Coping Methods Used by College Undergraduate and Graduate Students while Experiencing Childhood Adversities and Traumas


Experiences in childhood, both positive and negative, are crucial to a child’s progression. Childhood traumas and adversities are detrimental to children’s development and can have long term consequences that manifest themselves in young adulthood. The purpose of this study is to inductively explore coping strategies used by young adults during their experience of childhood traumas and adversities. A sample of college students from a diverse northeastern university (N = 146) provided quantitative and qualitative survey responses. Students were asked, “What were the tools you used to cope with adversity and/or traumatic events?” Participants responded to the prompt based on their experiences from childhood. The researchers analyzed the qualitative data using a mixed-method, thematic approach to coding participant responses. Additional quantitative information is explored to explain emerging qualitative themes. Two salient themes of coping strategies emerged, providing support for Machado et al. (2020): (1) Emotion-Focused Coping and (2) Problem-Focus Coping. Minor themes built on the findings in the area of Emotion-Focused Coping, highlighting processes of (i) emotional regulation, (ii) emotional expression, and (iii) emotional avoidance. Excerpts from this study’s participants suggest that individuals dealing with adversities and traumas find a variety of ways to cope. These coping strategies can be implemented into institutions’ everyday practices to aid children during their time of vulnerability. The article provides recommendations for school administrators, leadership teams, and any professional specializing in school culture, curriculum, and social work.

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Correspondence to Yasmine Perry.

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Appendix 1: Results Tables

Appendix 1: Results Tables

Table 1 Demographic Information: Gender, Ethnicity, and Race
Table 2 School Demographics: Type of High School; Classification at the University

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Perry, Y., Cuellar, M.J. Coping Methods Used by College Undergraduate and Graduate Students while Experiencing Childhood Adversities and Traumas. Journ Child Adol Trauma (2021).

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  • Childhood trauma
  • Childhood adversity
  • Child maltreatment
  • Adolescent trauma
  • Coping mechanisms
  • Problem-focus coping
  • Emotion-focused coping