In this study, we examined the demographic and psychological variables associated with seeking help from parents, friends, and professionals for coping with emotional problems during early and middle adolescence. Two-hundred and twentyone adolescents (109 males, 112 females), ranging in age from 13 to 18years (mean age=15.0 years), completed measures assessing self-worth, self-consciousness, and locus of control. Adolescents were also asked to report whether or not they had sought help from mothers, fathers, friends, and professionals for assistance in coping with a recent stress event. Descriptive analyses revealed that more adolescent females and middle adolescents reported seeking assistance from mothers, friends, and professionals than males and early adolescents. While no difference emerged between early and middle adolescent females in their utilization of mothers and fathers as support providers, middle adolescent males were more likely to report seeking help from their fathers than were younger adolescent males. A series of stepwise discriminant function analyses were conducted in order to determine the extent to which age, gender, self-worth, self-consciousness, and locus of control predicted seeking help. Differential patterns of predictor variables emerged for each helping resource. For example, females and adolescents with an internal locus of control were more likely to report seeking help from their mothers than males and adolescents with an external locus of control. With respect to fathers, adolescents who sought help from their fathers were less self-conscious than those who did not seek help. Those adolescents who reported seeking help from professionals were older, had lower self-worth, and were less self-consciousness than those adolescents who reported that they did not seek help from professionals. Results are discussed with regard to mechanisms of differential gender socialization during adolescence.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Adams, G. R., Abraham, K. G., and Markstrom, C. (1987). The relations among identity development, self-consciousness, and self-focusing during middle and late adolescence.Develop. Psychol., 23: 292–297.
Barker, L. A., and Adelman, H. S. (1994). Mental health and help seeking among ethnic minority adolescents.J. Adolesc. 17: 251–263.
Berndt, T. J. (1982). The features and effects of friendships in early adolescence.Child Develop. 53: 1447–1460.
Berndt, T. J., and Ladd, G. W. (eds.) (1989).Peer Relationships in Child Development. Wiley, New York.
Berndt, T. J., and Perry, T. B. (1986). Children's perceptions of friendships as supportive relationships.Develop. Psychol., 22: 640–648.
Billings, A. G., and Moos, R. H. (1981). The role of coping responses and social resources in attenuating stress of life events.J. Behav. Med. 4: 139–157.
Blyth, D. A. (1987).Understanding and Building Teenage Competence Project. Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
Blyth, D. A., Hill, J. P., and Thiel, K. (1982). Early adolescents' significant others: Grade and gender differences in perceived relationships with familial and nonfamilial adults and young people.J. Youth Adolesc. 11: 425–450.
Boldero, J., and Fallon, B. (1995). Adolescent help seeking: What do they get help for and from whom?J. Adolesc. 18: 193–209.
Brown, B. B. (1990). Peer groups and peer cultures. In Feldman, S. S., and Elliott, G. R. (eds.),At the Threshold: The Developing Adolescent. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
Brown, B. B. (1978). Social and psychological correlates of help-seeking behavior among urban adults.Am. J. Commun. Psychol. 6: 425–439.
Buhrmester, D., and Furman, W. (1987). The development of companionship and intimacy.Child Develop. 58: 1101–1113.
Burke, R. J., and Weir, T. (1979). Helping responses of parents and peers and adolescent well-being.J. Psychol. 102: 49–62.
Cauce, A. M., Felner, R. D., and Primavera, J. (1982). Social support in high-risk adolescents: Structural components and adaptive impact.Am. J. Commun. Psychol. 10: 417–428.
Cauce, A. M., Mason, C., Gonzales, N., Hiraga, Y., and Liu, G. (1994). Social support during adolescence: Methodological and theoretical considerations. In Nestmann, F., and Hurrelmann, K. (eds.),Social Networks and Social Support in Childhood and Adolescence. Walter de Gruyter, New York.
Cheek, J. M., and Briggs, S. R. (1988). Shyness as a personality trait. In Crozier, W. R. (ed.),Shyness and Embarrassment: Perspectives in Social Psychology. Cambridge University Press, New York.
Compas, B. E. (1987). Coping with stress during childhood and adolescence.Psychol. Bull. 101: 393–403.
Compas, B. E., and Phares, V. (1991). Stress during childhood and adolescence: Sources of risk and vulnerability. In Cummings, E. M., Greene, A. L., and Karraker, K. H. (eds.),Life-Span Development Psychology: Perspectives on Stress and Coping. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.
Compas, B. E., Malcarne, V. L., and Fondacaro, K. M. (1988). Coping with stressful events in older children and adolescents.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 56: 405–411.
Compas, B. E., Howell, D. C., Phares, V., Williams, R. A., and Giunta, C. T. (1989). Risk factors for emotional/behavioral problems in young adolescents: A prospective analysis of adolescent and parental stress and symptoms.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 57: 732–740.
Compas, B. E., Banez, G. A., Malcarne, V., and Worsham, N. (1991). Perceived control and coping with stress: A developmental perspective.J. Social Issues 47: 23–34.
Compas, B. E., Orosan, P. G., and Grant, K. E. (1993). Adolescent stress and coping: Implications for psychopathology during adolescence.J. Adolesc. 16: 331–349.
Compas, B. E., Hinden, B. R., and Gerhardt, C. A. (1995). Adolescent development: Pathways and processes of risk and resilience.Ann. Rev. Psychol. 46: 265–293.
Cowen, E. L. (1980). The wooing of primary prevention.Am. J. Commun. Psychol. 8: 258–284.
Csikzentmihalyi, M., and Larson, R. (1984).Being Adolescent. Basic Books, New York.
Dubois, D. L., Felner, R. D., Sherman, M. D., and Bull, C. A. (1994). Socioenvironmental experiences, self-esteem, and emotional/behavioral problems in early adolescence.Am. J. Commun. Psychol. 22: 375–397.
Douvan, E., and Adelson, J. (1966).The Adolescent Experience. Wiley, New York.
Dubow, E. F., and Tisak, J. (1989). The relation between stressful life events and adjustment in elementary school children: The role of social support and social problem-solving skills.Child Develop. 60: 1412–1423.
Dubow, E. F., Lovko, K. R., Jr., and Kausch, D. F. (1990). Demographic differences in adolescents' health concerns and perceptions of helping agents.J. Clin. Child Psychol. 19: 44–54.
Ebata, A. T., and Moos, R. H. (1994). Personal, situational, and contextual, correlates of coping in adolescence.J. Res. Adolesc., 4: 99–125.
Ebata, A. T., and Moos, R. H. (1991). Coping and adjustment in distressed and healthy adolescents.J. Applied Develop. Psychol. 12: 33–54.
Elkind, D. (1967). Egocentrism in adolescence.Child Develop. 99: 1025–1034.
Feldman, W., Hodgson, C., Corber, S., and Quinn, A., (1986). Health concerns and health-related behaviors of adolescents.Can. Med. Ass. J. 134: 489–493.
Felner, R. D., and Felner, T. (1989). Primary prevention programs in the educational context: A transactional-ecological framework and analysis. In Bond, L., and Compas, B. (eds.),Primary prevention and promotion in the schools. Sage, Newbury Park, CA.
Fenigstein, A., Scheier, M. F., and Buss, A. H. (1975). Public and private self-consciousness: Assessment and theory.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 43: 522–528.
Fischer, E. H., Winer, D., and Abramowitz, S. I. (1983). Seeking professional help for psychological problems. In Nadler, A., Fisher, J. D., and DePaulo, B. (eds.),New directions in helping, Vol. 3: Applied perspectives on help seeking and reviewing. Academic Press, New York.
Ford, M. E. (1982). Social cognition and social competence in adolescence.Develop. Psychol. 18: 323–340.
Freud, A (1946).The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense. International Universities Press, Madison, CT.
Fuligni, A. J., and Eccles, J. S. (1993). Perceived parent-child relationships and early adolescents' orientation toward peers.Develop. Psychol. 29: 622–632.
Furman, W., and Buhrmester, D. (1985). Children's perceptions of the personal relationships in their social networks.Develop. Psychol. 21: 1016–1024.
Garland, A. F., and Zigler, E. F. (1994). Psychological correlates of help-seeking attitudes among children and adolescents.Am. J. Orthopsychiat. 64: 586–593.
Garmezy, N. (1985). Stress-resistant children: The search for protective factors.J. Child Psychol Psychiat. Book Supplement No. 4: 213–233.
Greenberg, M. T., Seigal, J. M., and Leitch, C. J. (1983). The nature and importance of attachment relationships to parents and peers during adolescence.J. Youth Adolesc. 12: 373–386.
Gould, A. W., and Mazzeo, J. (1982). Age and sex differences in early adolescent's information sources.J. Early Adolesc. 2: 283–292.
Hall, G. S. (1904).Adolescence (2 Vols.). Appleton, New York.
Hansell, S., and Mechanic, D. (1985). Introspectiveness and adolescent symptom reporting.J. Human Stress 11: 165–176.
Harter, S. (1983). The development of the self-system. In Hetherington, M. (ed.),Handbook of Child Psychology: Vol. 4. Social and Personality Development. Wiley, New York.
Harter, S. (1988).The Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents. University of Denver Press, Denver, CO.
Harter, S. (1989). Causes, correlates, and the functional role of global self-worth: A life-span perspective. In Kolligian, J., and Steinberg, R. (eds.),Perceptions of Competence and Incompetence Across the Life-Span. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.
Hauser, S. T., and Bowlds, M. K. (1990). Stress, coping, and adaptation. In Feldman, S. S., and Elliott, G. R. (eds.),At the Threshold: The Developing Adolescent. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
Hauser, S. T., Borman, E. H., Bowlds, M. K., Powers, S. I., Jocobson, A M., Noam, G. G., and Knoebber, K. (1991). Understanding coping within adolescence: Ego development and coping strategies. In Cummings, E., Greene, A L., and Karraker, K. H. (eds.),Life-span Developmental Psychology: Perspectives on Stress and Coping. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ.
Heller, K., and Swindle, R. W. (1983). Social networks, perceived social support, and coping with stress. In Felner, R. D., Jason, L. A., Moritsugu, J. N., and Farber, S. S. (eds.),Preventive Psychology. Pergamon, New York.
Herman-Stahl, M. A., Stemmler, M., and Petersen, A. (1995). Approach and avoidant coping: Implications for adolescent mental health.J. Youth Adolesc. 24: 649–665.
Higgins, E. T., and Eccles-Parsons, J. (1983). Social cognition and the social life of the child: Stages as subcultures. In Higgins, E. T., Ruble, D. N., and Hartup, W. W. (eds.),Social Cognition and Social Behavior: Developmental Issues. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.
Hoffman, M. A., Levy-Shiff, R., and Ushpiz, V. (1993). Moderating effects of adolescent social orientation on the relation between social support and self-esteem.J. Youth Adolesc. 22: 23–31.
Kandel, D., and Lesser, G. S. (1972).Youth in Two Worlds. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
Keniston, K. (1970). Youth: A “new” stage of life.Am. Scholar, 39: 631–641.
Kessler, R. C., Price, R. H., and Wortman, C. B. (1985). Social factors in psychopathology: Stress, social support, and coping processes.Ann. Rev. Psychol. 36: 531–572.
Klecka, W. R. (1980).Discriminant Analysis. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA.
Lapsley, D. (1989). Continuity and discontinuity in adolescent social cognitive development. In Montemayor, R., Adams, G., and Gullota, T. (eds.),From Childhood to Adolescence: A Transitional Period? Sage, Beverly Hills, CA.
Lapsley, D. K., Jackson, S., and Rice, K. (1988). Self-monitoring and the “new look” at the imaginary audience and personal fable: An ego-developmental analysis.J. Adolesc. Res. 3: 17–31.
Larson, R., and Ham, R. (1993). Stress and “storm and stress” in early adolescence: The relationship of negative events with dysphoric affect.Develop. Psychol. 29: 130–140.
Larson, R., and Lampman-Petraitis, C. (1989). Daily emotional stress as reported by children and adolescents.Child Develop. 60: 1250–1260.
Larson, R., and Richards, M. H. (1991). Daily companionship in late childhood and early adolescence: Changing developmental contexts.Child Develop. 62: 284–300.
Lazarus, R. S., and Folkman, S. (1984).Stress, Appraisal and Coping. Springer, New York.
Lempers, J. D., and Clark-Lempers, D. S. (1992). Young, middle, and late adolescents' comparison of the functional importance of five significant relationships.J. Youth Adolesc. 21: 53–96.
Lipsitz, J. (1977).Growing up Forgotten. Lexington Books, Lexington, MA.
Marks, A. M., Malizio, J., Hoch, J., Brody, R., and Fisher, M. (1983). Assessment of health needs and willingness to utilize health care resources of adolescents in a suburban population.J. Pediatr. 102: 456–460.
McMullen, P. A.,and Gross, A. E. (1983). Gender differences, gender roles, and health related help seeking. In DePaulo, B., Nadler, A.,and Fisher, J. D. (eds.),New Directions in Helping, Vol. 2: Help Seeking. Academic Press, New York.
Munsch, J., and Blyth, D. A. (1993). An analysis of the functional nature of adolescents' supportive relationships.J. Early Adolesc. 13: 132–153.
Nadler, A., Fischer, J. D., and DePaulo, B. M. (Eds.). (1983).New Directions in Helping: Vol. 3. Applied Perspectives on Help-Seeking and-Receiving. Academic Press, New York.
Nadler, A., Mayseless, O., Peri, N., and Chemerinski, A (1985). Effects of opportunity to reciprocate self-esteem on help-seeking behavior.J. Personal. 53: 23–35.
Nelson-Le Gall, S. (1981). Help seeking: An understudied problem-solving skill in children.Develop. Rev. 1: 224–246.
Nelson-Le Gall, S., Gumerman, R., and Scott-Jones, D. (1983). Instrumental help seeking and everyday problem-solving: A developmental perspective. In De Paulo, B. M., Nadler, A., and Fisher, J. D. (eds.),New Directions in Helping (Vol. 2). Academic Press, New York.
Newcomb, M. D., Huba, G. J., and Bentler, P. M. (1981). A multidimensional assessment of stressful life events among adolescents: Derivation and correlates,J. Health Social Behav. 22: 400–415.
Nowicki, S. Jr., and Strickland, B. R. (1973). A locus of control scale for children.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 40: 148–154.
Offer, D., and Church, R. B. (1991). Turmoil, adolescent. In Lerner, R. M., Peterson, A. C., and Brooks-Gunn, J. (eds.),Encyclopedia of Adolescence (Vol. 2). Garland, New York.
Offer, D., and Offer, J. B. (1975).From Teenage to Young Manhood: A Psychological Study. Basic Books, New York.
Offer, D., Howard, K. I., Schonert, K. A., and Ostrov, E. (1991). To whom do adolescents turn for help? Differences between disturbed and nondisturbed adolescents.J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiat. 30: 623–630.
Offer, D., and Schonert-Reichl, K. A. (1992). Debunking the myths of adolescence: Findings from recent research.J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiat. 31: 1003–1014.
Papini, D. R., Farmer, F. F., Clark, S. M., Micka, J. C., and Barnett, J. K. (1990). Early adolescent age and gender differences in patterns of emotional disclosure to parents and friends.Adolescence 15: 959–1001.
Parker, J., and Asher, S. R. (1987). Peer acceptance and later personal adjustment: Are lowaccepted children at risk?Psychol. Bull. 102: 357–389.
Paterson, J. E., Field, J., and Pryor, J. (1994). Adolescents' perceptions of their attachment relationships with their mothers, fathers, and friends.J. Youth Adolesc. 23: 579–660.
Patterson, J. M., and McCubbin, H. I. (1987). Adolescent coping style and behaviors: Conceptualization and measurement.J. Adolesc. 10: 163–186.
Petersen, A. C., Kennedy, R. E., and Sullivan, P. (1991). Coping with adolescence. In Colten, M. E., and Gore, S. (eds.),Adolescent Stress: Causes and Consequences. Aldine de Gruyter, Hawthorne, NY.
Rickwood, D. J. (1995). The effectiveness of seeking help for coping with personal problems in late adolescence.J. Youth Adolesc. 24: 685–703.
Riggs, S., and Cheng, T. (1988). Adolescents' willingness to use a school-based clinic in view of expressed health concerns.J. Adolesc. Health Care 9: 208–213.
Rogler, L. H., and Cortes, D. E. (1993). Help-seeking pathways: A unifying concept in mental health care.Am. J. Psychiat. 150: 554–561.
Rohrle, B., and Sommer, G. (1994). Social support and social competencies: Some theoretical and empirical contributions to their relationship. In Nestmann, F., and Hurrelmann, K. (eds.),Social Networks and Social Support in Childhood and Adolescence. Walter de Gruyter, New York.
Rutter, M., Graham, P., Chadwick, F., and Yule, W. (1976). Adolescent turmoil: Fact or fiction?J. Child Psychol. Psychiat. 17: 35–56.
Sandler, I. N., Miller, P., Short, J., and Wolchik, S. (1989). Social support as a protective factor for children in stress. In Belle, D. (ed.),Children's Social Networks and Social Supports. Wiley, New York.
Scheier, M. R., and Carver, C. S. (1985). The Self-Consciousness Scale: A revised version for use with general populations.J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 15: 687–699.
Schonert-Reichl, K. A. (1994). Gender differences in depressive symptomatology and egocentrism in adolescence.J. Early Adolesc. 14: 49–65.
Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Offer, D. A., and Howard, K. I. (1992b).The mental health professional and the disturbed adolescent: Do they ever meet? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, Chicago, IL.
Schonert-Reichl, K. A., Offer, D., and Howard, K. I. (1995). Seeking help from informal and formal resources during adolescence: Sociodemographic and psychological correlates. In Marohn, R. C., and Feinstein, S. C. (eds.),Adolescent Psychiatry, (Vol. 20). Analytic Press, Hillsdale, NJ.
Seiffge-Krenke, I. (1989). Problem intensity and the disposition of adolescents to take therapeutic advice. In Brambring, M., Losel, F., and Skowronek, H. (eds.),Children at Risk Assessment, Longitudinal Research, and Intervention. Walter de Gruyter, New York.
Selman, R. (1980).The Growth of Interpersonal Understanding: Developmental and Clinical Analyses. Academic Press, New York.
Siddique, C. M., and D'Arcy, C. (1984). Adolescence, stress, and psychological well-being.J. Youth Adolesc. 13: 459–473.
Simmons, R. G., Burgeson, R., Carton-Ford, S., and Blyth, D. A. (1987). The impact of cumulative change in early adolescence.Child Develop. 58: 1220–1234.
Steinberg, L. (1990). Autonomy, conflict, and harmony in the family relationship. In Feldman, S. S., and Elliott, G. R. (eds.),At the Threshold: The Developing Adolescent. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
Sullivan, H. S. (1953).The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry. Norton, New York.
Sullivan, K., and Sullivan, A. (1980). Adolescent-parent separation.Develop. Psychol. 16: 93–104.
Tabachnick, B. G., and Fidell, L. S. (1989).Using Multivariate Statistics. Harper & Row, New York.
Thayer, S., Gorman, B. S., Wessman, A. E., Schmeidler, G., and Mannucci, E. G. (1975). The relationship between locus of control and temporal experience.J. Genet. Psychol. 126: 275–279.
Trice, A. D. (1990). Adolescents' locus of control and compliance with contingency contracting and counseling interventions.Psychol Rep. 67: 233–234.
van Aken, M. A. G., Coleman, J. C., and Cotterell, J. C. (1994). Issues concerning social support in childhood and adolescence. In Nestmann, F., and Hurrelmann, K. (eds.),Social Networks and Social Support in Childhood and Adolescence. Walter de Gruyter, New York.
Walker, L. S., and Greene, J. W. (1987). Negative life events, psychosocial resources, and psychophysiological symptoms in adolescents.J. Clin. Child Psychol. 40: 29–36.
Watson, D., and Friend, R. (1969). Measurement of social-evaluative anxiety.J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 33: 448–451.
Whitaker, A., Johnson, J., Shaffer, D., Rapoport, J. L., Kalikow, K., Walsh, B. T., Davies, M., Braiman, S., and Dolinsky, A. (1990). Uncommon troubles in young people.Arch. Gen. Psychiat. 47: 487–496.
Windle, M., Miller-Tutzauer, C., Barnes, G. M., and Welte, J. (1991). Adolescent perceptions of help-seeking resources for substance abuse.Child Develop. 62: 179–189.
Wintre, M. G., Hicks, R., McVey, G., and Fox, J. (1988). Age and gender differences in choice of consultant for various types of problems.Child Develop. 59: 1046–1055.
Wintre, M. G., and Crowley, J. M. (1993). The adolescent self-concept: A functional determinant of consultant preference.J. Youth Adolesc. 22: 369–383.
Wright, P. H., and Keple, T. W. (1981). Friends and parents of a sample of high school juniors.J. Marriage Fam. 43: 559–570.
Youniss, J., and Smollar, J. (1985).Adolescent Relations with Mothers, Fathers, and Friends. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Youniss, J., and Ketterlinus, R. D. (1987). Communication and connectedness in mother-and father-adolescent relationships.J. Youth Adolesc. 16: 265–280.
Received Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. Research interests include adolescent social cognitive development, developmental psychopathology, and stress and coping.
Research interests include stress and coping in adolescence and social competence.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Schonert-Reichl, K.A., Muller, J.R. Correlates of help-seeking in adolescence. J Youth Adolescence 25, 705–731 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01537450
- Discriminant Function
- Emotional Problem
- Early Adolescent
- Adolescent Female
- Adolescent Male