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Depression and Social Anxiety in Children: Differential Links with Coping Strategies

Abstract

Strategies that children use for coping with stressors are known to be related to emotional adjustment, but not enough is understood about specific links with social anxiety and depression. The present investigation tested differentiated associations of social anxiety and depression with specific types of coping strategies, and evaluated the direction of these associations over time. In Study 1, 404 children aged 8–13 years completed a coping scale modified from Kochendefer-Ladd and Skinner (Developmental Psychology 38:267-278, 2002) in order to evaluate factor structure and subscale internal consistency. In Study 2, 270 8–11-year-old children completed depression and social anxiety scales, a sociometric survey, and the coping scale from Study 1, with a follow-up timepoint 9 months later. In Study 1, factor analysis revealed six internally consistent coping subscales. In Study 2, social anxiety and depression were found to have distinctive longitudinal associations with subsequent coping strategies. Decreased problem-solving, social support-seeking, and distraction were uniquely predicted by depression but not by social anxiety. Internalising coping was a stronger outcome of social anxiety, and increased externalising was uniquely predicted by depression. There was also some evidence for a moderating role of peer relations. However, none of the coping strategies predicted changes in depression or social anxiety over the two timepoints. These results highlight the impact that emotional adjustment may have on children’s coping strategies, and clarify important distinctions between social anxiety and depression in relation to coping.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to take the opportunity to express our thanks to the staff and pupils of the schools that participated in the research both in Warwickshire, UK and BP 1 in the Netherlands. We would also like to thank Jenny Stringer and Eileen Kell for their invaluable assistance in data collection and school liaison.

The research reported under Study 2 was funded by Warwickshire County Council.

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Correspondence to Mark Wright.

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Wright, M., Banerjee, R., Hoek, W. et al. Depression and Social Anxiety in Children: Differential Links with Coping Strategies. J Abnorm Child Psychol 38, 405–419 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-009-9375-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-009-9375-4

Keywords

  • Social anxiety
  • Depression
  • Coping
  • Peer relations
  • Longitudinal