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Emotional Approach Coping

Sarah J. Sullivan and Annette L. Stanton

Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405161251.2009.x


When individuals encounter situations that strain or exceed their psychosocial resources, they typically engage in efforts to change aspects of the situation itself (i.e., problem-focused coping) and to manage their emotions regarding the situation (i.e., emotion-focused coping). Emotional approach coping is one specific form of emotion-focused coping and is characterized by attempts to actively process and express stressor-engendered emotions. More generally, emotion-focused coping entails a variety of strategies, including avoiding thoughts and feelings about the stressor, attempting to accept the situation as it stands, recruiting social support, seeking spiritual comfort, and more. In contrast, problem-focused coping involves strategies such as gathering information and engaging in problem-solving. Advanced by Richard Lazarus and others, the distinction between problem-focused and emotion-focused coping is long-standing in theory and research on coping, but coping researchers and theorists have pointed out problems with this demarcation and particularly with the concept of emotion-focused coping. The ways that emotion-focused coping have been conceptualized and measured are problematic in at least two respects. First, individuals employ a host of approaches to manage emotions in stressful circumstances, and these varying methods have been aggregated into unitary self-report ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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