of Sciences. The first of them, Mental and Social Sources of Coping Processes at School (Senka, 1993) was worked at between 1994-1996; the second, Coping Strategies of Children and Youth in School Achievement Context (Senka, 1996; Medved'ovâ, 200Oa) between 1997-1999; and the third, Stress Sources and Coping Sources of Children and Adolescents (Medved'ovâ, 1999a) is planned for 2000-2002.

The first research stage of this issue at our Institute (1984-1993) can be understood, in a certain sense, as a certain pre-preparation. The research focused on exploration of conceptual, theoretical and methodological issues of coping (which, obviously, persists until now); however, the emphasis on adjustment mechanisms and effectiveness of coping was more highlighted and we (conceptually as well) alternatively used the term mental resistance. After 1994, the research follow-up of coping took on both extensive and intensive expansion. A new team was created of which the key members continued to be E. Koubeková, T. Kovác, E. Palenfk and E. Medved'ová until now. Tt was lead by J. Senka, the author, coordinator and initiator of the first steps to the solution of this issue in our Institute, but he died in 1998 after a grim disease (a lot of attendents of Danubian Psychologists Meetings surely do remember our jolly collegue).

In the contribution, we try to present briefly at least basic results that we obtained in the solution of the issue within the scope of grant projects - that is, since 1994. It is not possible to mention every important finding here; colleagues should forgive subjectivity in the selection, possible inaccuracies, or overlook further certainly not very relevant findings.

The study of foreign literature shows continuous non-agreement in the research of this issue and application of more conceptual models. So far, no theory for explanation of stresscoping processes in children and adolescents has been developed, hence many researches are based upon empirical base, or upon concepts developed for adults. We, too, have raised our expectations in relation to R. S. Eazarus' and S. Folkman's (1984) concept; however, we took account of considering a developmental level, too, and bigger dependence of children and adolescents on adults.

Measuring variables of coping mirrors this condition, so it is based upon methodologies for adults; it reflects on a pertinent theory, it is based upon empirical information, or it is a combination of more models (Senka, 1995a). We translated, adjusted and used several measures that showed the existence of mostly four basic categories of coping: active strategies (problem-solving), support-seeking strategies, distraction strategies, and avoidance strategies (Medved'ová, 1998b).

In researching on preferences of concrete coping strategies and in finding out their effectiveness, we obtained results (Medved'ovâ, 1995a, 1996a, 1997b, 1998b, 2000b) that show very high variability not only in dependence on the used conceptual coping model and to its relevant measures, but also in dependence on age, gender, type of stress situation and its subjective experiencing. …