Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Emotional Distress and Coping Strategies in University Students after the Death of Parental Figure

Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Emotional Distress and Coping Strategies in University Students after the Death of Parental Figure

Article excerpt

Parents provide children shelter and the necessities of life. The death of parents is one of the most severe traumas that a child can suffer (Davies & Cummings, 2004, Ahrons, 2007). As family roles, relationships, and circumstances change consequently children often tend to be depressed, anxious, angry, demanding and noncompliant, and experience difficulty to cope with situations (Amato, 2001; Hetherington & Hagan, 1999). Emotional distress occurs in reaction to a loss. Coping strategies play an important role in one's ability to adapt to stressful life conditions (Lazarus, 1976).

Moscoso et al., (2000) define emotional distress as feelings of anxiety, anger, depression, and demoralization making distinctions regarding the expression and suppression of angry feelings. Farlex (2010) states that when students are suffering from emotional distress they show noticeable decline in quality of work or writing and class participation, increased absences, or failure to turn in work, prolonged appearance of depression, sad expressions, apathy, tearfulness, distractibility, weight loss, nervousness, agitation, irritability, aggressiveness and non-stop talking. According to Lazarus (1976) coping strategies play an important role in managing emotional and behavioral problems faced by students.

Carver, Scheier and Weintraub (1989) defined coping strategies as specific efforts, both behavioral and psychological, that people employ to master, tolerate, reduce, or minimize stressful events Active coping defined as taking action, exerting efforts and to remove or circumvent the stressor. Carver, Scheier and Weintraub (1989) defineddifferent type of coping strategies including planning, use of instrumental support, use of emotional support, turning to religion, acceptance, self-blame, venting of emotions, denial, self-distraction and behavioral disengagement.

Heinemann and Evans gave a process model of loss (Wood, 2005) that describes change that is organized around three stages of loss: preparation, grief and mourning, and adaptation. The preparation period precedes the loss of event and includes three adaptive processes (learning adaptive behaviors, developing skills and abilities, and anticipatory behavior. The grief and mourning period roughly begins as a loss occurs. Within this phase, the person passes through shock, intense emotional pain, working through feelings of grief, and coming to terms with new realities of life. At the end of the second phase, the person is at a point of accepting the loss and is poised to rebuild her or his life, in phase three, the actual adaptation begins. In this phase, people start using coping strategies through use of resources, reorganization of roles and reference groups, reintegration, and the development of new images, attitudes, and values. The result of the success full passage through the adaptation period is a new identity and life style (Raniel & Christie, 2001). Support for these functions and resources come from empirical research.

Bornstein (2003) assessed relationship between emotional distress and the use of coping strategies among females after the divorce. Results showed that there is a significant relationship between the emotional distress and coping strategies coping strategies among women. 85% women used emotional focused coping strategies and only 15% were used problem focused coping strategies.

Kausar and Munir (2004) examined the effect of parental loss and gender on adolescent's coping with stress. Findings indicated significant differences between adolescents of single parent (by death) and those having their both parent alive in use of religious-focused coping and active distinctive coping. Significant gender differences were found on active practical coping and avoidance coping strategies in adolescents. Results also revealed interactive effect of parental loss and gender on coping strategies used by adolescents. Overall, it was also revealed that avoidance coping was used most frequently and active distractive coping was used least frequently by adolescents. …

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