2007 Stress & Coping In Japanese Children & Adolescents
Anxiety, Stress, & Coping,
September 2007; 20(3): 283 Á298
Stress and coping in Japanese children and adolescents
P. E. JOSE1, & D. F. KILBURG III2
Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand & 2Eastern Washington University,
Cheney, Washington, USA
Japanese children and adolescents (n 0580) provided self-reports of stressor intensity, coping efforts,
and adjustment. A new measure of Japanese adolescent coping was created, and psychometric
analyses confirmed a reliable four-factor structure. Mean group difference analyses showed that girls
reported higher levels of self-image and peer relations stress, and reported using isolation and
problem-solving coping more and externalising coping less than males. Younger adolescents (5th/8th
grades) reported higher stress in the domains of school, peer relations, and family relations, whereas
older adolescents (10th grade) reported higher self-image problems. Statistical moderation was used
to examine how youth negotiated the stress process. Females were found to be more responsive to
appearance, family, and peer difficulties. Affiliation coping by females operated as a buffer between
appearance anxiety and dissatisfaction with appearance. Externalizing coping was not associated with
peer relations satisfaction for males, but it was negatively associated for females.
Keywords: Japanese, children, adolescents, stress, coping, moderation
The body of literature on how children and adolescents cope with stress has greatly
increased in size and sophistication over the last 10 to 15 years. However, most of the extant
research has examined European-American samples, and calls have been made to examine
other cultural groups and ethnicities (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). The chief impetus to
examining individuals from different cultural groups is that we may find that they differ with
regard to how they appraise stress, choose particular coping strategies, and experience
adjustment and well-being.
A unique population that has received little attention to date is Japanese children and
adolescents. A remarkable characteristic of this group is that for much of this country’s
history they have lived in isolation from other peoples and cultures. As a result, the Japanese
are one of the most genealogically distinct and culturally homogenous populations in the
world. The present Japanese culture is a compelling contradiction to Western eyes in that
they value and uphold traditional cultural values and behaviors at the same time that they
have embraced many Western approaches such as capitalism and industrialization.
Economic development in Japan has seemingly taken place without compromising much
of the country’s original traditions and values (Beasley, 2000; Hendry, 2003; McCargo,
2004). Western psychologists are therefore becoming increasingly interested in under-
standing patterns of Japanese emotional adaptation that presumably results from Japan’s
Correspondence: Paul E. Jose, School of Psychology, P.O. Box 600, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington,
New Zealand. E-mail: email@example.com
ISSN 1061-5806 print/ISSN 1477-2205 online # 2007 Taylor & Francis
284 P. E. Jose & D. F. Kilburg III
unique cultural and historical path. The present study reports data obtained from Japanese
children and adolescents concerning their experiences of stress, choice of coping strategies,
and resulting well-being in order to identify how these individuals cope with stress.
Conceptualization of the Stress Negotiation Model
Much research on stress and coping, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, has been
piecemeal in the sense that researchers assessed one area, or at best two areas, among the
following: stress, coping, and adjustment. Increasingly researchers have recognized that
these three domains need to be conceptually and empirically linked (see Cohen & Wills,
1985). The most influential theory about the nature of coping from a Western perspective is
Folkman and Lazarus’s conceptualization of coping as a mediator between stress and
adjustment (see Folkman & Lazarus, 1988; Lazarus, 1991; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).
The basic relationship is the stress to adjustment relationship, and it is presumed to be
negative in valence. In other words, in the absence of any coping, a person who experienced
high levels of stress would also report poorer adjustment. However, as noted above, if a
person noticed a threat to his or her well-being (i.e., primary appraisal), then he or she
would likely engage in coping of some sort in an effort to re-establish a more positive
equilibrium. The enactment of coping, in turn, would be expected to have a beneficial effect
on a person’s psychological outcome if the coping effort had an adaptive effect. Jose (2005)
notes that social support has this type of positive mediational effect, but a maladaptive type
of coping, such as rumination, has a negative mediational effect.
The mediational model is attractive for its simplicity in explaining how individuals
negotiate the stress process (Jose, 2005), but criticisms have been raised by Holmbeck
(1997) and others about whether stress should be examined principally or exclusively as a
mediational process. Holmbeck notes that mediation should be employed with longitudinal
data, but that moderation is more appropriate with cross-sectional data. The advantage of
the moderational approach was enunciated initially by Cohen and Wills (1985), and their
view was that coping strategies *in their case, social support *should be viewed as
moderators of the basic relationship between stress and outcome. In moderation, one
determines whether the basic relationship is affected by a third variable (specifically an
interaction term composed between the independent variable and the moderator). In
essence, the association of stress on the outcome depends upon different levels of the
moderating variable, for example, the strength of the stress to outcome relationship can be
attenuated under conditions of high social support. A significant moderational effect, when
obtained, should be probed (see Aiken & West, 1991; Jose, 2003) to determine under which
conditions the coping strategy buffers (i.e., attenuates) or exacerbates (i.e., increases) the
relationship between stress and coping. Since we obtained a cross-sectional dataset in the
present study, we examined whether the identified coping strategies moderated the basic
relationship of stress with adjustment.
Research on Japanese children’s stress, coping, and adjustment
One of the earliest studies on Japanese youth, by Yamamoto and Davis (1979), focused on
children’s experiences of stress. They studied the stressful experiences of over 600 Japanese
and American children from grades 4 through 6. In both samples, children in higher grades
reported significantly more stress, however, significant sex differences were only detected
for the Japanese children (boys greater than girls). The authors concluded that the
Stress and coping 285
similarities in stress experiences between the two cultures were considerable, and speculated
that school children in metropolitan areas in industrialized nations may have much in
common, despite living in distinct cultural contexts.
A subsequent study by Nagane 12 years later (1991) obtained a divergent finding with
regard to gender. Nagane developed an everyday life event stress scale focused on school
events for Japanese elementary school students of 4th Á6th grades. Factor analysis revealed
four domains: peer relations, class presentations, school achievement, and school failure.
Significant differences were found between sexes, but not across grades. Girls reported
more stress in school achievement than boys.
The first study to involve two components of the stress process among Japanese youth
was performed by Okayasu, Shimada, Niwa, Mori, and Yatomi (1992). They developed an
everyday life event stress scale focused on school issues for Japanese junior high students in
order to measure stressors and responses to six school domains. Stress tended to increase
generally across age, especially for study-related items. Girls reported more stress for study-
related and teacher-related items. These findings would appear to corroborate other
findings that girls are under at least as much educational stress as boys in Japan.
The next step in the evolution of this field was to tie together all three components of the
process: stress, coping, and adjustment. Ohsako (1994) studied coping effectiveness in
Japanese high school students (only 10th grade) using a translated version of the Ways of
Coping Checklist (Folkman & Lazarus, 1980) and an original Japanese state-trait anxiety
inventory. This study appears to be the first attempt at linking Japanese children’s coping
research to the American coping literature, and it is notable because stress appraisal,
coping, and an outcome (i.e., anxiety) were examined together. However, no attempts were
made to analyze gender or age differences.
Participants were asked to appraise the stressfulness of each of five domains of life
(‘‘schoolwork,’’ ‘‘friends/sweet-hearts,’’ ‘‘teachers/school environment,’’ ‘‘personality/body,’’
and ‘‘home’’), how much they generally used particular coping strategies within these five
domains, and reported levels on the outcome of anxiety. Stress appraisal and the outcome
tended to be positively correlated, as expected. In addition, coping tended to vary
depending upon context. As important as these findings are, several shortcomings must
be noted. First, the author did not seek to identify gender differences; second, no age
differences could be determined because of the narrow age range for the participants; and
third, no effort was made to examine these three components in an integrated manner.
A study by Kilburg (1997) attempted to address several of these problems. Kilburg
investigated Japanese elementary school children’s experiences of stress in four contexts
(education, health/fitness, family/home life, and peer relations) as a function of sex and age.
Older children reported significantly more education-related stress than younger children,
similar to Yamamoto and Davis (1979). In addition, girls reported significantly greater
stress intensity for the contexts of health/fitness and peer relations, but no differences were
noted for education and family/home. No significant age differences were detected by
Kilburg for emotion-focused coping. However, increases in problem-focused coping were
found across age. Girls were found to report significantly greater use of problem-focused
coping than boys. Although Kilburg’s study examined stress and coping in some detail, no
outcome measure was obtained, so he was not able to determine whether particular coping
approaches could be characterized as adaptive or maladaptive.
In summarizing the literature on Japanese children’s stress, coping, and adjustment
(Kilburg, 1997; Nagane, 1991; Ohsako, 1994; Okayasu et al., 1992; Yamamoto & Davis,
1979), several patterns have emerged, but many questions remain. It seems that Japanese
286 P. E. Jose & D. F. Kilburg III
children face an increasing amount of stress as they age, particularly education-related stress.
A reliable sex difference regarding education-related stress has not been found; however,
there is indication that girls experience more stress than boys when it comes to their bodies
and their peers. A variety of coping strategies have been identified as being used by Japanese
children, but we know little about the adaptiveness of these various coping strategies because
research to date has not used an integrated model of stress, coping, and adjustment.
The present study had two main goals. First, we attempted to construct a reliable and
culturally relevant measure of coping for Japanese youth, because one is lacking. Second, we
examined mean group differences and associations in the stress negotiation process. We
expected to find that older Japanese adolescents would report greater educational stress,
and girls would report higher stress in relation to their appearance and peer relations. We
expected that certain subfactors of the new coping scale (i.e., affiliation and problem-
solving) would function as buffers and others (i.e., isolation and externalizing) would
function as exacerbators of the links between stress and adjustment.
Participants were all native Japanese children and adolescents who had never lived outside
of Japan. They were sampled from four separate schools near Tsu City in Mie prefecture,
which is a suburb of Nagoya, Japan. All four schools can be classified as being primarily
middle-class in terms of both income and education level. Parents were notified by
newsletter and individual letter that the research project would occur and were asked to
notify the school if they did not want their child to participate. Only 12 did so. On the day of
testing, out of 805 child questionnaires distributed, 597 were returned, giving a 74% assent
rate. After excluding individuals for missing data (i.e., more than 5% missing data), we
obtained a final sample of 580 individuals. Mean item substitution was performed on the
remaining surveys. Respondents attended either 5th, 8th, or 10th grade, but inadequate
numbers of children were obtained in the lowest two age groupings, so these two groups
were combined to form a single 5th/8th grade group. (Preliminary analyses showed that
these two age groups also manifested similar patterns in the data.) The numbers of
individuals in these two age groupings broken down by gender were: younger females (n 0
154); younger males (n 0140); older females (n 0180); and older males (n 0106).
The second author became a speaker of the Japanese language and lived in Japan for lengthy
periods of time before the inception of this study. In order to develop materials that
reflected native Japanese views and cultural values, he spoke at length with lay people,
educators, and psychologists in Japan, and discussed with them his previous attempts at
examining Japanese coping (Kilburg, 1997). The items used in the study, then, were
generated after considerable consultation with these key informants and reflect Japanese
customs and Japanese language usage.
Each child received a booklet containing three groups of items that were designed to
assess stress, coping, and adjustment. The groups were independently translated into the
Japanese language by two Japanese-American females. The groups were subsequently
exchanged, back-translated, checked, and modified as necessary to ensure meaning was
consistent between the English and Japanese versions. A third bilingual was enlisted
Stress and coping 287
independent of the original two (a middle-aged, male, Japanese professor, born and raised
in Japan) to ensure that the Japanese items were natural and fluid to the reader.
Stress. The Japanese version of the Everyday Life Events Scale for Children (J-ELESC) was
derived from the ELESC cited in Jose, Cafasso, and D’Anna (1994) and subsequently
modified by Kilburg (1997). In order to increase cultural relevance, additional items were
added to the original measure. Examples are: ‘‘you had after-school lessons or practice (e.g.,
juku, piano, English, etc.),’’ ‘‘you disagreed with most of the people in a group but did what
they wanted anyway,’’ and ‘‘you did not want to follow your school’s dress code.’’
The participants received a list of 43 items, and they were asked to make three decisions
in sequence to reflect the appraisal process described by Lazarus (1991). First, they were
asked ‘‘has this happened to you in the last month?’’. If they marked ‘‘yes,’’ then they were
asked to decide ‘‘was this a problem?’’ If it was judged to be a problem, then the respondent
rated the intensity of stressfulness on a three-point scale (10a little; 2 0some; and 30a
lot). (Because causality is less linear in the Japanese language than in English, the Japanese
version of this question actually reads more like ‘‘if it was a problem, how much stress was
involved?’’.) According to Jose et al. (1998), the stressor intensity scores (i.e., the three-
point ratings) are the best indicator of overall stress level, so these scores were used in the
present study. In the present study, we wished to emphasize the impact of particular clusters
of stressful events so we investigated whether certain groupings of stressor items yielded
significant internal reliability (this is a similar method to that used by Jose et al., 1998).
Based on previous work in Japan cited above (Kilburg, 1997; Nagane, 1991; Ohsako,
1994), four clusters were identified: family discord; peer difficulties; appearance anxiety;
and school difficulties (see Table I). All yielded adequate internal reliability, and
intercorrelations showed that no pairing was highly correlated.
Coping. No pre-existing Japanese children’s coping scale was identified in the literature so
we attempted to create one, guided by existing American scales and the previous work of
Table I. Stressor clusters.
Family discord (a 0.72) 1. You and a sibling disagreed.
2. You were disciplined by a parent.
3. A family member was very angry.
4. Mom and dad disagreed in front of you.
5. Parents talked about problems or worries.
6. You disagreed with your mom or dad.
7. A family member was drunk.
School difficulties (a0.60) 1. I thought about schoolwork.
2. I had after-school lessons or practice.
3. I got a low grade.
4. I didn’t want to follow school dress code.
Peer difficulties (a0.71) 1. You couldn’t talk about your feelings with others.
2. Kids teased or avoided you.
3. You were nice to someone you didn’t like.
4. You thought about your classmates’ opinions of you.
5. You went along with a group decision despite disagreement.
Appearance anxiety (a0.70) 1. You thought about the way you look.
2. You thought about your weight.
288 P. E. Jose & D. F. Kilburg III
Kilburg that was based on Japanese data. The Jose et al. (1994, 1998) and Kilburg (1997)
coping measures contained between 22 and 32 items each, but were deemed to be too
culture-bound and/or restrictive for present purposes. In order to allow a more culturally
sensitive measure to be derived, we compiled a list of 65 items with the assistance of our
cultural informants, covering a wide range of possible coping strategies deemed appropriate
for Japanese youth. We presented the entire list of items to all participants with the goal of
empirically deriving a reliable and valid measure of Japanese youth coping. After the
individuals had completed the stress measure, they were asked to ‘‘indicate for each item,
how much have you used that approach in relation to the problems identified above.’’
Participants made use of a five-point scale to convey how much they engaged in the given
coping strategy: ‘‘None at all’’ (0), ‘‘A little’’ (1), ‘‘A moderate amount’’ (2), ‘‘Much’’ (3),
and ‘‘Very much’’ (4). After psychometric work (described in the Results section), the
resulting measure was called the Japanese Children’s Inventory of Coping (JCIC).
Adjustment. As a measure of adjustment, school performance, and person relationship items
were created to form a nine-item questionnaire entitled ‘‘School Performance and Well-
Being.’’ A school performance cluster was composed of three items (How good is your
attendance record for school? How good is your behavior record at school? How satisfied
are you with your school marks/grades?) that was expected to be related to the stressor
cluster termed ‘‘school difficulties.’’ Three satisfaction items that assessed family harmony
(How satisfied are you with how you get along with your sisters and brothers? Your mother?
Your father?) were expected to be associated with the stressor cluster named ‘‘family
discord.’’ One item assessing peer relations (How satisfied are you with how you get along
with other kids your age?) was expected to be associated with ‘‘peer difficulties,’’ and one
item termed appearance satisfaction (How satisfied are you about how you look?) was
expected to be associated with ‘‘appearance anxiety.’’
Participants were asked to complete questionnaire packets during their regular class time,
scheduled at the convenience of the schools involved. Several Japanese undergraduate
assistants supervised in conjunction with the teachers of the respective classrooms. (Neither
American co-author was present.) They announced that they were conducting a research
project on the problems that children have and how they learn to solve them. They
explained that problems can be mental, emotional, or physical. They explained that
‘‘everyone has some problems’’ and ‘‘everyone has to learn how to have a healthy life.’’
The children were reassured that no one would be able to connect their name with their
answers because the questionnaires would be anonymous. In order that the children would
complete the questionnaires carefully and within a reasonable time frame, research
assistants were asked to read each item aloud. The children were instructed to listen
carefully, in silence. A short and regular pause allowed them to answer each question in a
paced fashion. In this way, all the children finished at about the same time. If the children
had any questions, they were encouraged to ask.
The results section includes: (1) psychometric information about the delineation of the new
measure of Japanese adolescent coping; (2) mean group difference comparisons for gender
Stress and coping 289
and age in this sample; and (3) moderation analyses to determine whether gender and age
affected the stressor to outcome relationship.
Psychometric characteristics of the coping measure
The coping scale was composed of a diverse group of items that were expected to group
together to form subscales. In order to determine the best measurement model for this
scale, the total sample of participants was first randomly divided into two equal groups: the
exploratory and confirmatory samples. The 65-item coping scale was then subjected to an
exploratory factor analysis (EFA) using principal components with varimax rotation on the
exploratory sample. The results of the scree plot suggested that between three and five
factors would be optimal. Thus, three EFAs were computed, one each for three, four, and
five factors. The five-factor model was examined first. The first four factors all resulted in
acceptable Cronbach’s as (.70), but the fifth factor yielded a 0.62. This solution was
rejected. The four-factor model was examined next. Fifty-seven percent of the item variance
was explained by this four-factor solution. An evaluation of internal reliability showed that
all obtained factors yielded Cronbach’s a.70. Intercorrelation among the factors ranged
between null to moderate (.50), which suggested that no two factors should be collapsed
into a single factor.
To examine this model further, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was computed on
the exploratory data using LISREL 8.71 (Joreskog Sorbom, 2004). Using the factor
loadings from the EFA (we specified l as 1 for loadings .40 and 0 for loadings B.40), a
four-factor measurement model was tested. The initial run yielded model fit indices that
were somewhat below what is considered acceptable. The x2/df ratio was 3.58, the root
mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) was .074, the critical N was 176.7, the root
mean square residual (sRMR) was .096, and the goodness of fit index (GFI) was .82.
Model pruning was employed next to determine whether an acceptable fit could be
obtained for the four-factor model. Items with l loadings less than .60 were deleted, and the
subsequent CFA resulted in acceptable model fit indices: the x2/df ratio was 3.01, the
RMSEA was .059, the critical N was 223, the sRMR was .073, and the GFI was .91.
Computing an EFA and a CFA on a single sample results in findings that should only be
considered tentative and exploratory, so the four-factor model was replicated with the hold-
out confirmatory sample. The model fit indices were found to be better than those obtained
earlier: ratio 02.60; RMSEA 0.053; critical N 0284; sRMR 0.053; and GFI0.93. The
resulting scale is listed in Table II along with the factor loadings obtained from an EFA
performed on the entire sample. We named the four factors externalization, problem-
solving, affiliation, and isolation.
The three-factor solution was examined in similar fashion, and although model fit indices
were slightly better than those obtained for the four-factor model, the decision was made to
use the four-factor solution because the three-factor model excluded the affiliation factor.
Given that the internal reliability was good for this potential fourth factor, and that the
overall measurement model fell within the acceptable range, it was decided to utilize the
Mean group differences for gender and age
A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was computed using gender and age as
the two independent variables on the four stressor clusters, and significant multivariate
effects were obtained for both main effects and the interaction, Fs(4, 573) 04.19 to 29.01,
290 P. E. Jose D. F. Kilburg III
Table II. Factor loadings for the items of the Japanese Children’s Inventory of Coping.
Item 1 2 3 4
Problem-Solving Factor (a0.86)
11. I thought about all the things I could possibly do to fix the problem. .80 Á.01 .10 .06
15. I told myself to divide the problem and take it ‘‘one step at a time’’. .77 .06 .03 .16
34. I tried to think what would work best to fix the problem. .76 (.01 .17 .16
14. I tried to get more information about the problem. .73 .09 .05 .17
2. I thought about why the problem happened. .73 .10 .06 .10
26. I told myself to keep trying as hard as I could. .70 (.03 .06 .24
Externalizing Factor (a0.81)
27. I tried to directly hurt or do harm to someone’s body or someone’s stuff *to help fix .02 .81 .02 .01
19. I tried to directly hurt or do harm to someone’s body or someone’s stuff *so I .05 .80 .00 (.12
would feel better.
37. I tried to hurt or do harm to someone’s feelings-without that person knowing I did .00 .73 .17 .12
it *so I would feel better.
36. I said mean things directly to someone’s face *to help fix the problem. .02 .71 .19 .17
38. I told someone that the problem was his or her fault and/or told someone to say .07 .66 .16 .15
sorry *so I would feel better.
Isolation Factor (a0.75)
64.I went off by myself to get away from other people Á so I would feel better. .04 .09 .83 .03
60. I went off by myself to get away from other people Á to help fix the problem. .09 .02 .82 .05
64. I cried (but no one saw me do thing) Á so I would feel better. .21 .11 .66 .04
61. I pretended there was not a problem Á so I would feel better. .05 .15 .57 .24
Affiliation Factor (a 0.76)
29. I went to be with someone * so I would feel better. .14 .06 .15 .79
23. I went to be with someone *to help fix the problem. .16 .10 .05 .79
39. I told someone the problem was my fault and/or I said I was sorry *to help fix the .38 .02 .10 .57
20. I tried to be cheerful or happy in front of someone or do nice things for someone * .39 .03 .15 .56
so I would feel better.
18. I talked to someone in order to feel better. .10 .31 .19 .55
Note. Values in bold are the factor loadings of the items chosen for specific factors.
p s B.001, h2s 0.03 to .17 (means and standard deviations for all variables are presented in
Table III). Univariate results showed two significant results for gender (self-image: F(1,
576) 097.58, p B.001, h2 0.15; and peer difficulties: F(1, 576) 017.29, p B.001, h2 0
.03), four significant effects for age (F s(1, 576) 04.46 to 11.96, p s B.05 to .001, h2s 0.01
to .02), and one significant interaction (self-image: F (1, 576) 010.92, p B.001, h2 0.02).
The gender differences were due to females reporting higher self-image and peer difficulties
than males. Younger adolescents reported higher difficulties with school, peers, and family
than older adolescents; however, older adolescents reported more self-image problems than
younger adolescents. The gender)age interaction for self-image showed that boys reported
equal levels of self-image problems across age, but girls increased steeply over age.
A MANOVA was similarly computed for the four coping strategies as the dependent
variables. A multivariate main effect was obtained for gender, F(4, 528) 08.29, p B.001,
partial h2 0.06, and for age, F(4, 528) 02.09, p B.05, partial h2 0.02. Univariate results
obtained for gender were: externalizing, problem-solving, and isolation, Fs(1, 531) 03.23
to 8.88, p s B.01 to .001, partial h2s 0.02. Males reported higher aggression, but females
reported higher problem-solving and isolation. The only univariate result obtained for age
Table III. Correlations among all variables and means and standard deviations for the variables.
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 M SD
1. Family discord .49 .48 .22 .15 .22 .20 .18 (.37 (.14 (.18 (.06 .654 .54
2. School difficulties .51 .33 .17 .28 .27 .25 (.13 (.23 (.09 (.06 .950 .69
3. Peer difficulties .42 .17 .25 .35 .27 (.21 (.22 (.33 (.19 .845 .71
4. Appearance anxiety .11 .13 .27 .14 (.06 (.14 (.11 (.41 1.10 .98
5. Problem Ásolving .12 .26 .52 .08 .03 (.01 (.01 1.26 .98
6. Externalizing .32 .28 (.10 (.09 (.07 (.04 .423 .70
7. Isolation .37 (.05 (.11 (.11 (.16 .753 .82
8. Affiliation (.01 (.02 (.09 .04 .642 .71
9. Family harmony .22 .25 .17 2.40 .82
10. School performance .14 .25 1.71 .87
11. Peer relations .19 2.60 .93
12. Appearance satisfaction 1.68 .91
Stress and coping
292 P. E. Jose D. F. Kilburg III
was isolation, F (1, 531) 04.38, p B.05, partial h2 0.01. Older participants reported higher
And finally, we examined the four outcome clusters in a MANOVA. Significant
multivariate results were obtained for both age and gender: Fs(4, 544) 07.87 to 13.76,
p s B.001, partial h2s 0.06 to .09. Univariate results obtained for gender were: family
harmony and appearance, Fs(1, 547) 09.17 to 35.71, p s B.01 to .001, partial h2s0.02 to
.06. Males reported higher satisfaction with appearance, but females reported higher family
harmony. The two univariate results obtained for age were appearance and school, F s(1,
547) 016.29 to 19.15, p s B.001, partial h2s 0.03: older participants reported lower
satisfaction with both.
Moderation of stressor clusters to outcomes by coping strategies
We intended to investigate moderation with hierarchical multiple regressions (see Aiken
West, 1991; Cohen Cohen, 1983), one for each of the four stressor Áoutcome
relationships, but we first had to determine whether the specific stressor clusters were
significantly associated with the predicted outcome variables. We correlated all stressor
clusters with all outcomes, and as expected, the four predicted relationships were the
strongest among the sixteen possible (ranging from (.23 to (.41, p s B.001; see Table III
for all correlations; correlations between .09 and .11, p B.05; between .12 and .14, p B.01;
and greater than .15, p B.001). Since these results supported our proposed analytic plan,
rather than analyze moderation for all possible relationships, we focused on these four
strongest (and most meaningful) relationships. Predictors were entered in discrete steps.
First, for a particular outcome (e.g., family harmony), the particular relevant index of stress
(e.g., family discord) was entered. Second, dummy-coded variables representing the age of
the adolescents (0 05th and 8th graders; and 1 010th graders) and gender (0 0males; 1 0
females) were entered. Third, the four coping strategies were entered. Fourth, the two-way
interactions were entered, and fifth, the three-way interactions were entered. Following the
suggestion of Aiken and West (1991), the independent and moderating variables were
centered before the product terms were generated to avoid multicollinearity. Significant
results were probed with ModGraph (Jose, 2003).
Family harmony predicted by family discord. As expected, the regression on the first step
showed that family discord stress significantly predicted the dependent variable of family
harmony, b 0(.37, p B.001, R2 0.13. On the second step, it was noted that gender, b 0
.15, p B.001, and problem-solving, b0.12, p B.001, contributed 3.8% new variance. Girls
and youth who used problem-solving coping reported higher levels of family harmony. Two
two-way interactions were identified: family discord )gender, p B.05, and isolation )
gender, p B.05, total R2 change 0.05. Figure 1 displays the results from the first
interaction, and it shows that females showed a stronger relationship between family stress
and family harmony, i.e., girls seemed more attuned to the impact of stress on family
dynamics than boys. The second interaction revealed that girls showed a significant
relationship between isolation and family harmony, namely that they were more isolated in
situations of family conflict and more involved in situations of family harmony, whereas
boys showed no relationship between these variables.
Peer relations predicted by peer problems. The first step of the regression confirmed that peer
problems significantly predicted good peer relations, b 0(.35, p B.001, R2 0.13. On the
second step, no main effects contributed new variance. Four two-way interactions were
Stress and coping 293
low med high
Figure 1. The moderation of family discord stress on family harmony by gender.
identified: peer problems )gender, p B.05, peer problems )isolation, p B.05, affiliation )
age, p B.05, and externalizing )gender, p B.05, total R2 change 0.04. The first interaction
was probed and it yielded results similar to the pattern in Figure 1, namely that females
showed a stronger relationship between peer problems and peer relations. The second
interaction revealed that youth who employed more isolation under conditions of high peer
problems reported better peer relations, and this result suggests that isolation may buffer
peer problems under conditions of high peer conflict. The third interaction showed that
higher affiliation was associated with better peer relations for older youth than younger
youth. The fourth interaction (see Figure 2) shows that levels of externalizing for males was
unrelated to peer relations, but it was related to peer relations for females. Girls who
reported higher levels of externalizing also reported lower quality peer relationships.
School performance predicted by school difficulties. The cluster of school stressors significantly
predicted levels of school performance, b0(.23, p B.001, R2 0.05, and age was a main
effect predictor too, b 0(.20, p B.001, R2 0.04. Younger children reported higher levels
of school performance than older youth. Two two-way interactions were identified: school
difficulties )age, p B.05, and age )isolation, p B.05, total R2 change 0.05. The first
interaction showed that the relationship between school difficulties and school performance
was stronger for younger than older participants. The age ) isolation interaction revealed
that isolation was a maladaptive coping approach for younger youth (i.e., associated with
lower school performance), whereas isolation was not associated with this outcome for older
Good peer relations
low med high
Figure 2. The moderation of externalising coping on good peer relations by gender.
294 P. E. Jose D. F. Kilburg III
Satisfaction with appearance predicted by appearance anxiety. As expected, the first step of the
regression showed that self-image problems significantly predicted satisfaction with
appearance, b 0(.39, p B.001, R2 0.15. On the second step, four main effects
contributed new variance: gender, b 0(.11, p B.05; age, b 0(.10, p B.05; affiliation,
b 0.12, p B.05; and isolation, b0(.09, p B.05, total R2 change 0.03. These results
indicate that female participants, older youth, and those who used isolation coping reported
lower appearance satisfaction, whereas those who used affiliation coping reported higher
satisfaction. A three-way interaction was obtained: self-image problems )gender )affilia-
tion, p B.05, R2 change 0.02. Probing this interaction revealed that males did not show any
interaction between self-image problems and affiliation, but that females did, p B.05. The
females’ interaction was graphed and it is presented as Figure 3. The figure shows that
affiliation buffered the relationship between self-image problems and appearance satisfac-
tion, namely, under conditions of high self-image problems, those girls who used affiliation
coping also reported the highest appearance satisfaction.
Satisfaction with Appearance
low med high
Figure 3. The moderation of self-image problems on satisfaction with appearance by afﬁliation for girls.
Very little literature on Japanese youth exists in English-language journals. Most studies in
Western journals are concerned with Japanese youth’s acculturation to Western society
(e.g., Miyamoto Kuhlman, 2001; Yeh et al., 2003). A Japanese-language literature on
youth’s experiences with stress in Japan exists (e.g., Nagane, 1991; Shimada, Miura,
Sakano, Agari, 1996; Togasaki, Okayasu, Sakano, 1997), but it is difficult to access, its
findings are not generally known or cited in the Western literature, and these studies tend
not to use the stress and coping model popularized by Folkman and Lazarus. The present
study represents an attempt to form a rapprochement between Japanese and Western views
of adolescent stress and coping. A new measure of Japanese coping was created using
concepts and cultural views of Japanese researchers and lay people, and this measure was
used in an effort to determine whether predictable mean group differences and covariation
could be obtained in a large sample of Japanese youth.
The present study was not cross-cultural in the sense of comparing these Japanese youth’s
responses with those from another culture or country, so we examined differences by gender
and age to glean useful information about how teenagers and youth in Japan negotiate the
stress process. The mean group difference analyses revealed several findings that we should
compare with findings from previous studies involving Japanese and/or Western youth. Girls
in this study reported higher stress than boys, specifically for self-image and peer
Stress and coping 295
difficulties. Yamamoto and Davis (1979), in contrast, found boys reporting greater stress,
but their data were collected more than 20 years ago. Nagane’s (1991) study of Japanese
youth and many studies of Western youth (e.g., Ge, Lorenz, Conger, Elder, Simons,
1994; Jose Ratcliffe, 2004) have found that girls report high stress levels. Boys in the
current study reported higher use of aggression. In support, Western studies generally
concur that boys use more externalizing and aggressive responses (e.g., Jose et al., 1994;
Tremblay, 2000). Girls in the current study reported greater use of isolation and problem-
solving coping. A meta-analysis by Tamres, Janicki, and Helgeson (2002) on gender
differences in coping behaviour in Western studies suggests that both problem-solving and
isolation are used more by females than males in Western samples. Crystal and his
colleagues (1994) conducted a cross-cultural comparison of American, Chinese, and
Japanese 11th grade students on measures of stress and aggression, and they found a gender
difference for aggression (males females) but not for stress among Japanese youth. Thus,
the current results confirm one of these two findings.
The age results present an interesting picture. Younger Japanese youth in the current
study reported more stress in three domains (school, peers, and family), whereas older
youth reported more stress with regard to self-image. The finding for school stress seems to
disagree with previous Japanese research (i.e., Yamamoto Davis, 1979), but an
examination of the age of research participants may offer an explanation. Yamamoto and
Davis studied 4th (6th grade children, but the present study included older individuals.
Still, these results were unexpected in that cross-sectional and longitudinal studies in the
West show that youth report that their levels of stress and maladjustment tend to go up with
age (Ge et al., 1994). Isolation, as a coping technique, is more typical of older adolescents
in the West (Bowker, Bukowski, Hymel, Sippola, 2000), and that result was obtained
here. Older youth here were found to be dissatisfied with school and appearance, which is
congruent with the results of Kilburg (1997) and Ge et al. (1994).
The moderational analyses conducted here were performed to determine how these
various constructs covaried with each other for the sample as a whole or by gender and age.
The first finding of note is that stress was significantly and negatively associated with
adjustment for each of the four targeted relationships (bs 0(.23 to (.39) One of the most
robust findings in the stress and coping literature is this association (Cohen, 1988). This
association tells us that adolescents who reported higher stress also reported lower
adjustment or satisfaction. Previous studies in Japan have shown a significant relationship
between stress and adjustment (Ohsako, 1994; Okayasu et al., 1992), confirming that this
basic relationship seems to generalize robustly to different groups of Japanese youth.
The moderational analysis results for each of the four stress-outcome relationships will be
described in turn. As expected, perception of family discord negatively predicted family
harmony, but there were several gender-related findings of note. Females reported a
stronger relationship between family discord and family harmony, suggesting that they were
more attentive or affected by emotional currents in the family system. Research in the West
has suggested that girls and women are more sensitive to family stressors (Werner
Silbereisen, 2003), and the same phenomenon seems to be evident here. Further, girls
seemed to exhibit more isolation in situations of family discord and to be more involved in
situations of family harmony, indicative of an attunement lacking in boys.
The same attunement was evident in the results for peer relations: girls reported a
stronger relationship between peer difficulties and peer relations, congruent with Rose and
Rudolph’s (2006) observations about gender-typed peer relations in Western countries. For
both family and peer difficulties, Japanese youth who employed isolation reported generally
296 P. E. Jose D. F. Kilburg III
higher satisfaction. Although isolation was negatively associated with all four outcomes in
this study, the moderational results suggest that isolation in situations of high stress might
be adaptive. Japanese society seems to allow youth isolation more than other societies (for a
discussion on hikikomori , or extreme isolation, see Sakamoto, Martin, Kumano, Kuboki,
Al-Adawi, 2005). Affiliation coping, which is similar to social support coping, was found to
be associated with better peer outcomes for 10th graders, but it did not seem to have a
positive effect for younger adolescents. Social support coping is found to have a greater
positive effect among older adolescents in Western samples (Compas, 1987), so this finding
is congruent with other research findings. And last, boys’ use of externalizing coping was
not found to be maladaptive for peer relations, but girls’ use was. This result suggests that
gender-typed aggressive techniques yield different results, as in the USA (Gaylord,
Kitzmann, Lockwood, 2003; Killen, Crystal, Watanabe, 2002).
The two chief interesting results for school satisfaction were that: (1) younger adolescents
(5th and 8th graders) showed a stronger relationship between school stress and
dissatisfaction than 10th graders; and (2) that isolation seemed to exacerbate the
relationship between school stress and dissatisfaction for younger adolescents, but it
seemed not to have an effect for older adolescents. Again, this finding suggests that isolation
for certain Japanese youth may be beneficial, or at least not counterproductive.
The findings for self-image problems strongly suggested that they concern girls much
more than boys in Japan, as they do in Western countries (O’Dea Abraham, 1999). The
three-way interaction yielded the compelling finding that affiliation coping buffered the
relationship between self-image problems and appearance satisfaction for girls. This seems
to be an understudied issue in the Western literature, but there is some evidence (e.g.,
Presnell, Bearman, Stice, 2004) that females may respond positively to emotional
support for body image problems.
Limitations and future directions
A stronger emic approach (see Niblo Jackson, 2004) to deriving Japanese adolescent
themes of stress, coping, and adjustment may be a useful direction in the future. The
present approach may have overlooked or ignored important cultural appraisals, and may
have overrelied upon Western views of stress and coping. A longitudinal study of adolescent
stress, coping, and adjustment would be extremely helpful in determining whether the
relationships identified in the moderational analyses truly reflect causal and/or predictive
relationships in the directions proposed here (see Cole Maxwell, 2000). All of the
measures were self-report measures, and they suffer from common method variance, i.e., all
data were generated from the same individuals (see Lindell Whitney, 2001). Future work
may wish to obtain reports from multiple informants (e.g., parents, teachers, and children)
to more rigorously examine whether the obtained relationships are robust across
The present report conveyed findings from a large sample of Japanese adolescents on
measures of stress, coping, and adjustment. One significant achievement was the creation of
a Japanese measure of adolescent coping, and researchers are encouraged to consider the
use of this measure in the future. The other significant achievement was the examination of
these three constructs in concert through the use of moderation analyses. Many findings
were found to be congruent with Western findings of similar-aged samples. We suggest that
Stress and coping 297
more investigations of Japanese youth should be conducted and the results reported in
English language journals.
These data were collected with a grant awarded by the Japanese Ministry of Education to
the second author. A previous report of these data occurred at the Mie University
Educational Psychology Conference, Mie University, Japan. Special thanks to: Dr Kazuo
Nishikawa, Dr Kathryn Grant, Dr Linda Camras, Shouko Murakami, Kazuyo Fujii,
Makiko Hamamoto, Yuusuke Matsuura, Rikako Takatsu, Mikako Nakajima, Fuzoku
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