The relationship between coping and anxiety during adolescence: the importance of considering race/ethnicity and gender

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University of Delaware
The purpose of this study was to capture group differences in successful and unsuccessful adolescent adjustment by utilizing the framework of developmental psychopathology. The sample was drawn from the larger study, the University of Delaware‟s Adolescent Adjustment Project. The participants include 1,001 adolescent (mean age= 16.09) boys (n=470, 47%) and girls (n=531, 53%) drawn from 7 public high schools in the Mid Atlantic Region. Students identified as Caucasian (58%), African American (23%), Hispanic (12%), Asian (2%), and the remaining 5% of students identified as other. Results indicated that girls have significantly higher levels of anxiety than boys; anxiety did not differ by race. Coping choice also differed, in which girls were more likely to use religious coping and venting of emotions than boys. African American youth were more likely to use religious coping and denial than other racial groups. Cross-sectional correlations indicated that venting of emotions and/or use of denial was associated with higher levels of anxiety across gender and race. Longitudinal results indicated that, for girls, venting of emotions and denial predicted higher levels of anxiety, whereas humor predicted lower levels of anxiety. Similarly, for Caucasian youth, venting of emotions and denial positively predicted anxiety, whereas, humor and religious coping negatively predicted anxiety one year later. For Hispanic youth, venting of emotions also predicted higher anxiety. Overall, these findings have important implications for prevention and intervention programs to help youth successfully cope with anxiety.