Use of an analogue method to examine children's appraisals of threat and emotion in response to stressful events

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Abstract

An analogue methodology was used to present a set of realistic, salient stressors to children in grades 3, 5, and 7. Children (N = 146) viewed eight videotaped vignettes depicting interpersonal and non-interpersonal stressors; these were expected to differentially threaten psychological needs for relatedness, competence and autonomy and provoke different emotional reactions. Analyses showed that scenarios portrayed stressors that were commonly experienced by children and evoked a differentiated profile of appraisals and emotions. When tenets of the motivational theory of stress and coping were tested, scenarios more threatening to needs were more distressing, sadness was linked to relatedness and competence threat appraisals, and fear was a more common reaction to parent stressors that involved dyadic conflict. After accounting for threat appraisals and previous experience of stressors, younger children and girls appraised events as more distressing than older children and boys. Future research could use the analogue procedure to focus on children's development of regulation and coping with stress.

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