Coping Through Emotional Approach: Problems of Conceptualization and Confounding

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Two studies supported hypotheses that (a) published scales tapping coping through processing and expressing emotion are confounded with psychopathology; (b) previously demonstrated relations between emotional approach coping (EAC) and maladjustment are partially spurious; and (c) EAC, when tapped by items uncontaminated by distress, is beneficial under specific conditions. In Study 1, 194 psychologists rated a majority of published items, but no author-constructed EAC item, as indicative of pathology. Study 2 assessed relations of confounded and unconfounded EAC scales to 171 young adults' adjustment during stressful events. Confounded items evidenced weaker discriminant validity with distress measures than did unconfounded items, and they were weaker predictors of later maladjustment when initial adjustment was controlled than when it was not. Unconfounded EAC predicted improved adjustment for women and poorer adjustment for men over time.

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