STRESS AND COPING
IN JAPANESE MIDDLE CHILDHOOD
Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Arts
DONALD F. KILBURG III
Department of Psychology
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Linda A. Camras, Ph.D.
Kathryn E. Grant, Ph.D.
I express deep gratitude to Dr. Linda A. Camras for sharing her ideas,
expertise and guidance throughout this research project, and to Dr. Kathryn E. Grant
for her comments on drafts and future directions for this line of research. I am also
grateful to Dr. Paul E. Jose, of Loyola University for providing the original measures
of this research, as well as invaluable direction. Sincere thanks go to Sawako Suzuki
for her careful assistance with data translation and entry. I am also indebted to Rikako
Takatsu and Mikako Nakajima for their work in translating the original measures from
English to Japanese. Additionally, I greatly appreciate Itsuko Takatsu, Mikako
Toshitaka, and Robert Purcell who facilitated the data collection. Lastly, I thank the
children who participated in this study, and their parents for their consent. Without
them, this research would not have been possible.
Donald Francis Kilburg III was born in Oak Lawn, Illinois on January 15th,
1970. The writer was graduated from Homewood-Flossmoor High School in
Flossmoor, Illinois in 1988. In 1993, he received his Bachelor of Science degree in
Psychology from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in Champaign,
Illinois. He will receive his Master of Arts degree in Experimental Psychology from
DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois in 1997.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Thesis Committee………………………………………………………...... ii
List of Tables…………………………………………………………….… viii
List of Figures…………………………………………………………….... ix
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ..............................................……........ 1
Definitions of Stress and Coping ...........................................…..... 1
Person-based Approaches to Stress and Coping ......................….... 2
Situation-based Approaches to Stress and Coping ...................…... 4
Interactionist Approaches to Stress and Coping ........................... 4
Transactionist Approaches to Stress and Coping .......................... 5
General Methodological Issues in Stress Research ...................…... 9
General Methodological Issues in Coping Research ...................… 10
Design and Measurement in Stress Research ............................…. 11
Design and Measurement in Coping Research ...........................….. 15
Adult Stress and Coping Research ............................................… 18
Child Stress and Coping Research: General ................................. 22
Child Stress and Coping Research: Middle Childhood .................... 24
Ethnic Differences in Children’s Stress and Coping………………. 26
Parental Warmth and Control………………………........................29
Summary and Critique of American Studies of Children’s
Stress and Coping………………………………………… 30
Cross-cultural Stress and Coping Research: Issues ................……. 31
Japan as a Setting for Cross-cultural Research…………………… 34
Cross-cultural Stress and Coping Research Utilizing Japanese
Rationale, Overview, Hypotheses, and Research Questions………. 41
CHAPTER II. METHOD ..............................................................…... 46
Research Participants ..........................................................…….. 46
Materials .............................................................................…... 47
Design .............................................................................………... 49
Procedure ...........................................................................…….. 50
Coding ..................................................................................…..... 51
CHAPTER III. RESULTS ............................................................…….... 53
Tests of Hypotheses I & II and Research Questions I, II, & III…… 53
Tests of Hypotheses III, IV, V, VI, & VII and Research
Questions IV, V, & VI………………………………......….61
Tests of Hypotheses VIII, IX, X and Research Question VII…….. 68
Tests of Hypotheses XI, XII, XIII, XIV and Research Questions
VIII, IX, X, & XI………………………………….............. 69
Ancillary Analyses of Stress Scales’ Items……………................... 74
Ancillary Analyses of Coping Scale Variables………….................. 82
Ancillary Yamamoto and Davis (1982) Comparison Analyses…..... 84
Summary of Results………………………………………………... 89
CHAPTER IV. DISCUSSION…………………………………….............91
The Experience of Stress……......................................................... 91
The Utilization of Coping Strategies………................................... 101
Limitations of this Research………………………………….......... 108
Directions for Future Study........………………………………....... 112
CHAPTER V. SUMMARY…………………………...............……... 113
References ................................................................……........……… 118
Appendix A-1. Child Consent Form .......................................................... 129
Appendix A-2. Parent Consent Form……..……………………………..... 130
Appendix B-1. Child Demographic Form……………………………….... 131
Appendix B-2. Parent Demographic Form ................................................ 132
Appendix C. The Everyday Life Events Scale for Children ........................ 133
Appendix D. The Major Life Events Scale for Children ............................. 137
Appendix E. Everyday and Major Life Event Stress Key............................ 140
Appendix F. The Children’s Integrated Stress and Coping Scale ............... 142
Appendix G. The Children’s Integrated Stress and Coping Key .........….... 144
Appendix H. The Children’s Perception of Parenting Style
Appendix I. The Children’s Perception of Parenting Style
Questionnaire Key........…………………………………………..... 146
Appendix J. Japanese Versions of Forms/Measures ................................... 147
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1. Multivariate analysis of variance: children’s everyday
life event stress……………………………………………………...55
Table 2. Multivariate analysis of variance: children’s major
life event stress………………………………………………...........55
Table 3. Mean stress scores for everyday life event stress by sex……........ 56
Table 4. Mean stress scores for everyday life event stress by age……….... 58
Table 5. Mean stress scores for major life event stress by age x sex……....60
Table 6. Multivariate analysis of variance: coping as a function of
sex & age........................................................................................ 63
Table 7. Mean coping scores by sex…....................................................... 63
Table 8. Mean coping scores by age…………........................................... 66
Table 9. Multivariate analysis of variance: coping as a function of
warmth & control…………….........................................................72
Table 10. Mean coping scores by warmth…………….............................. 73
Table 11. Multivariate analysis of variance: selected life events’ stress
intensity as a function of sex & age…………................................. 78
Table 12. Selected life events, stress intensity, & stress occurrence
by age............................................................................................. 79
Table 13. Selected life events, stress intensity, & stress occurrence
by sex….......................................................................................... 80
Table 14. Selected life events, stress intensity, & stress occurrence
by warmth....................................................................................... 81
Table 15. Selected life events, stress intensity, & stress occurrence
by control….................................................................................... 81
Table 16. Multivariate analysis of variance: selected coping strategies
as a function of sex & age…………............................................... 83
Table 17. Selected coping strategies by sex................................................ 84
Table 18. Major life event experiences in Yamamoto & Davis (1982)
and the present study……………....................................................86
Table 19. Mean cumulative stress occurrence and intensity by sex……..... 87
Table 20. Mean cumulative stress occurrence and intensity by age……..... 88
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: Mean everyday life event stress by SEX……………………….... 56
Figure 2: Mean major life event stress by AGE………………………….... 58
Figure 3: Mean major life event peer relations stress by AGE X SEX……. 61
Figure 4: Mean coping scores by SEX…………………………………….. 64
Figure 5: Mean coping scores by AGE……………………………….......... 67
Figure 6: Mean coping scores by WARMTH…………………………........ 73
Definitions of Stress and Coping
The words “stress” and “coping” are so widely used one would assume their
meanings are completely clear. When you get “stressed out,” you have to “deal with
it.” To many, it is just that simple. Indeed, a staggering number of stress-related
articles and books have been written under the guise of self-help and general advice.
The mass media and popular American culture have become obsessed with such
pursuits. The craze has even gone world-wide, with versions of the word “stress”
coming into use in most of the major languages. The New York Times recently ran an
article that whimsically declared stress to be “as useful as a Visa card and as satisfying
as a Coke. It's noncommittal. Also, noncommittable.” (Shweder, 1997).
The problem with popular conceptions of stress and coping is that they
oversimplify the issues. Stress is described as a kind of tangible force, external to its
victims. In these cases, coping is portrayed as a kind of internal “ammunition.” Under
scrutiny, internal and external dynamics are not so clearly demarcated. In actuality,
direction of cause and effect in stress and coping research is intimately tied to ongoing
exchanges between the person and his or her environment. According to Carolyn M.
Aldwin, a prominent stress researcher, “The important point is to understand clearly
which components of the stress process are important in a given context and to make
sure that the appropriate concepts and tools are being utilized, whether in research or
clinical work.” (1994, p. 43).
Person-based Approaches to Stress and Coping
One purpose of studying stress and coping is to see how different people
respond to stress and how that in turn affects their experience of that stress, positively
or negatively. The approaches to these issues differ in the degree to which they
emphasize the importance of the various factors involved.
Person-based approaches suppose that personality characteristics come first in
governing the stress-coping relationship. There are three basic schools of thought
under this rubric: psychoanalytic, personality trait, and perceptual style.
The psychoanalytic school of Sigmond Freud was instrumental in beginning the
systematic observation of coping strategies. The id-ego-superego model set forth by
Freud led to the detailed formulation of defense mechanisms by his daughter Anna
(1966). She described the ways in which the ego acts as a go-between, defending and
negotiating differences between internal demands and external realities. The major
ego defense mechanisms include: suppression, denial, projection, reaction formation,
rationalization, and sublimation (Freud, A., 1966). These defenses have unique
characteristics. For example, projection involves casting off one's feelings onto
someone else. The basic idea of all the defense mechanisms is that over the course of
development, individuals learn to distort reality and/or transduce their internal
There are several limitations inherent in the psychoanalytic school. The
emphasis is on how the individual defends and controls anxiety. His or her defense
mechanisms are assumed to be the deep-rooted consequences of childhood trauma and
therefore enduring personality factors. Unfortunately, this sidesteps the mutability of
such mechanisms given situational variance. Another shortcoming is that the
deliberate, active aspects of coping are often neglected in favor of the view that
negotiations between the individual and environment are typically the result of
The personality trait school attempts to study coping as it relates to categories
of response dispositions various people may have. A study conducted by Wortman
and Silver (1989) provides an example of this school. Four stable coping styles were
found among people grieving the death of a loved one: acute grievers, chronic
grievers, delayed reaction grievers, and those who appeared not to experience any
distress. Further research conducted by Bolder (1990) and Holakan and Moos (1985)
has confirmed the influence of personality in the coping process. Yet like the
psychoanalytic school, the trait approach is prone to ignore environmental
considerations that influence how someone will react.
Lastly, researchers focusing on perceptual style argue that the basis of coping
is found in how individuals process information, as opposed to emotion. The earliest
example of this kind of study was conducted by Byrne (1964). A dichotomy was
drawn between repression and sensitization (also called blunting and monitoring); that
is, between people who approach information and those who avoid it (the approach-
avoidance dichotomy). This perspective shares advantages and disadvantages with the
previous two schools. It allows for simple comparison. However, that may be at the
expense of situational factors. An individual may be found to typically process
information a certain way, but that could largely be a function of context, for example
work versus home.
Situation-based Approaches to Stress and Coping
As the name suggests, situation-based approaches emphasize environmental
demands that shape how individuals respond to stress. Different situations are
presumed to “pull for” different coping reactions. For example, the way in which a
person responds to the stress of losing his or her job could be different from the way in
which he or she responds to divorce. To study these responses one need not have
preconceptions. Rather, one could simply look at a particular stressor and study the
coping strategy employed. Pearlin and Schooler (1978) outlined major social roles:
work, marital, parental, household economics, and health. Some coping strategies
were utilized in some situations but not others. Thus, the importance of situation-
based approaches was shown. Situational influence has been further demonstrated by
other researchers, including Mattlin et al. (1990). Yet, as one might suspect, the
criticism of situation-based approaches has largely been that they neglect personality
Interactionist Approaches to Stress and Coping
The previous two approaches reduced the stress and coping relationship to one
of stimulus and response. The person type was said to have influenced the coping
type. The environment was said to have influenced the coping type. In a one-way
fashion, the environment might also be said to have influenced the person type, and in
turn, the coping type. Therefore, a resolution of the conflict between personality and
situational approaches ostensibly lies in models that incorporate interaction.
Proponents of such models argue that both environmental and dispositional
characteristics directly affect coping. This is an improvement over the previous two
approaches. Aldwin (1994) explains that this model does accommodate both the
personality approach advocated by Bolger’s emotionality concept (1990) and the
environmental approach of Mattlin, Wethington, and Kessler’s stressor-type
formulation (1990). Yet an even more encompassing view is taken with
Transactionist Approaches to Stress and Coping
The model that best represents the transactionist approaches is that of Richard
S. Lazarus, the dominant researcher and theorist in the field, who has provided training
for numerous other researchers, including Aldwin. Lazarus’ refers to his model as the
cognitive-motivational-relational theory of coping (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984;
Lazarus, 1991). The emphasis is on the interdependence of process variables. The
meaning of distinct emotion variables is presumed to change as person-environment
relationships develop. In other words, the emotional values of such changing person-
environment relationships is highly sensitive to cognitive interpretation. Lazarus
therefore argued that a new level of theoretical analysis, called relational meaning, is
necessary in understanding emotion and adaptation. As in the interactionist
approaches, coping is influenced by both the person and the environment. Lazarus
argues that, in addition, coping influences the person and the environment in return.
Moreover, person and environment factors also directly affect one another. If the
three elements are represented ideographically as a triangle, each corner can affect the
According to Lazarus’ view, perception of environmental conditions is
inextricably linked with one’s beliefs and goals. Cognitive processes are, therefore,
central to the model. Lazarus identified primary and secondary appraisal as the
defining concepts in this analysis. Primary appraisal involves the determination that an
encounter is relevant to one's well-being. Secondary appraisal involves the
determination of coping options -- that is, “whether any given action might prevent
harm, ameliorate it, or produce additional harm or benefit.” (Lazarus, 1991, p. 133).
So it is through feedback that coping influences appraisal, and hence emotion. It is
useful to conceptualize this as a serial process. However, because coping directly and
indirectly affects subsequent appraisal, it is a reflection of joint involvement of ongoing
parallel interaction between person and environment variables.
According to Lazarus’ formulation, stress depends upon appraisal. That is,
determination that an encounter is relevant to well-being (i.e., that it is stressful or
uplifting) cannot be made apart from the perceiver (i.e., whether something is deemed
stressful always depends on subjective experience). Lazarus points out that
“Ultimately the analogy to load, stress, and strain in engineering, like the activation or
drive model in psychophysiology, failed, because psychological stress and emotion
cannot be adequately defined without reference to an individual's motivation and the
way that individual defines and evaluates relationships with the environment - a
process I have been calling appraisal.” (1991, p. 10).
Coping is defined by Lazarus (1991, p. 112) as consisting of “cognitive and
behavioral efforts to manage specific external or internal demands (and conflicts
between them) that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person.”
Folkman and Lazarus (1988) have identified problem-focused coping and emotion-
focused coping as distinct strategies. The former is action-centered and aimed at
changing the objective reality of the person-environment relationship. Lazarus
provides the example of facing off with an enemy. Display of aggression could have
the effect of changing the actual relationship if the enemy is warded off. In contrast,
emotion-focused coping involves thinking and activity aimed at changing the
subjective reality of the person-environment relationship. In the face of an enemy, one
may avoid focusing on that enemy and therefore change the mere experience of the
actual relationship. Use of the term "focused" indicates that the distinction between
problem and emotion coping is a matter of emphasis. In practice, coping that changes
appraisal likely results in some degree of actual change and vice versa.
Deliberation is an additional concern in clarifying what constitutes coping.
Lazarus (1991) contrasts deliberate coping efforts with automatic action tendencies.
Biological urges to act distinguish one emotion from another. Lazarus’ examples are
attack/anger and escape/fear. Such emotions are experienced in conjunction with
nondeliberate, primitive motivating tendencies. Coping occurs as one's deliberations
expand or constrain action tendencies.
This deliberation is likely to be very context sensitive. As Laux and Weber
(1991) argue, the intentions underlying coping differ for each emotion. In Lazarus
terminology, “each cognitive-motivational-relational configuration might differently
influence the coping process.” (1991, p. 115). How a person copes depends on
possibilities, appraisals, and goals. To understand an individual’s coping effort, the
specific goals he or she brought to the encounter and the specific goals that emerged in
the encounter must be understood. Lazarus provides the example of an individual who
is threatened. According to Lazarus, if self-image is an important issue with that
person, then an anger-appropriate appraisal may be made and anger may be
demonstrated. Conversely, if a person’s primary goals center around relationships,
then anxiety-centered threat encounters are “apt to be dealt with by strategies aimed at
preserving the relationship in the interest of obtaining reassurance and emotional
support.” (1991, p. 15).
Aldwin (1994, p. 6) explains that two assumptions of transactionist models, in
general, are especially relevant to stress and coping research. She argues the first
quite succinctly that “if mind and brain do transact, then, being regulated by the brain,
organ systems are subject to influence by the mind, and, in turn, anything that affects
the mind (e.g. society and culture). Thus, seemingly distinct levels of analysis --
sociocultural, psychological, and biological -- are all linked. Further, how a culture or
society is structured has implications for an individual’s physiological well-being, not
only through the direct allocation of resources (Pearlin, 1989), but also through
influencing characteristic psychological states and stress levels (Colby, 1987).” The
second assumption is that transactionist models necessarily imply the importance of
developmental processes. The nature of transaction is change. Accordingly, coping
should be considered both cause and effect, over a multitude of levels of analysis,
across the entire range of development.
Lazarus’ cognitive-motivational-relational theory will likely be the dominant
model for some time. It appears to encompass all the significant relationships between
factors that have been demonstrated to be important. However, research has not yet
addressed the full range of the model’s implications.
General Methodological Issues in Stress Research
Aldwin (1994) cites three basic issues concerning stress research designs. The
first relates to the temporal relationship between stressors and their associated health
outcomes. There may be cases where stress and illness do not coincide in time, yet are
causally related, and vice versa. This is because relatively insignificant illnesses may
come and go in a short time-frame while chronic illnesses may take longer periods to
develop and recede, if there is recession at all. Thus, special consideration of the
nature of particular illnesses is required.
Cultural and developmental appropriateness of stress items is the second issue.
What is potentially stressful for individuals of one age or cultural group may not be for
another. Attention must be paid to research participant demographics from the earliest
stages of instrument design.
Thirdly, whether stress effects are generally cumulative, multiplicative, or
asymptotic remains controversial. It may be a highly situationally-dependent matter.
Length of time a stressor exerts its effects is an issue as well. It is generally thought
that daily life event stress lasts 24 to 48 hours (DeLongis, Folkman, and Lazarus,
1988), major life event stress lasts about six months to a year (Depue and Monroe,
1986), whereas traumatic stress can extend decades after the original event that
precipitated it (Page, Engdahl, and Eberly, 1991).
General Methodological Issues in Coping Research
Measurement of coping is even more challenging than measurement of stress.
Lazarus’ cognitive-motivational-relational theory reasons that the stress-coping
process is multi-faceted. The myriad techniques of measurement reflect this reality.
Researchers typically choose to focus on a particular aspect of the stress-coping
process. One researcher’s emphasis is not necessarily more or less important than
another’s. Rather, they are pieces of the same whole.
With that in mind, there are several fundamental controversies relating to
coping theory that merit further elaboration here. Firstly, should inventory items be
general or situation-specific? This question returns to the issue of person versus
environment. To be sure, there is a tradeoff. If coping strategies are assessed in
specific form, findings are at risk of not being easily generalizable. Conversely, if
strategies are assessed too generally, they may not capture contextual peculiarities.
Secondly, are simpler conceptualizations of coping better than complex ones?
An example of a simple conceptualization can be found in the approach-avoidance line
of coping research that will be discussed below. Studies like these are theory driven in
nature. They take broad constructs and attempt to replicate relationships between
them. Researchers may be compromising when they opt for such discrete and often
dichotomous variables. Conversely, complex conceptualizations may limit
generalizability. Whether this is an issue depends in large part on the researchers goal.
Lastly, should coping inventories merely question whether or not a strategy
was used, or should they also have scales for extent of use? If participants are only
asked whether or not they used a strategy, nothing will be learned about how the
strategy was actually carried out. The transactionist would argue that the meaning of
a strategy to a particular person is of prime importance. However, there is concern
about how participants interpret questions about effort. The possibilities are in terms
of: frequency, duration, intensity, and usefulness. Unfortunately, wording questions
about extent of use more specifically may risk making them inapplicable to the
particular coping strategy. It seems that there will always be individual differences in
how people interpret questions about extent. Indeed, there can even be different
thresholds for willingness to report mere use of a strategy. Ideally, multiple
assessment items can be used to minimize such biases.
Design and Measurement in Stress Research
Traumatic events, major life events, and daily life events are commonly used to
look at stress. There are also measures that attempt to assess role strain, or systematic
stress from a certain setting. Outside of such inventory methods, are clinical
interviews and laboratory experiments. None of these methods alone are completely
Traumatic event stressors fall into three categories: natural and technological
disasters, war and related problems, and individual trauma. Disasters of the first
category typically happen quickly, with extreme impact, allowing victims very little
personal control. Examples include: floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and nuclear
reactor problems. Because of their magnitude they happen to groups of people, who
usually have little warning. Janis and Mann (1977) showed that even when warning is
provided, people are quite proficient at ignoring it. Of note, people who try to
exercise control in these kinds of traumas (e.g., by rescue or relief attempts) typically
show the fewest psychological symptoms afterwards (Erikson, 1976).
War also affects groups and involves extreme impacts, but this trauma is
usually drawn out after extensive warning. To be sure, there are grave effects for
most involved in this kind of trauma. However, Aldwin et al. (1994) showed that if
veterans could frame their experience of war as having been beneficial, they could
decrease Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms later in life. Indeed, combat can
have positive effects on those who endure. Schnurr et al. (1993) demonstrated
moderate combat exposure to improve long-term psychological functioning. Elder
and Clipp (1989) listed several advantages: mastery, self-esteem, improved coping and
Individual trauma involves major incidents that happen to individuals or small
groups. Major incidents are contrasted with minor ones in terms of quality. For
example, the experiences of rape, molestation, and kidnapping are all qualitatively
different from that of inadvertently locking your keys in your car. The most common
type of individual trauma is an automobile accident (Norris, 1992). Such traumas can
have life-long effects (see Aldwin, 1994, for a review of this literature).
Contrasted with individual traumatic event stressors are major life event
stressors. These include bereavement, divorce, and job loss. Holmes and Rahe (1967)
constructed the Schedule of Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) to assess the amount
of adaptational demand that an individual faces. Stressful life events were assigned
values, with death of a spouse ranking the highest. The SRRS spawned other
inventories including the Psychiatric Epidemiological Research Interview
(Dohrenwend et al., 1978) and the Life Experiences Survey (Sarason et al., 1978).
The main validity issue with these kinds of scales is whether or not consensus or
individual perception should be used to determine stressfulness. There are also
reliability concerns as to whether participants’ memories can be trusted.
Daily life event stressors, or hassles as they are known, have been shown to
have a greater effect on health than relatively rare life event stressors (Lazarus and
Folkman, 1984; Rowlison and Felner, 1989; Weinberger, Hiner, and Tiernery, 1987).
These include: “problems getting along with fellow workers,” “planning or preparing
meals,” “not getting enough sleep.,” “too many interruptions,” and the like (DeLongis
et al., 1988). The problem is that the greater correlation may be due in part to a
statistical artifact (1994, p. 65). Everyone experiences daily hassles. There are many
life events that affect only a minority of us. Consequently, daily hassle scales typically
have greater variance, and thus better lend themselves to statistical analysis.
Promisingly though, measures of chronic daily hassles may match well with those of
role strain (Lazarus, 1990).
Role strain studies have grown out of attempts to study stress as a contextual,
sociological phenomenon. Sociologists study how societal structures affect
macrolevel stress indicators. For example, they might consider the effect of the
unemployment rate on suicide rates. Work stress has been the main focus of role
strain investigators. Such stress may involve: heavy workload, poor workplace
conditions, and interpersonal problems with other workers.
Early role strain studies looked at the stress, “out there,” in the environment of
particular occupations. This stress was presumed to be injurious to most people. An
example of this is Rose’s (1978) study on air traffic controllers. Higher rates of stress-
related disorders (e.g., high-blood pressure and stomach ulcers) were correlated with
demands on attention, judgment, and decision-making.
More recent studies have admitted the interaction between person and
environment. For example, Carrere et al. (1991) studied the stress of San Fransisco
bus drivers as a function of their personality type. Type A personalities were shown to
perceive their environment as more stressful and to have higher levels of urinary
catecholamines. Karasek and Theorell (1990) added the factors of responsibility and
control. Their longitudinal research suggests that workers with high-responsibility and
low-control are more likely to develop, and die from, coronary heart disease.
Pearlin and Schooler (1978) claim that chronic role strain is the best indicator
of an individual's stress. They defined four basic roles: marital, parental, occupational,
and household economics. Their measurement of stress and coping was specific to
those domains. In their view, negative effects of life event stressors happen because
they cause disruptions in the four basic roles. The suggestion of role strain approaches
in general is that there are systematic, social causes of stress.
The clinical interview is another example of how stress has been measured.
The aim is to bypass the accuracy concerns of self-report questionnaires. A popular
semistructured interview called the Life Events and Difficulties Schedules (LEDS) was
developed by Brown (1989). Aldwin et al. (1993) reported that by using interviews,
they were able to substantially decrease the number of participants who reported “no
problems” on self-report measures. However, as with all measures, there are trade-
offs. Interviews are obviously more time-consuming and labor intensive.
Laboratory experiments have been conducted on animals and humans, to afford
greater control over stress and coping variables. A classic example of a study using
humans is that of Lazarus et al. (1962). Participants viewed stressful films and were
asked to either empathize with or detach from the subject of the film, depending on the
condition. Physiological reactions were shown to be affected by the types of cognitive
processes participants used. Experimentation is limited by ethical considerations.
However it will likely continue to be useful in examining the neurophysiology of stress.
Design and Measurement in Coping Research
Coping researchers typically ask participants what they did and how they
thought and felt in stressful situations. The main techniques have been reflective of the
theoretical positions mentioned earlier. The basic controversy is over whether coping
is more a function of stable, person-based characteristics or of fluctuating, situation-
Early person-based approaches typically used standard personality trait tests to
infer coping style (Haan, 1977). More recent ones have inquired as to what
participants usually do in responding to general problems (Carver et al., 1989; Endler
and Parker, 1990). The underlying assumption is that individuals cope the same way,
regardless of stressor type. One problem with person-based approaches is that
participants may overestimate the cross-situational consistency of their coping
responses (Fondacaro and Moos, 1987; McCrae, 1989; Folkman and Lazarus, 1980).
The Pearlin and Schooler (1978) study mentioned in the preceding section,
provides an example of a situation-based approach to coping. Strategies were
assessed within individuals’ role domains (i.e., marital, parental, occupational &
household economics). The researchers attempted to determine how individuals
coped in these domains, hypothesizing that individuals cope in the same manner within
a domain, but not across domains.
This hypothesis is not necessarily more reasonable than that of the person-
based approach. Firstly, there may be cases where person characteristics outweigh
situation characteristics. For example, there is some evidence that neurotics may use
more emotion-focused coping than problem-focused, regardless of situation (Bolger,
1990). Secondly, there may be cases of coping inconsistency within situations or
roles, as a function of variation from episode to episode. For example, Folkman and
Lazarus (1985) found that how students cope with test taking can change greatly over
Ogrocki et al. (1990) studied the relationship between person and situation-
based coping measures. Across situations, the situation-based measures were more
strongly correlated with each other than were the person-based measures, suggesting
that they may be more accurate assessments of coping behaviors. Using situation-
based approaches, participants have clearly been shown to use different coping
strategies with different problems (Billings and Moos, 1984; Folkman and Lazarus,
1980; McCrae, 1984; Mattlin et al., 1990).
In contrast to purely person-based or situation-based approaches, transactionist
approaches do not assume any consistency in use of coping strategies within or across
situations. Instead, transactionist approaches ask participants about specific episodes.
For example, Moos et al. (1990) asked participants to recall what they did in a
particular life event of the past year. Other researchers have asked participants to
write in diaries every day (Stone et al., 1993). The important point of a transactionist
approach is that it asks participants to recall specific, recent events and to recount their
emotions, cognitions, and behaviors with each of those events alone. As such, this
approach does not rely on participants’ often dubious generalized descriptions of their
behavior. The most commonly used measure of this type is the Ways of Coping Scale
(WOCS) (Folkman and Lazarus, 1980; Folkman et al., 1986). It will be discussed in
the next section.
Transactionist approaches attempt to control both the situation characteristics
and the specific stressful stimulus, in order to best consider person-environment-
coping dynamics. Holding such items constant, researchers have demonstrated that
coping is definitely not a fixed phenomenon. It is influenced by personality (Bolger,
1990; Friedman et al., 1992; Long and Sangster, 1993) and context (Folkman and
Lazarus, 1986; Heim et al., 1993; Mattlin et al., 1990), as well as by physical aspects
of setting (Mechanic, 1978).
The main problem with transactionist approaches is that variability of stressors
is almost unlimited. This being the case, the ultimate choice between the various
approaches would seem to depend on the particular research question. For prediction
of participant performance in a given role domain, without respect to variation within
that domain, situation-based measures may suffice. In contrast, for long-term, general
prediction, a researcher should probably use person-based measures (Aldwin, 1994).
Finally, for prediction of participant performance in particular instances, it is probably
best to use transactionist measures.
Adult Stress and Coping Research
Research on stress and coping in general has burgeoned in the past two
decades. Vingerhoets and Marcellissen’s (1988) review tallied almost 10,000 articles
on stress and coping between 1976 and 1985 alone. Coping has been demonstrated to
be of central importance in the relationship between stress and psychological and
physical adaptation (Aldwin and Revenson, 1987, Billings and Moos, 1981, Collins,
Baum, and Singer 1983, Folkman, Lazarus, Gruen, and Delongis, 1986, Pearlin and
Schooler, 1978). It has also been shown to be extremely diverse in the forms it can
take (Coelho, Hamburg, and Adams, 1974). This is due to the many factors that can
influence the overall process. These include situation, personality, and culture (Aldwin
and Revenson, 1987).
Studies on adult stress and coping have been conducted using inventories,
interviews, observation, and even experimentally induced variables. There is a large
body of literature related to the various types of stressors and their effects on physical
and mental health. A full review of this literature is beyond the scope of the present
paper. However, basic findings and concerns will be discussed. For substantial
reviews of the bulk of the literature, see Lazarus (1991) and Aldwin (1994).
Three general observations about research on adult stress, are reported by
Aldwin (1994). The first is that negative health outcomes are more likely to occur in
response to negative stressful events, as opposed to positive ones (Rabkin and
Streuning, 1976). Although there may be stress associated with a positive experience
such as a job promotion or a new marriage, the inauspicious health effects have
generally been shown to be insignificant. However, because even positive events can
tax resources, the totality of an event must be considered (Thoits, 1983).
Secondly, degree of perceived control has been demonstrated to be an
important factor. If an event is seen as being within the sphere of influence of an
individual, he or she is less likely to experience that event as stressful (Reich and
Zautra, 1981). Aldwin (1994, p. 45) argues that this may help to explain why natural
disasters are so stressful. A simple example of contrasting perceptions of control can
be seen in the case of a “back seat” driver. Presumably, command of a vehicle allows
greater empowerment and thus less stress.
Lastly, the findings about the relationship between stress and health outcomes
have not been very large in effect size. Usually correlations are between .20 and .30
(Aldwin, 1994, p. 45). Aldwin explains that although this is a pleasant indication of
our species resilience, it makes it difficult to infer causation. Because the health of
most people experiencing stress does not cross the threshold into illness, it is easiest to
access the relationship between stress and exacerbation of illnesses that are already
present (Revenson and Felton, 1989).
How people cope is clearly related to their mental health. Aldwin states that it
can account for as much as 50% of the variance in psychological symptom outcomes
(Aldwin, 1994; Aldwin, 1991; Folkman et al., 1993). Although there appear to be no
panacean coping strategies, several trends in the adult coping and health literature that
suggest there are reliable effects of particular coping strategies on health in particular
conditions (Aldwin, 1994). However, there is a seeming inconsistency running
through a large portion of this literature. Emotion-focused coping is theorized to
regulate negative emotional effects of stress so that problem-focused coping can occur
(Folkman and Lazarus, 1980). In spite of this, most studies show emotion-focused
coping to be correlated with increased stress.
In her espousal of a transactional approach, Aldwin (1994) outlined six
possible reasons for the above paradox, the first of which is that coping strategies have
situation-specific effects. As previously stated, use of coping strategies varies based
on context. The reason is that a particular strategy may be useful in some cases, but
not others. Individuals will benefit if they are proficient in moderating both the type of
coping and the amount of effort they use in that coping depending on the type of
stressor (Mattlin, et al., 1990, Mullen and Suls, 1982; Miller and Mangan, 1983). For
example, in an uncontrollable situation, it may be unwise to expend effort on problem-
focused coping strategies.
The second reason emotion-focused coping may be related to increased stress
is that the overall pattern of coping may be more important than any one type of
coping. That is, the ratio of different strategies may be more important than absolute
amounts of any one strategy in particular (Vitaliano et al., 1987). It may also be the
case that a particular strategy is both necessary and sufficient, or not, in a given
Effort is another consideration in the problem-focused/emotion-focused coping
paradox. If an event is highly stressful, it may require a large amount of coping effort.
Consequently, all the coping strategies will be associated with increased stress.
Separating effort and efficacy may help clarify the issues. However, it would not in all
cases. For example, drug use may require little effort, in spite of its high correlation
with increased stress (Aldwin, 1994, p. 156).
The problem of causal directionality is the fourth reason for the confusion
about emotion-focused coping and health outcomes. As noted in the theoretical
discussion of the present paper, coping may be a function of health, as much as health
may be a function of coping. Coyne et al. (1981) found that chronic depressives in
their study used more emotion-focused coping, and more coping in general, compared
with well individuals.
The fifth reason for the paradox is that there may be individual differences in
effectiveness of the same strategies. Aldwin explains that this is perhaps the most
troubling methodological issue if research generalizability is to be established (1994, p.
158). She argues that future work should include qualitative measures, as well as
measures of coping effectiveness.
Lastly, there is concern over whether wider dependent variables should be
considered, beyond depressive symptoms that are perhaps too often the sole outcomes
measured. It may be important to consider what goals individuals have in mind when
they use particular coping strategies. For example, mastery is a potential positive
outcome that could be measured.
Child Stress and Coping Research: General
Developmental studies of stress and coping are only just beginning. However,
it is well known that very early on, children try to change their internal and external
environments. Indeed, even a fetus can kick, arm wave, and thumb suck, albeit likely
in automatic response to changes in utero. Over time children's coping repertoires
increase and shift from behavioral to cognitive-emotional in nature. Children also
come to use more peer support as they develop. The review here will include general
findings with a focus on findings in the middle childhood literature. Numerous studies
have looked at other periods of development, as well as coping socialization. These
are beyond the scope of this paper; for a more extensive review see La Greca et al.
(1992) and Aldwin (1994).
One of the first attempts to investigate children's stress produced a widely used
stress measuring instrument for children by modifying adult scales (Coddington,
1972). However, it neglected to sufficiently consider the child's unique perspective.
Since then, many studies have correlated children's stress events with illness or
maladaptation (e.g., Hudgens, 1974; Boyce et al., 1977). Masten (1985) noted,
however, that the correlations in most life-events studies among children are quite low.
Sorenson (1993) adds that it is often unclear to what extent such life events are the
antecedents or the consequences of illness or maladjustment.
Daily hassles have been shown to be more strongly associated than life events
with children's mental and physical health (Sorenson, 1993, p. 52). For example,
Kanner, Coyne, Schaefer, and Lazarus (1981) have demonstrated that hassles were
generally associated with poor outcomes such as depression, low social competence,
and low self-worth. Sorenson cautions, however, that rather than favoring hassles
measures over life events stress measures, integration of the two ought to be the goal
(1993, p. 54). Her reasoning is that the two measures are necessarily correlated at
Another way that researchers have measured children's stress appraisal has
been to ask the children to rank order perceived stress of major and minor events (e.g.,
Yamamoto, 1979; Brown and Cowen, 1988; Ryan, 1988). The rankings stray
somewhat from the adult preconceptions (Sorenson, 1993, p. 54). At the least, this
line of research has demonstrated the importance of ascertaining the child's perspective
from the child. The usefulness of this approach will depend in part on whether
children can mentally compare the degrees of multiple stressors, particularly when the
stressors are hypothetical.
Child Stress and Coping Research: Middle Childhood
Band and Weisz (1988) pioneered the application of the Folkman and Lazarus
(1988) problem and emotion-focused categories to well children of middle childhood.
Their research demonstrated that in the face of a variety of everyday stressors, the
children in their sample would seldom relinquish control, preferring instead to employ
some type of coping. However, as age increased, self-reports of primary control
(a.k.a. problem-focused) coping declined, whereas self-reports of secondary control
(a.k.a. emotion-focused) coping increased. The main interpretation of this data was
that secondary coping may develop more slowly than primary coping, “in part because
it is hidden from view and thus more difficult to learn from observation.” (Band and
Altshuler and Ruble (1989) further examined children's coping strategies for
uncontrollable stressful situations. Their study helped to illuminate the contextual
dependence of children's coping. Among several unique findings was an age-related
increase in the proportion of “cognitive distraction” strategies. The occurrence of
“behavioral distraction” strategies, however, did not differ significantly across age.
The researchers' primary explanation for this finding was consistent with previous
literature. That is, younger children may not be able to generate as many secondary
appraisal options as older children. This may be due to the fact that they are not as
autonomous as older children. Additionally, they may simply not be aware that they
can manipulate their internal states. Further research has supported this conclusion
(Compas et al., 1992).
It has also been demonstrated that children of middle childhood begin to use
different coping strategies in different contexts. With school problems, they use
cognitive restructuring and self-criticism. When dealing with friends and siblings, they
tend to blame others (Spirito, et al., 1991).
In terms of age differences, older children seek more social support outside
their immediate family than do younger children (Bryant, 1985). Interestingly, there
are also sex differences in social support seeking as children grow older. Girls begin
to seek social support more, and this continues into adulthood (Wertlieb, et al., 1987;
Frydenberg and Lewis, 1990).
Kliewer (1991) considered the influence of broader individual differences on
children's coping processes. Among several variables, social competence was
identified as an important correlate of the use of avoidant actions and cognitions.
Whether the children's coping was emotion-focused or problem-focused, socially
competent children tended not to approach the stressful issue. Kliewer explained this
counterintuitive relationship by pointing out that children most often face
uncontrollable stress, in which case avoidance is, perhaps, most adaptive. Kliewer’s
research also examined Miller's (1987) monitoring/blunting distinction, in which
subjects are classified by the degree to which they attend to stressors. Unlike adults,
children in Kliewer’s study classified as high in monitoring sought more support and
comfort from other people (emotion-focused) than did those classified as low in
monitoring. This could have been interpreted as being inconsistent with Altshuler and
Ruble’s (1989) overlapped mapping of problem-focused, approach, and monitoring
strategies. However, Kliewer suggested that seeking comfort from others could
merely be a manifestation of the high self monitor's general tendency to seek out more
information about the stress, as opposed to a disregard for problem-focused coping.
Ethnic Differences in Children’s Stress and Coping
Jose, Cafasso, and D’Anna (1994) investigated ethnic group differences in
coping in Caucasian-American, African-American, and Hispanic-American children.
Coping tendencies were assessed using a five-factor structure that included: social
support (both problem & emotion-focused), problem-solving (problem-focused),
rejuvenation (emotion-focused), aggression (emotion-focused), and drug use
(emotion-focused). Stress was considered with respect to various structural levels
using Bronfenbrenner’s (1979, 1986) ecological model. In this model, the child is
affected by the microsystem (e.g., family, peers, school), the mesosystem (e.g., the
PTA), the exosystem (e.g., television programming, government), and the
macrosystem (e.g., cultural values). In their study, Jose et al. examined relationships
between self-reported well-being and the children’s experiences of stress and their
employment of various coping strategies.
The Jose et al. (1994) findings are somewhat complex. Regarding their stress
experiences, Hispanic-American and African-American children were confronted with
ethnic prejudice and immigration/second language use problems more than their
Caucasian-American counterparts. The stress of both these groups, however, was
found to be significantly moderated by family structure (i.e., single, two, or step-parent
family). Interestingly, this was not the case for Caucasian-American children. The
reason for this is not clear, but Jose et al. speculate that the moderating effect of family
structure may have been lost for Caucasian-American children when socioeconomic
status was covaried out of the regression equation.
Regarding coping, the three ethnic groups utilized roughly the same number
and amounts of coping strategies. Children from all three ethnic groups were found to
generally rely more on emotion-focused coping than problem-focused for stressors at
the structural level outside of their control (i.e., the exosystem). In terms of problem-
focused and emotion-focused coping, Jose et al. (1994) demonstrated that in arenas
where children had little control (i.e., exosystem matters), they utilized emotion-
focused coping more than problem-focused. This does not necessarily mean, however,
that emotion-focused coping was preferentially employed over problem-focused
coping. Rather, children may have been forced to use emotion-focused coping in
cases where that was the only option (e.g., at the doctor’s office, were the child’s
control may be limited). In any case, it is possible that stress domain (e.g., peer
relations, education, family, etc.) may be more influential in governing stress and
coping than Bronfenbrenner’s (1979, 1986) ecological levels.
With regard to psychological well-being, direct effects were found with some
particular stressors, as well as with both the adaptive and the maladaptive strategies of
all three ethnic groups in the Jose et al. (1994) study. For African-American and
Hispanic-American children, stress deriving from immigration/second language use,
grief and ethnic prejudice was found to detract from their well-being. In terms of
coping, the well-being of all three groups was predicted by rejuvenation and
aggression. The well-being of Caucasian-American children was predicted by social
support. The well-being of African-American children was predicted by social support
and family work problems. The well-being of Hispanic-American children was
predicted by family work problems, drug use, and ethnic prejudice.
With regard to gender analyses of the Jose et al. (1994) data, females were
found to use more social support coping than males (reported in Jose et al., 1997).
Conversely, males were found to use more externalizing kinds of coping strategies,
including aggression and drug use in particular. Analyses of the remaining factors,
problem-solving and rejuvenation, yielded no significant gender differences.
Moreover, differences found with the stress measures were marginal.
Age analyses of Jose et al. (1994) revealed few significant differences among
the early adolescents sampled. A weak increase in social support coping was observed
and drug use was seen to significantly increase across grade level. However, the
remaining findings curiously demonstrated minimal differences. Considering that age
differences have been documented in prior literature, it is conceivable that the Jose et
al. (1994) measures were simply not sensitive enough to capture such differences.
Jose et al. (1994) recommend that future work examine a wider range of
coping strategies and resources. They also urge that researchers must uncover the
particular processes of how children come to engage in such maladaptive strategies as
aggression and drug use. Lastly, they discuss longitudinal data collection as a means
of determining robustness of the findings.
Jose et al. (1994) laid a foundation for the investigation of children’s coping in
samples beyond those restricted to Caucasian-American participants. Taken as a
whole, the Jose et al. (1994) findings indicate that distinct ethnic groups conduct the
coping process differently. The ethnic groups in the Jose et al. (1994) study have
many cultural characteristics in common, by virtue of their membership in American
culture and wider Western culture. It would seem then that further examination of
stress and coping dynamics embedded in a wider vista might afford greater
understanding of how such processes may be influenced by more higher level elements,
such as cultural values. At present this kind of investigation lacking.
Parental Warmth and Control
Regardless of culture, parental socialization has long been considered a crucial
element in children’s stress and the development of their coping skills. Erik Erikson
(1963) outlined two aspects of parenting that are particularly important during the
elementary school years. They are parental warmth and parental control. Warmth
refers to the level of affection that parents express, and how responsive they are to the
child’s needs for self-esteem. Control is a dimension of regulatory supervision. High
controlling parents expend considerable effort monitoring their children’s behavior and
ensuring that there is adherence to rules deemed important (for a review of this
literature, see Maccoby and Martin, 1983).
The consensus is that parenting which provides warmth, considerable freedom,
yet rational restrictions is most highly correlated with high cognitive and social
competencies (Grolnick and Ryan, 1989). However, the quantification of what
constitutes high and low levels of warmth and control is hardly standardized. It is
reasonable to suspect that children may exhibit considerable differences in their
perception of their parents along these dimensions. Given variation of emotional
expression, such differences may be particularly pronounced across cultures.
Jose and Hunsinger (1997) measured perception of parental control and
warmth among Chinese-American and European-American adolescents. They found
that the two groups evaluated their parents similarly in terms of warmth. However,
Chinese-American parents were significantly perceived as being more controlling than
their European-American counterparts. The details of this unique study are not yet
available, as the manuscript is currently under review.
Summary and Critique of American Studies of Children’s Stress and Coping
It is clear that as children develop, their coping repertoires increase and
diversify, with a particular shift toward more emotion-focused strategies. Children
also come to use more social support over time. Girls have reliably been found to use
more social support than boys, but generally no other gender differences have been
found. In terms of stress, everyday life events have been more strongly associated
with health outcomes than major life events. Yet the two types of events are clearly
related to each other. Another key finding has been that children’s coping strategies
may differ across situational contexts. In the domain of education, they may reframe
their stress or become self-critical. In peer relations, they may resort to blame of
In spite of the numerous replicable findings that have produced a basic
understanding of the development of coping, there are many questions left
unanswered. The importance of situational context has been neglected in most
research. In addition, virtually no studies have examined stress and coping as a
function of perceived parenting style. Yet there is reason to suspect that perceived
parenting style may vary widely across cultures. If this is the case, the relationship
between stress and coping may vary as well, by virtue of appraisal differences.
Cross-cultural Stress and Coping Research: Issues
Cultural Influences. Considering that the world’s populations have evolved in
varying ecological contexts, it is safe to assume a number of unique patterns of
socialization and enculturation exist. There is clear evidence that stress and coping
processes vary by situational context. Considering that in many cases cultural
differences are more influential than situational ones, such differences are also likely to
affect stress and coping processes.
There are four ways culture can impact the stress and coping process. It can
shape the types of stressors, the appraisal of stressors, the choice of coping strategies,
and the institutional mechanisms by which an individual can cope with stress. As
Lazarus’ transactional model suggests, human beings are in a dialectical relationship
with their cultures. Therefore, the outcomes of coping are not only psychological and
physical, but often social and cultural (Aldwin and Stokols, 1988; Gross, 1970). A
variety of cross-cultural studies of stress and coping exist in the literature. Selected
studies will be discussed here. For a more complete review, see Aldwin (1994).
For a concrete illustration of how particular cultures can dictate unique types
of stress, consider Turner’s (1969) work on puberty rituals. There is widespread
variation in rituals that mark individuals’ passage from childhood to adulthood.
Navajo youths can be required to spend several days in isolation in the wilderness,
Jews often participate in public bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs, and Japanese officially
become adults through the national ceremony of “coming of age” day.
Cultural variations in appraisal of stress have frequently been cited in the
anthropological literature. In accordance with the proverb that “a fish does not know
it is wet,” such differences are often hard to imagine. Heider (1958) first drew the
now-classic distinction between individualistic and collectivistic cultures, describing
how cultures differentially value autonomy and dependency. An example of how this
can affect appraisal was presented by Radford et al. (1993) who showed that Japanese
participants were higher than their Australian counterparts on decisional stress when
decisions had to be made without the benefit of a social group.
In terms of coping responses to stress, emotional expression is a major point of
cultural variation. Zborowski (1952) demonstrated that among a sample of
hospitalized Italians, Jews, and Irish-Americans, Italians and Jews displayed the most
expressive behavior in response to pain. A study on problem-focused coping by Offer
et al. (1981) provided further evidence of cross-cultural variation in response to stress.
With the use of a self-image questionnaire designed for teenagers, Offer et al.
demonstrated that Israeli participants were more active and mastery oriented than
American, Irish, and Australian participants.
For examples of how cross-culturally varying institutions can function as
coping mechanisms, consider the widely varying legal systems of the world. Nader
(1985) reported that in Mexico and Saudi Arabia, plaintiffs may have considerable
influence over punishment outcomes. In the United States, however, court decisions
are generally made by lawyers and judges.
Bias in Cross-cultural research. In cross-cultural research there is always
concern about cultural bias in measurement and interpretation. The general question is
“whether behavior has to be understood in the context of the culture in which it occurs
or whether cultural differences can be conceived of as variations on a common theme.”
(Berry et al., 1992, p. 219). Furthermore, there is dispute over whether equivalent
scores from participants from two different cultures have the same meaning.
Undoubtedly, if hypotheses and findings from research conducted in the U.S. are to be
transported and tested in other cultural settings, care must be taken. Berry et al.
(1992) argue that in theory such care is not unlike that required in general psychology;
that is, when different cultures are compared, there is simply a need for control of
Japan as a Setting for Cross-cultural Research
The Japanese population is one of the most racially and culturally homogenous
in the world. Japanese culture has had a 2000 year history in which a multitude of
unique facets have evolved. In many ways, mainstream Japanese and American
cultures are radically different from one another.
Japanese culture has been described as collectivistic, relative to the
individualistic mainstream culture of the United States (Heider, 1958). Hofstede (e.g.,
1980) and Triandis (e.g., 1988) have argued that individualistic cultures emphasize
competitiveness, self-confidence, and freedom, while collectivistic cultures emphasize
communal feelings, social usefulness, and acceptance of authority. These concepts are
nicely illustrated by these contrasting metaphors: “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”
(America) and “the nail that stands up gets hammered down” (Japan).
Consistent with an emphasis on community, Japanese people are often
remarkably sensitive to each other’s feelings (Markus and Kitayama,1991). The
Japanese word enryo, has been used to describe a near paralyzing hesitation Japanese
people reportedly feel in certain social settings demanding group harmony. There may
be intense stress associated with the potential of offending others in such cases.
Another aspect of Japanese culture that appears to differ substantially from that
of the United States is captured by the Japanese linguistic distinction of honne and
tatemae. The former represents private affect or cognition and the latter represents
public affect or cognition. The notion is that conventional Japanese are not as driven
by values of self-expression as North Americans (Barnlund, 1975; Markus and
Kitayama, 1991). Consistent with emphasis on collectivism, appropriate tatemae is
favored over honne that may differ with convention.
Lastly, modern Japanese society has been characterized as rigid, fast-paced,
and competitive. The Japanese school system is no exception. From relatively early
on, Japanese parents, particularly mothers, are generally very involved and insistent in
their children's educational development (Shelley, 1993). It is thought that children
must gain a competitive edge as soon as possible in their development.
Cross-cultural Stress and Coping Research Utilizing Japanese Participants
A literature search of stress and coping in Japanese participants reveals a
dearth of articles published in English. Indeed, there are scant articles published in
Japanese. However, Nakano has produced several English-language articles reporting
studies aimed at testing American-based results in Japan. Using a translated measure
(i.e., the Hassles Scale, Kanner et al., 1981) she demonstrated daily life stressors, or
hassles, to be highly correlated with physical/psychological symptoms in a sample of
Japanese adults (1988). The Hassles Scale translation was also shown to demonstrate
adequate test-retest reliability over a 3-month period. A follow-up study examined the
relationships between five intervening coping strategies (active-cognitive, active-
behavioral, avoidance, problem-focused, and emotion-focused) and Type A behavior,
hardiness, social support, and social interest (Nakano, 1989). This study used a
translated coping measure developed in America by Billings and Moos (1981).
Consistent with American data (Billings and Moos, 1981), symptoms were related to
avoidance, emotion-focused coping, and Type A behavior.
In a further exploration of coping strategies and psychological symptoms in
Japanese participants, Nakano measured everyday stress, depression, physical
symptoms, and coping responses among female college undergraduates (Nakano,
1991a). Because Japanese are thought to be especially oriented toward control of the
personal and psychological impact of external realities, Nakano expected cognitive or
emotion-focused coping to moderate stress. In contrast, problem-focused coping was
found to moderate stress and emotion-focused coping actually enhanced the stress-
symptom relationship. Since these results are similar to results of American studies
(Aldwin and Revenson, 1987; Kobasa, 1982; Mitchell et al., 1983), Nakano
considered the possibility that influences of cultural environments on coping may be
minimal. However, she concluded that because the scales were simply adapted from
American research, they may have missed important coping strategies. She argued
that additional research is needed to develop scales with strategies specifically for
Japanese. Of primary importance, the Japanese translation of the coping inventory
developed by Billings and Moos (1981) was again demonstrated to have some
predictive validity for psychological well-being.
In a subsequent study using adults, the hypothesis that some types of emotion-
focused coping serve as stress moderators whereas other factors operate as stress
enhancers was generally supported (Nakano, 1991b). This study also demonstrated
the predictive validity of a translation of the WCCL coping measure (Folkman and
Lazarus, 1980). Results were generally consistent with those obtained by Folkman
and Lazarus (1985). However, in contrast to most studies with American participants
(Aldwin and Revenson, 1987), positive cognitive coping was effective in reducing
stress. Positive cognitive coping was defined by Nakano as a form of emotion-focused
coping that aims to reframe an event so that it can be seen as auspicious. Nakano
suggested that the inconsistency she found may have been due to an orientation
toward secondary control (emotion-focused coping) in Japanese culture.
Nakano also examined coping as it relates to individual differences in adults.
Using a translation of Folkman and Lazarus’ Ways of Coping Questionnaire,
extroverts were found to use both social support and avoidance more than introverts
(Nakano, 1992). Extroversion and independence were also found to be negatively
related to depression and hassles (Nakano, 1993).
To summarize Nakano’s work on stress and coping in Japanese, it seems that
the first steps have been taken to transport and test existing American instruments.
With one exception (Nakano, 1991b, described above), Nakano’s results have
generally been consistent with those reliably found in the literature on American
participants. However, there has been little attempt to critically analyze the results and
interpret them within a cross-cultural framework. In particular, it is not clear whether
the predictive validity of the instruments occurs for the same underlying reasons in
both the American and Japanese cultures. Such dynamics are not yet understood in
either American or Japanese samples.
In a related problem area, Radford, Mann, Ohta, and Nakane (1993) compared
decisional self-esteem, decisional stress, and coping styles of Australian and Japanese
college undergraduates. Self-report measurements showed differences consistent with
Hofstede's individualistic/collectivistic societal distinction (1980). Japanese reported
higher levels of stress associated with making a decision by themselves than did their
A cross-cultural study of large scale was undertaken by Mauro et al. (1992) to
assess the role of appraisal in emotion. Over 900 participants from the United States,
Japan, Hong Kong, and the People's Republic of China were asked to re-experience an
emotional episode and then to describe the emotions associated with it, according to
10 dimensions. Many cross-cultural generalities were found. However, the U.S.,
Japanese, and Chinese participants differed on the dimensions of control,
responsibility, and anticipated effort. These differences were essentially related to
whether particular episodes were appraised as being in the participant’s control,
someone else’s control, or no one's control. The means of the U.S. sample in the
scope of the control-related dimensions differed significantly from one or more of
those of the Chinese samples. The Japanese means were found to lie in between those
of the U.S. and Chinese. Mauro et al. speculated that appraisals of being in control
were related to the individualistic qualities of the U.S. culture.
Related to appraisal is causal attribution. Kawanishi (1995) investigated the
effects of culture on beliefs about the cause of stress and successful coping. Over 400
Anglo-American and Japanese participants answered a questionnaire on internal-
external control. Items included statements about both stress and coping, and
participants were asked to indicate how often they agreed with the statements. The
Japanese participants were more likely than the Anglo-Americans to attribute
successful coping to good luck and to see stress as caused by bad luck. These results
are discussed in the context of an American sense of free will, perhaps having
developed from the period of Westward expansion. The Japanese Buddhist belief in
karmic fatalism is also considered as an antecedent for potential underlying tendencies
of Japanese people to view events as somehow being predetermined or inevitable.
Although Kawanishi ventures considerable speculation, her data appear to corroborate
those of Mauro et al. (1992).
Yamamoto and Davis (1982) studied the stressful experiences of over 600
Japanese and American children from grade four through six. A 20 event rating scale
was used that included daily and major life events. Events were rated in terms of how
unpleasant they might be on a scale of 1 (“least upsetting”) to 7 (“most upsetting”).
Children also indicated whether they had actually experienced the events.
Frequencies of various events in the Yamamoto and Davis study differed
sharply between the Japanese and American children. However, agreement on the
potential stressfulness of events was quite high, especially for events that were
perceived as being more stressful. No attempt was made to group the events into
context-based categories, but it was noted that the Japanese and American children
tended to differ most on school related items. For these items, the Japanese children
reported considerably higher stressfulness. Overall cultural differences were not
significant for the total number or the cumulative stress values of events experienced.
In both the Japanese and American samples, children in higher grades significantly
reported more stress. Significant sex differences were only detected for the Japanese
children. Boys reported more stress than girls. Yamamoto and Davis concluded that
the similarity between the two cultures' perceptions were remarkable. They speculated
that school children in metropolitan areas in industrialized nations may have much in
common, in spite of unique cultural backgrounds. Sex differences in the Japanese
participants were theorized to be the result of long-standing cultural enthusiasm for
boys’ education in particular. Yamamoto and Davis also argued that differing
expectations about the sexes may carry into youth and contribute to the
disproportionately high percentage of males in institutions of higher education.
Crystal et al. (1994) considered parental expectations and satisfactions,
psychological maladjustment, and academic achievement in a large scale study of over
4000 Japanese, Chinese, and American eleventh-grade students. Inventories were
used as well as a mathematics test of achievement. Asian students reported higher
levels of parental expectation and lower levels of parental satisfaction concerning
academic achievement. In spite of this, both the Japanese and the Chinese students
reported less stress than the American students. Crystal et al. (1994) argued that
American youths have greater expectations of leisure time allowance. The higher
levels of stress reported by American students were therefore explained as resulting
from taxed resources. Crystal et al. (1994) also found that Chinese students reported
the highest frequencies of depression and somatic complaints, yet Japanese students
reported the lowest. These results would seem to conflict with previous studies (e.g.,
Yamamoto and Davis, 1982) in which high achievement in Japan was found to come
at greater expense, in terms of stress, relative to the case of America.
Rationale, Overview, Hypotheses, and Research Questions
Theories about the stress and coping relationship in general, have attributed
varying contributions on the part of person and environment factors. A transactionist
approach has been purported to be most accurate in accounting for the complex
dynamics involved. A discussion of methodological issues in this general line of
research has revealed a number of important considerations.
A review of related literature has shown a need for cross-cultural,
developmental research utilizing Japanese participants. Measurement of daily and
major life event stress, coping strategies, and perception of parenting style was put
forward as a means of meeting the specific exploratory research needs. In the present
study, several existing instruments (Jose, 1994, 1997) were modified, translated into
Japanese, and used to test Japanese children of 3rd through 6th grade.
Data were collected on Japanese children’s stress, coping, and perception of
parental warmth and control. The study utilized a 2 (sex) X 2 (age) X 2 (warmth: low
versus high) X 2 (control: low versus high) design. In two MANOVAs of stress, sex
and age constituted between subjects, independent variables and stress contexts
(family/home, health/fitness, education, and peer relations) constituted four dependent
variables. In one MANOVA of coping, sex and age constituted between subjects,
independent variables and coping strategies (approach/problem-focused,
approach/emotion-focused, avoidance/problem-focused, and avoidance/emotion-
focused) constituted four dependent variables.
In two additional MANOVAs of stress, perception of parental control and
warmth constituted between subjects, independent variables and stress contexts
(family/home, health/fitness, education, and peer relations) constituted four dependent
variables. In one additional MANOVA of coping, parental warmth and control
constituted between subjects, independent variables and coping strategies
(approach/problem-focused, approach/emotion-focused, avoidance/problem-focused,
and avoidance/emotion-focused) constituted four dependent variables. (Note: the
original intent was to analyze warmth and control in the same MANOVAs as sex and
age, however cell sizes were prohibitively small).
The main objective of this research was to ascertain whether Japanese children
would exhibit similar gender differences and developmental changes as American
children have. Modified Jose (1994, 1997) instruments formed the base for cross-
cultural comparisons. This research aimed to expand our knowledge of the types of
stress Japanese children encounter and the coping strategies they utilize at various
ages, in various circumstances. It also probed into the appropriateness of American
codings as they relate to wider populations.
I. Boys will report greater stress than girls for an education context. (Based on
Yamamoto and Davis, 1979).
II. Older children will report greater stress for an education context than younger
children. (Based on Yamamoto and Davis, 1979).
III. Girls will report greater use of approach/emotion-focused coping than boys for a
tease/avoid scenario. (Based on Wertlieb, et al., 1987; Frydenberg and Lewis,
1990; Jose et al., 1997).
IV. Boys will report greater use of avoidance/problem-focused coping than girls for a
tease/avoid scenario. (Based on Jose, et al., 1997).
V. Older children will report greater use of approach/emotion-focused coping for a
tease/avoid scenario than younger children. (Based on Band and Weisz, 1988;
Altshuler and Ruble, 1989; Compas, et al., 1992).
VI. Older children will report less use of avoidance/problem-focused coping for a
tease/avoid scenario than younger children. (Based on Band and Weisz, 1988).
VII. Younger girls will employ approach/emotion-focused coping more than younger
boys. (Based on Wertlieb, et al., 1987; Frydenberg and Lewis, 1990).
VIII. Children with high perceived parental warmth will report less stress than those
with low perceived parental warmth. (Tentatively hypothesized).
IX. Children with high perceived parental control will report greater stress than those
with low perceived parental control. (Tentatively hypothesized).
X. Children with high perceived parental control and low perceived parental warmth
will report greater stress than children with high perceived parental control and
high perceived parental warmth. (Tentatively hypothesized).
XI. Children with high perceived parental warmth will report greater
approach/emotion-focused coping than those with low perceived parental warmth.
XII. Children with low perceived parental warmth will report greater use of
avoidance/problem-focused coping than those with high perceived parental
warmth. (Tentatively hypothesized).
XIII. Children with high perceived parental control and low perceived parental warmth
will report the least approach/emotion-focused coping of all four parental control
and warmth high/low groups. (Tentatively hypothesized).
XIV. Children with high perceived parental control and high perceived parental
warmth will report the greatest use of approach/emotion-focused coping of all four
parental control and warmth high/low groups. (Tentatively hypothesized).
I. Will boys or girls report greater stress for family/home life, health/fitness, and/or
peer relations context?
II. Will older children or younger children report greater stress for a family/home life,
health/fitness, and/or peer relations context?
III. Will there be any interactions between sex and age regarding education,
family/home life, health/fitness, and peer relations stress?
IV. Will boys or girls report greater use of approach/problem-focused and
avoidance/emotion-focused coping for a tease/avoid scenario?
V. Will older children or younger children report greater use of avoidance/emotion-
focused and approach/problem-focused coping for a tease/avoid scenario?
VI. Will there be any interactions with respect to sex, age, and approach/problem-
focused, avoidance/emotion-focused, or avoidance/problem-focused coping?
VII. How will children with low warmth & low control and high warmth & low
control compare with those of high warmth & high control and low warmth & high
control with respect to stress?
VIII. How will children with low versus high warmth compare in their use of
approach/problem-focused coping and avoidance/emotion-focused coping?
IX. How will children with low versus high control compare in their use of
approach/emotion-focused, approach/problem-focused, avoidance/emotion-
focused, or avoidance/problem-focused coping?
X. How will children with low warmth & low control and children with high warmth
and low control compare with children of high warmth & high control and low
warmth & high control with respect to approach/emotion-focused coping?
XI. How will children of low versus high control and low versus high warmth compare
in their use of approach/problem-focused, avoidance/emotion-focused, or
Participants were all native Japanese children, sampled from three separate
schools. The first sample was taken from a rural juku, or private “cram” school, in
Meiwa-cho of Mie prefecture. The researcher taught English there for a period of one
year. The second two samples were taken from public elementary schools, one in
Nanto-cho, Mie prefecture, the other in Ichikawa-shi, Chiba prefecture. All three
samples can be classified as being primarily middle-class in student composition.
A total of 114 children participated, however 2 of them did not fill out the
entirety of their questionnaire packets and 3 had extreme data. These cases were
eliminated. Therefore, a total of 109 children were used in the analyses. The Meiwa-
cho sample consisted of 27 participants, the Ichikawa-shi sample, 30 participants, and
the Nanto-cho sample, 52 participants. In the aggregate, there were 21 third graders,
30 fourth graders, 32 fifth graders, and 26 sixth graders. The age ranged from 8 to 12,
with a mean of 10.56 (SD=1.08). Third and fourth graders comprised a younger age
group (N=51, M=9.55, SD=.54) and fourth and fifth graders comprised an older age
group (N=58, M=11.45, SD=.50). There were 49 females (24 in the younger age
group and 25 in the older age group) and 60 males (27 in the younger age group and
33 in the older age group).
Each child completed one questionnaire packet consisting of the following
measures (completed in order of presentation):
The Everyday Life Events Scale for Children [(ELESC) see Appendix C] - A
modified version of Jose’s original (1991) scale was presented to the children to assess
the actual occurrence of everyday events that have been annoying or anxiety-evoking.
After the children were asked to state whether particular items actually happened to
them or not (occurrence), they were asked to state the perceived degree of the stress
(intensity). For example, “you were picked last for a team” – “if it was a problem,
how much of stress did it cause? (a little, some, or a lot).” There was also a blank
provided for a write-in event. There were 44 items in total.
Modifications of the original scale were undertaken to present events more
objectively; that is, free of implied stress value. For example, “not liking the way you
looked” (from the original scale) was changed to “you thought about the way you
look.” The reasoning was that the measurement of stress occurrence should be
distinct from stress intensity where possible. Such neutral presentation of items might
also have prevented biased responses where participants might have otherwise been
In order to increase cultural relevance, several additional items were added to
the original measure. They are: “you had after-school lessons or practice (e.g., juku,
piano, English, etc.),” “you had to do something because you're a boy/girl, but you did
not want to do it,” “you disagreed with most of the people in a group but did what
they wanted anyway,” “you did not want to follow your school’s dress code.” All the
additional items were composed based on cultural considerations put forward by two
native born Japanese who translated and consulted for the project.
The Major Life Events Scale for Children [(MLESC) see Appendix D] -- A
modified version of Jose’s original (1991) scale was presented to the children to assess
the actual occurrence of major events that may or may not have changed their lives.
The checklist inquired about events such as: “your parents separated,” “you changed
to a new school,” and “you got caught stealing something.” As in the ELESC, if the
children experienced an event listed or one they themselves had provided, they were
asked to state how much stress it caused (a little, some, or a lot). There were 40 items
in total, the last 7 of which were open. Finally, based on cultural considerations, the
following item was added to the original measure: “You failed to make an athletic
team or play in a game.”
The Children's Integrated Stress and Coping Scale [(CISCS) see Appendix F] -
- A modified version of Jose et al.s’ original (1994) scale was presented to the children
to assess actual and hypothetical responses to the particular event of “kids teased or
avoided you,” that may or may not have actually occurred (this event was chosen after
consideration of pilot data that indicated a majority of the children had actually
experienced having been teased/avoided). They were asked how much they actually
used (or would have used given the scenario) each of 20 or more ways of coping (not
at all, some/a little, or a lot). The ways of coping include the following items: “I
accepted the way things were,” “I tried to solve the problem,” and “I ignored or tried
to get away from the problem.” This modified version of the scale was essentially the
same as the original, except that several of the statements were reworded to ensure
clarity before translation. There were 22 items in total, the last of which was open.
The Children's Perception of Parenting Style Questionnaire [(CPPSQ) see
Appendix H] -- A modified version of Jose’s original (1995) questionnaire was
presented to the children to assess their perception of their parents' style along the
dimensions of control and warmth. The children were asked how true a series of
statements were for them on a scale of 0 to 2 (not true, very true, sort of true). Items
assessing parental control included: “When my friends and I disagree, my parents let us
resolve the disagreement on our own.” Questions assessing parental warmth included:
“My parents communicate to me how much they value me.” Several modifications
were made from the original measure to increase item objectivity. One item was
added to the original measure: “My parents communicate to me how much they value
me.” This item was intended to gauge an approximation of perceived parental love.
There were 7 items in total, 4 for control and 3 for warmth.
The study utilized a 2 (sex) X 2 (age) X 2 (control: low vs. high) X 2 (warmth:
low vs. high) design. In two MANOVAs of stress, sex and age constituted between
subjects, independent variables and stress contexts (family/home, health/fitness,
education, and peer relations) constituted four dependent variables. In one MANOVA
of coping, sex and age constituted between subjects, independent variables and coping
strategies (approach/problem-focused, approach/emotion-focused, avoidance/problem-
focused, and avoidance/emotion-focused) constituted four dependent variables.