Children's Stress and Coping: A Family Perspective


In spite of the increase in stress-coping research, little is known about how stress is actually perceived by children in the family setting. This is due in part to the real difficulties involved in collecting data on children's subjective experiences. In addition, what we currently know about children's stress and coping has traditionally derived from adult reporters, rather than from the children themselves. Filling a gap in the literature, this volume explores theoretical and methodological issues related to ...
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In spite of the increase in stress-coping research, little is known about how stress is actually perceived by children in the family setting. This is due in part to the real difficulties involved in collecting data on children's subjective experiences. In addition, what we currently know about children's stress and coping has traditionally derived from adult reporters, rather than from the children themselves. Filling a gap in the literature, this volume explores theoretical and methodological issues related to the study of children and families in general, and to stress-coping phenomena from the child's perspective in particular. The book challenges traditional deference to adult assessment by drawing data from both parents and children, revealing significant contrasts between the two. Through open-ended, qualitative measures of children's diaries and drawings, the book offers a glimpse into the inner world of the child and gives scholarly expression to the fact that children can, and readily will, articulate needs and perceptions if given an appropriate vehicle. The book's well-documented chapters discuss traditional approaches to stress and coping, implications for current child and family study, specific needs related to the study of children within the family, and implications for theory and methods. Taxonomies of children's stressors, coping responses, and coping resources are drawn from the data and examined in detail. The book concludes with suggestions for future research and clinical practice. Providing fascinating insight into children's actual experience of stress and coping, this volume lays the groundwork for ongoing research, scholarship, and therapeutic practice. Academicians, practitioners, and graduate students in family studies, child development, psychology and nursing will find this book invaluable in shedding light on the often overlooked culture of children.

This book contains black-and-white illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Children's Stress and Coping: A Family Perspective, by Dr. Elaine Sorensen, is a significant contribution to the literature. This work represents not merely a review, but a scholarly critique of the empirical and theoretical work in the area of stress and coping in children.

"The family perspective of children is exemplified by Sorensen's description of her own qualitative study of children's daily stressors and coping behavior. The importance of the child as an informant in family research is asserted in the introductory chapters and confirmed by the report of her own research. This book is essential reading for all professionals who care about children." --Nancy M. Ryan-Wenger, Ph.D., R.N., Ohio State University

"Elaine Sorensen's timely, cogent, and stimulating book carefully weaves together concepts and methods from several disciplines to create a holistic picture of how children actually cope with the stresses and strains of daily life. A great strength is the clear illustration of qualitative, developmentally appropriate research methods with school-aged children. Because of its scope and breadth, this book will be very useful to theorists, researchers, and practitioners who are interested in stress in children and families." --David C. Dollahite, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Family Studies, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Practicing Marriage and Family Therapist

"Children's Stress and Coping, by Elaine Shaw Sorensen, is a unique and creative book. It is unique in that it crosses disciplinary boundaries and barriers, combining a clinical sensitivity from pediatric nursing (the author's disciplinary background) with a scholarly view of stress, coping, and family research. Her book begins with three chapters that thoroughly review stress literatures, focusing on family stress and coping, and being particularly attentive to children's experiences within their families. The bibliography lists 26 pages of classic and current references that form the conceptual foundation for her own original research, presented in chapters 4 and 5.

The most fascinating aspect of Sorensen's book is her own study of children's stress and coping; it is not just about children (from the viewpoint of adults) but from children themselves, reflecting their own subjective perspectives. Over 1200 daily diary responses provide rich qualitative insights through the eyes of children about their daily hassles, their endurance, and their uplifts. Parallel data from parent surveys, coded and content analyzed later, allowed Sorensen to contrast child and parent views. The data that I find most intriguing are the gender and parent-child differences in perceptions of children's daily stressors, coping efforts, and resources. Boys' and girls' perceptions of everyday situations and themselves differ in interesting ways. Similarly, parents and children differ, and parents apparently have some remarkable blind spots about their children's perceptions. In terms of coping and adaptation, for example, parents are about three times as likely to report child crying, pouting, and complaining, but parents report none of the intrapsychic child responses that children do, such as feeling sad or rethinking the hassles of the day. It is almost as though parents missed children's inner responses entirely, while attending to their outward manipulation and behavior.

This descriptive-exploratory study builds up to a particularly useful taxonomy of stressors, coping responses, and resources that are salient to children as compared to their parents. A separate chapter presents children's drawings as an optional way of expressing their perceptions about the day. While interesting in their own right, over 70% of the drawings were coded as not seeming to be directly related to the stress-coping experiences reported by children.

This book will be extremely interesting to diverse professionals interested in family stress and coping, especially as these experiences involve children. In particular, applied professionals who try to help and understand children and their parents will find provocative insights in this book." --Brent Miller, Utah State University

Journal of Marriage and the Family

"The book is appealing to both the family theorist and researcher, but its insight into children's perspectives of their own day-to-day stressors and coping responses is especially informative for teachers, clinicians, and therapists who work with children and their families."--Journal of Marriage and the Family
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780898620849
  • Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/9/1993
  • Series: Perspectives On Marriage And The Family Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 170
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Elaine Shaw Sorensen is Associate Professor of Nursing at Brigham Young University. She has worked in education and clinical practice in maternal-child health and community nursing, including service for 18 months in Colombia. She does research on children's stress and coping, emphasizing the child's perspective in families and qualitative designs. Her other publications include scholarly and lay works on children, health, historical methods, and women's issues.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Perspectives for Study: Traditional Approaches to Stress and Coping 1
Perspectives and Conceptual Major Study 2
Traditional Stress-Coping Definitions and Interpretations 5
Nature of the Problems Studied 15
Implications For Research of Children and Families 22
Ch. 2 The Family Perspective: Theoretical and Methodological Notes 25
General Theoretical Foundations 25
Theoretical Foundations in Stress-Coping Phenomena 31
Research on Family Stress and Coping 40
Methodological Trends and Implications 43
Ch. 3 Stress, Coping, and Appraisal among Children 50
Research on Children's Stress, Coping, and Appraisal 51
Mediating Variables in Child Stress-Coping Phenomena 65
Gender 68
Methods 69
Ch. 4 An Exploration of Children's Stressors and Coping Responses 79
Assumptions 79
Informants 81
Methods 82
Results 86
Children's Daily Stressors 86
Children's Coping Responses 91
Children's Coping Resources/Uplifts 95
Notes on the Taxonomies 99
Parental Perceptions of Child Stress Experiences: Another View of the Data 105
Ch. 5 Learning from Children's Art 110
Art in Projective Assessment Techniques 111
Use of Spontaneous Drawings 112
Children's Art in This Study 114
Ch. 6 Suggestions for Future Research and Clinical Practice 126
Theoretical Philosophy: Integration 126
Meaning of the Data 130
Qualitative Research with Children 133
References 138
Index 165
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