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Essay: Coping in young adults

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  • Subject area(s): Health essays Psychology essays
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  • Published: September 8, 2021*
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  • Coping in young adults
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A scoping review was orchestrated to provide a general overview of coping in young adults. This type of review was selected for this paper as it allows for broad questions with the inquiry of the topic in related literature. This paper focuses on exploring the question of how coping mechanisms influence health of young adults enrolled in college who have experienced grief or traumatic events. The intent is to synthesize the question of focus and articulating what is known about the key concepts of coping with grief and traumatic events in young adults. The scoping review conducted has provided a foundation of knowledge and has established a point for further investigations into the topic.

Scoping Review of Young Adults Coping with Trauma

A scoping review was engineered to examine and map the available evidence and provide an overview of coping in young adults and how health status changed based on certain behaviors. The broad overview question of the review researched the types of reported behaviors influencing health status in young adults. This question was then further refined into the coping in young adults. Coping is a broad term used to describe any type of behavior in which the individual deals with a difficult situation. This concept can be applied to any age throughout the lifespan, however, young adults experience significant lifestyle changes to which adjustments must be made. To better understand the health status of young adults it is important to investigate the behaviors which impact health. The purpose of this paper is to explore the priority question of how coping mechanisms influence health of young adults enrolled in college who have experienced grief or traumatic events.


Articles were collected from CINAHL database with the primary keywords of coping, college students, and young adults. Limiters were applied to further refine the search. Articles were included if the publishing dates were between 2013 and 2019, it was published in English, and the full text was available. The inclusion criteria yielded articles on coping with the following secondary topics; mental illness, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, coping skills, coping mechanisms, cancer, coping strategies, mental health, age group of adolescents and young adults, and both male and female.

The first search included the term ‘coping’ and the following limiters were used to narrow the scope of the articles; students, athletes, college graduates, student undergraduates, alcohol/drinking, colleges and universities, college fraternities and sororities, college sports. This search proffered 67 articles, of the 67 articles only 39 were deemed acceptable for use in the scoping review. The second search included the term ‘coping mechanism’ and the same limiters were applied. The second search produced 53 articles, with 4 duplicates, however, only 23 were acceptable for use in the review. The third and final search used the term ‘coping with stress’ and the same limiters were applied. The third search generated 29 articles, 22 of which were duplicates, and only 4 deemed acceptable. A total of 66 articles were compiled for the scoping review.

The 66 articles on coping were then divided into eight different section topics based on the content of the articles. The topics included; substance abuse, spirituality, social media, mental health, medical, identity, grief/traumatic events, and coping strategies. Several articles were placed into more than one section if the topic of the article fit into multiple subject areas. The section of choice for this scoping review focused on five articles from the grief/traumatic events area and two articles from the mental health area.

Data Extraction

Perera & Fraizer (2013), reviewed the effects of potentially traumatic events on religiosity and spirituality. The concise and logically organized level IV prospective longitudinal research article had confusing tables and vague results. A sample of 244 undergraduate psychology students, half the students experienced a potentially traumatic event [PTE], while the other half did not. Both groups completed two online surveys two months apart. There was no significant difference between the PTE group and the control group in relation to changes in religiosity and spirituality. However, actual and perceived change in religiosity and spirituality occurred within both groups; these changes were based on alterations in personal realms and not related to a PTE (Perera & Fraizer, 2013). Religion is often viewed as a coping mechanism, and this study highlights the lack of change in religiosity and spirituality after a PTE, thus emphasizing the importance of religion as an effective coping mechanism.

Prout, T. A., Gerber, L. E., & Gottdiener, W. H. (2015) focused on the accompanying occurrence of substance use disorders with traumatic experiences. The aim of the level V review was to examine the potential roles of defense mechanisms and religious coping between substance abuse and trauma symptoms. The descriptive qualitative study took a sample of 380 undergraduate college students from a private Catholic liberal arts college in the United States. The authors administered an online survey asking about substance abuse and personality. The research found 19% of participants met the minimum margin for a diagnosis of PTSD, and 21% of participants were at risk of progressing to substance abuse. The study determined individuals with substance abuse have a tendency to use maladaptive coping and religious strategies compared to individuals without substance use disorders. The authors proved the connection between traumatic events and the use of coping and defense mechanisms as methods to internalize the event. Defense mechanisms and religion are used to manage traumatic experiences, but they do not prevent the connection between trauma and substance abuse (Prout, T. A. et al., 2015). The article was thorough and informative by providing a detailed description of the study as well as meeting the purpose of the project. The descriptive qualitative study confirmed the expectation of the use of defense mechanisms and coping strategies in individuals with previous traumatic experiences. However, the research did not prove religion and coping mechanisms to be a potent safeguard between traumatic experiences and substance abuse.

Curley, M., & Johnston, C. (2014) analyzed college-aged women who had an abortion. The article was far from concise and included minute detail about the study allowing for others to replicate the research. The purpose of the level IV cross-sectional correlational study design was to identify behavioral interventions to help college-age women experiencing psychological distress post-abortion. The sample included 45 college students from two countries, the United States and Canada. Participants must have experienced psychological distress and sought treatment after an abortion. Data collection occurred between January 2007 and January 2010 at the McGill University Student Health Services in Montreal, Canada. Data included reproductive health information, demographic data, and participant preferences related to interventions. The participants completed a questionnaire after the abortion to measure the interventions received. The study found four factors of preferred interventions. The first factor contained upsetting guilt in which the participants strongly preferred assistance with managing guilt. The second factor involved reproductive control; the women stated a strong desire for assistance with prevention of pregnancy. Factor three discussed independent coping where the participants had a strong preference for assistance with coping techniques. Factor four entailed assistance with spirituality where the young women wished for assistance with spirituality related to the grief and loss associated with abortion. Ninety-eight percent of participants wanted a professional intervention offered in relation to abortion care (Curley, M., & Johnston, C. (2014). The authors emphasized the psychological effects of abortion on young women and analyzed possible methods for assisting with the management of psychological distress. Participants personal preferences in abortion care were identified and insight on potential program development was provided to help young women cope with the psychological distress associated with abortions.
Iverson, Litwack, Pineles, Suvak, Vaughn, & Resick (2013), engineered a level IV prospective research design analyzing intimate partner violence. The purpose of the study was to review the effects of PTSD symptoms and the coping strategies used to combat them to determine the possibility of a reoccurrence of intimate partner violence on female victims. Women selected for analysis experienced intimate partner violence for 3 months minimum in the past year with reports of a minimum of two severe acts of violence or four minimal acts of violence, but the most recent experience was between two weeks to six months prior to the study. Sixty-nine women were selected to complete a baseline assessment and a follow-up assessment six months later. Four assessment scales were administered to each woman, “the Conflict Tactics Scale-2 (CTS-2), the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale (PDS), the Dissociative Experiences Scale-II (DES-II), and the Coping Strategies Inventory (CSI)” (Iverson et al., p. 104, 2013). After the assessments were completed the researches provided a post-conference and a safety presentation to the women. Roughly 46% of the women experienced a minimum of one revictimization at the 6-month follow update. The authors found women who cope with disengagement experience higher risks, whereas women who engaged in engagement coping styles experienced lower risks of revictimizations (Iverson et al., 2013). The article was organized, concise, and well written and it did achieve the purpose of the research. The study emphasized the importance of appropriate and effective coping strategies. Unhealthy coping techniques do not help alleviate the situation and can affect the woman negatively by increasing the chances of her becoming revictimized.
Romero, D. H., Riggs, S. A., & Ruggero, C. (2015) conducted an inquiry reviewing the experience of student veterans. The level IV descriptive study was created to review the associations of coping skills, family/social support, and psychological symptoms of college student veterans to determine appropriate interventions for the population. One hundred thirty-six student veterans of the U.S. military were included. The participants then completed a background collection survey to gather health history, demographics, military service, and college experience. The authors discovered a lack of association between dependent variables and psychological distress in college student veterans. However, the study proved a significant association between the presence of avoidant behaviors in coping and family/social interactions with symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, the authors found avoidant styles of coping to be a strong indicator of posttraumatic stress symptoms. Despite participant use of harmful styles of coping, appropriate use of family/social support buffered the symptoms of depression and anxiety (Romero et al., 2015). The article included confusing and unnecessary hypothesized path models and was difficult to read. The authors discovered family and social support to be an effective bulwark at preventing psychological distress in student veterans. Avoidant coping strategies were discovered to be a hindrance to maintaining mental health. The importance of appropriate and effective coping strategies was highlighted to promote mental health and prevent psychological distress; however, the importance of familial/social support should not be discounted.

Schwarzer, Bowler & Cone (2014) examined New York police officers after the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The Level IV longitudinal review analyzed the mental health of police officers who responded to the 9/11 attack and destruction repairs. The sample included 2943 police officers who participated in a minimum of one shift from the day of the terrorist attack to the last day of repairs, on June 30th, 2002. The officers completed two questionnaires to assess stress response symptoms to determine possible posttraumatic stress disorders [PTSD]. The PTSD specific stressor questionnaire combined with exposure level assessments and social integration measurements determined the mental health outcomes. The articles discussed the two-step process interchangeably, however, the rest of the study was concise and logically organized. The authors discovered an association between high levels of exposure with an increase in stress levels however social integration diminished the effect (Schwarzer et al., 2014). Human beings are social creatures who thrive on social interactions; the study performed by Schwarzer et al. (2014) accentuated the positive effects social interaction has on diminishing the negative psychological impact caused by traumatic events.

Zawadzki (2015) reviewed the association between rumination and poor psychological health. The meta-analysis was conducted to understand the connection between rumination, strategies used by individuals seeking help for psychological distress in the ER, and psychological health risk indicators. The relationship between the topics were reviewed to determine possible independent relationships with psychological health. The sample consisted of 218 undergraduates from behavioral and psychology classes. Surveys were administered to determine the following ER strategies, “reappraisal, suppression, provocative coping, emotion support seeking, and rumination” (Zawadzki, p. 1146, 2015). Indicators determining health risk and health outcomes were also assessed. Rumination was the only factor found to have independent impacts on health outcomes and indicators of health risk. Reappraisal was found to have a positive connection to self-esteem, positivity, and anxiety, while suppression had a negative interconnection. While proactive coping and emotional support were found to have no independent attachments to health risks and outcomes. (Zawadzki, 2015). The article contained confusing charts and graphs to explain the results, however, the articles itself was logically organized and clearly presented. Of the five strategies reviewed, rumination appeared to have the most insidious impact on psychological health. Fixating on stressful thoughts have a detrimental effect by extending the stress response which engenders negative states of emotion. The prolonged state of negative emotions can impact the overall health and wellness of the individual, therefore, rumination on stressful events should be discouraged. Stress reductions strategies are imperative at reducing rates of rumination.

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