Coping, Emotion Regulation, and Psychopathology in Childhood and Adolescence: A Meta-Analysis and Narrative Review

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Abstract

In this meta-analytic and narrative review, we examine several overarching issues related to the study of coping, emotion regulation, and internalizing and externalizing symptoms of psychopathology in childhood and adolescence, including the conceptualization and measurement of these constructs. We report a quantitative meta-analysis of 212 studies (N = 80,850 participants) that measured the associations between coping and emotion regulation with symptoms of internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. Within the meta-analysis we address the association of broad domains of coping and emotion regulation (e.g., total coping, emotion regulation), intermediate factors of coping and emotion regulation (e.g., primary control coping, secondary control coping), and specific coping and emotion regulation strategies (e.g., emotional expression, cognitive reappraisal) with internalizing and externalizing symptoms. For cross-sectional studies, which made up the majority of studies included, we examine 3 potential moderators: age, measure quality, and single versus multiple informants. Finally, we separately consider findings from longitudinal studies as these provide stronger tests of the effects. After accounting for publication bias, findings indicate that the broad domain of emotion regulation and adaptive coping and the factors of primary control coping and secondary control coping are related to lower levels of symptoms of psychopathology. Further, the domain of maladaptive coping, the factor of disengagement coping, and the strategies of emotional suppression, avoidance, and denial are related to higher levels of symptoms of psychopathology. Finally, we offer a critique of the current state of the field and outline an agenda for future research.

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