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The Relationship Between Parent-Reported Coping, Stress, and Mental Health in a Preschool Population

  • Neisha Kiernan (a1), Erica Frydenberg (a1), Jan Deans (a2) and Rachel Liang (a1)

Abstract

The present study explored the component structure of coping in preschoolers as measured by the Children's Coping Scale — Revised (CCS-R) through principal component analysis (PCA). The study also examined the relationship between different coping patterns and mental health (as measured by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire; SDQ) in preschoolers. One hundred and thirty-two parents of preschoolers enrolled at a university-affiliated Early Learning Centre in Melbourne, Australia completed the CCS-R and the SDQ as part of a larger project. The PCAs found that a three-component structure of coping in preschoolers best fit the data for all general and situation-specific forms of the CCS-R. The majority of the forms, for both mothers and fathers, resulted in the components of: (1) Positive Coping, (2) Negative Coping — Emotional Inhibition, and (3) Negative Coping — Emotional Expression. The Situation Specific Coping forms resulted in the most reliable components, and the items that loaded on each component were the most consistent with previous research, underscoring a need to focus on situation-specific, as opposed to general, coping in preschoolers. Results for the relationship between the CCS-R and the SDQ found associations between positive coping and positive mental health, and negative coping was associated with some aspects of poor mental health. The patterns of associations provide evidence of construct validity for the component structure of the CCS-R and also highlight opportunities for intervention for this age group. Understanding the processes involved in managing and adapting to stress provides the opportunity to develop prevention and intervention approaches targeted at healthy adaption. Coping in preschoolers, and the degree to which preschoolers’ coping is associated with mental health, is largely under-studied in comparison to other life stages. The present study contributes to this small body of research in an effort to help inform teaching and therapeutic approaches for preschoolers.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Neisha Kiernan, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, 34 Queensberry Street, Parkville VIC 3053, Australia. Email: n.kiernan@student.unimelb.edu.au

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