Problem- Focused and Emotion-Focused Coping Potential in Adjustment to College
Spitzer, Elizabeth G.
An individual engages in coping when he or she uses cognitive and behavioral efforts to deal with the internal or external demands of a stressful situation to make it more congruent with his or her goals (Smith & Lazarus, 1990). When a person changes their beliefs, values, and goals in stressful situations, they use emotion-focused coping (Lazarus, 1991). Likewise, when an individual uses action to change the demands of the situation they are engaging in problem-focused coping (Smith, 1995). This study examines coping styles in first-year students who were enrolled in introduction to chemistry, a pre-med requisite. These students were followed from the beginning to the end of their first semester. Their responses to multiple surveys looking at self-esteem, anxiety, coping style, appraisal style, perceived stress, goals, among other measures were assessed at nine points over the semester. Before and after each exam, students reported their expected grade, satisfaction ratings, and perceived stress. For each exam, there was a large gap between student’s desired and achieved exam scores. Students used problem-focused coping more before the exam and emotion-focused coping more upon receiving their grades. Both forms of coping had significant correlations with performance, personality measures, trait factors, emotions, and other exam related behaviors.