Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 19

Educational Psychology in Practice, Vol. 20, No.

2, June 2004

Prevention is Better than Cure: Coping skills training for adolescents at school
Erica Frydenberg*a, Ramon Lewisb, Kerry Bugalskia, Amanda Cottaa, Cathy McCarthya, Neringa Luscombe-Smitha & Charles Poolea

University of Melbourne, Australia; bLatrobe University, Australia

(Received September 2002; accepted after revision, September 2003)

Children and adolescents today face a plethora of stressful problems, including family and relationship conict, death of close family members or friends, and academic and social pressures. Such problems have been found to contribute to an increased risk of various emotionalsocialcognitive difculties in adolescence. These include academic failure, social misbehaviour, interpersonal problems, and depression. Programmes that promote coping with normative stress, delivered to the whole population, have been considered to represent a promising direction for the prevention of social emotional difculties. The Best of Coping: Developing Coping Skills Program (Frydenberg & Brandon, 2002) was introduced in two school settings on four separate occasions. Evaluation of the results provides modest support for coping skills enhancement but provide a warning about the need for caution when implementing and evaluating the Programme. First, it appeared to have some opposing effects on males and females. Second, improvements in students coping responses were apparently related to the authenticity of implementation of the Programme. The ndings are discussed with regard to the need to implement programmes through which we can teach adolescents coping responses, which include optimism and problemsolving skills, so that they may handle problems and stressors more effectively. Additionally, an important feature of such programmes is a focus on the reduction of the use of non-productive coping skills. With an increase in psycho-social problems, the need to provide school-based programmes is discussed, with emphasis placed on programme implementation. In particular, the probable need for ongoing involvement of psychologically trained school counsellors with teachers, through the life of the programme.

Introduction Adolescents psychological health and well-being are related to the develop*Corresponding author: Educational Psychology Unit, Faculty of Education, University of Melbourne, Carlton 3010, Australia, email: e.frydenberg@unimelb.edu.au ISSN 0266-7363 (print)/ISSN 1469-5839 (online)/04/020117-18 2004 Association of Educational Psychologists DOI: 10.1080/02667360410001691053


E. Frydenberg et al.

ment of psychosocial competence, an area of activity within which schools are increasingly called upon to be active. Although schools need to be able to respond to the 1020% of young people who exhibit pathological symptoms and offer direct services to adolescents, their families and teachers, there are many ways in which schools can improve the socialemotional competence of all students. Developing coping skills is one way to facilitate young peoples resilience. This paper examines one school-based programme designed to enhance the coping skills of adolescents. An expanding body of literature suggests that inadequate responses to coping with stress in children of school age contributes to a range of psychosocial problems, including poor academic performance, conduct problems, anxiety, depression, suicide, eating disorders and violence (Kovacs, 1997; Matheny, Aycock, & McCarthy, 1993). When young people are distressed, their energy is directed away from the learning process, thereby interfering with optimal school performance and age-appropriate psychosocial development (Compas & Hammen, 1994; Kovacs, 1997). Within the Australian context, it is estimated that anywhere from 15% to 40% of adolescent school children could potentially benet more from their education in both the social and academic domain if they were more psychologically resilient (Cunningham & Walker, 1999; Dadds, Spence, Holland, Barrett, & Laurens, 1997; Roberts, 1999; Shochet & Osgarby, 1999). These gures are matched in other Western communities such as the United States and the United Kingdom. Additionally, many more students might benet at some time in the future if they acquired a wider range of skills and competencies to enable them to respond to future stressful and challenging situations in ways that protected their own emotional well-being. As a consequence of the World Health Organisations recent prediction that depression would be the second leading cause of disability by the year 2020, the need to promote mental health in society is receiving increasing attention at state, national, and international levels. The growing awareness of the long-term negative consequences of psychosocial factors on childrens development has resulted in governments increasingly looking to schools as settings for promoting resilience in young people. For example, the Department of Education, Victoria (1998a, 1998b) outlined new policies for student welfare support in schools that entailed a major shift in the roles of school psychologists, counsellors and welfare workers. The shift was from a primarily individual service delivery approach to a prevention approach that targets a whole population or class group. This prevention approach now accounts for over one-half of the total service delivery. The focus of prevention is on building resiliency in students through programmes that foster adaptive coping skills (Department of Education, Victoria, 1998b). The critical role of teachers in the socialemotional development of students in their care is also stressed (Department of Education, Victoria, 1999). Nevertheless, relatively few programmes redressing emotional well-being are available for implementation in school settings (Roberts, 1999).

Coping Skills Training for Adolescents at School


Examples of how psychology theory can be translated into practice are reected in school-based programmes. However, many of these are not well evaluated (Durlak & Wells, 1997; Roth, Brooks-Gunn, Murray, & Foster, 1998). Ideally, such programmes need to be embedded in the organisation within which the target group is located (Reiss & Price, 1996). A unique example of how this might be achieved is reected in the recent work of Cunningham, Brandon, and Frydenberg (1999, 2000) in the pre-adolescent area. They report a team approach in which school psychologists/counsellors and classroom teachers implemented an optimistic thinking skills programme for whole class groups. This approach also combined the skills of school psychologists/counsellors and their familiarity with the principles of cognitivebehavioural approaches, together with the teachers knowledge of students and their expertise in classroom management. Generally, young people who participated in the Programme reported increased control over their thoughts, feelings and behaviours, as well as greater utilisation of adaptive coping strategies and reduced reliance on maladaptive or dysfunctional coping strategies. These results support the validity of implementing low-cost programmes in early adolescence that promote emotional well-being for all students through utilising systems and structures that already exist. There is a growing recognition of a need for such programmes in the secondary school system since there is clear-cut evidence that young peoples non-productive coping strategies increase with age, particularly in the middle adolescent years (Frydenberg & Lewis, 1999a, 2000). Furthermore, it is the reported use of dysfunctional coping strategies (e.g., worry, self-blame, tension reduction, and ignoring the problem) that differentiates between poor and good copers in middle adolescence (Frydenberg & Lewis, 2002a). In summary, since there is growing evidence that youth are experiencing stress as never before (Diekstra, 1995), and given the growing rate of depression and suicide in young people, it is critical to address the associated and predisposing factors of these difculties. Rosenman (1998) argues that directing prevention programmes only towards high-risk individuals is ineffective. What is urgently needed is a set of programmes that reduce overall risk in the whole school population. Health and well-being are related to the development of psychosocial competence, aspects of which include optimistic thinking skills, utilisation of productive coping strategies, and reduced reliance on maladaptive coping responses. The studies reported in this paper employ an innovative and cost-effective model of programme implementation, reducing the overall risk of depression and other indices of psychological distress. This is only likely to be achieved through low-cost, non-intrusive, school-based programmes. The programme being evaluated in this paper aims to enhance the coping resources of young people within an environment that is already part of their lives. The programme is embedded within existing structures, which include the curriculum as the primary planning and organisational unit of school systems. The longer-term success and viability of any universal preventative programme facilitating emotional well-being may ultimately depend upon the extent to


E. Frydenberg et al.

which such programmes can be integrated into the core curriculum practices of schools (Elias, 1991). As stated earlier, the specic aim of the current study is the evaluation of the effectiveness of a secondary student coping programme. The Programme The Best of Coping (BOC) (Frydenberg & Brandon, 2002)is unique in that it builds on previous research using the Adolescent Coping Scale (ACS) (Frydenberg & Lewis, 1993) and takes into account the ndings from a longitudinal study using the ACS (Frydenberg & Lewis, 2000) and the relationship between well-being and coping (Frydenberg & Lewis, 2002b). The Programme integrates cognitivebehavioural skills and operational components of the 18 conceptual areas of coping identied by the ACS. It consists of 10 one-hour weekly sessions. Core elements of the Programme include teaching skills that enhance optimistic thinking, effective communication, adaptive problem-solving, decision-making, goal setting and time management. The foundations for the research on coping are based on the theory of coping articulated by Lazarus and the Berkeley group (Lazarus, 1991), and the extension of this work into the Australian context (Cunningham, Brandon, & Frydenberg, 1999, 2000; Frydenberg & Lewis, 1993, 1996, 1999a). In Lazarus model of coping, the concept of cognitive appraisal is an intrinsic component of the coping process. When faced with events, an individual rst asks What is at stake? (primary appraisal) and, second, What are the resources available to me? (secondary appraisal). It is the coping resources that are being developed in a coping skills programme. Responses to these two questions inuence the coping actions that individuals employ. While the Lazarus (1991) conceptualisation has generally been categorised as problemfocused and emotion-focused, there is no judgement inferred about peoples coping actions. However, in the coping literature, much of the discussion of the use of some emotion-focused coping strategies has emphasised their maladaptive nature. This paper discusses the results of four studies (Study 14) that have examined the impact of the BOC Programme on students coping skills in two secondary school settings. The rst two studies that will be briey reported support, in part, the benets of the Programme, particularly for the at risk group of students. The third and fourth studies, which will be discussed in more detail, evaluate the Programme in a junior high school on two occasions, two years apart, and highlight the need to ensure delity when implementing the Programme.

Method The methodology adopted in this investigation involves utilising adolescents changes in responses using a coping survey instrument, namely ACS, as outcomes of an intervention, in this case the school-based delivery of the BOC Programme.

Coping Skills Training for Adolescents at School The Instrument


The ACS, which was used both as part of the Programme and as a pre-programme and post-programme measure, was the main evaluative tool for each of the studies reported here. The scale consists of 80 questions, 79 of which elicit ratings of an individuals use of 18 coping strategies, plus a nal openended question. Scores on the scales can be expressed as percentages so that the respondents preferred coping styles can be readily compared (for counselling purposes) to populations reported in the manual and the literature. The items on the ACS comprise 18 different scales, each containing between three and ve items, and each reecting a different coping response. The 18 scales, with exemplars, are described in Figure 1. Each item in the scale, with the exception of the nal one, describes a specic coping response, be it a behaviour or a mind set (e.g., Talk to others to see what they would do if they had the problem). The last item (Item 80) asks students to write down anything they do to cope, other than those things described in the preceding 79 items. To record their responses, students indicate if the coping behaviour described was used a great deal, often, sometimes, very little or doesnt apply or dont use it (no usage), by circling the numbers 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1, respectively. All scales are reliable with a median Cronbach alpha gure of 0.70. The stability of responses as measured by testretest reliability coefcients range from 0.44 to 0.81 and are in general moderate, but nevertheless satisfactory given the dynamic nature of coping. In addition to providing an assessment of 18 coping strategies, the ACS allows for combining scales to produce measures of three empirically defensible coping styles based on factor analysis (Frydenberg & Lewis, 1996). These three coping styles or domains referred to in this study are: 1. Solving the problem, which comprises eight coping strategies (seek social support, focus on solving the problem, physical recreation, seek relaxing diversions, invest in close friends, seek to belong, work hard and achieve, and focus on the positive). This style represents coping characterised by working at a problem while remaining optimistic, t, relaxed and socially connected. 2. Reference to others, which contains four strategies (seek social support, seek spiritual support, seek professional help, and social action) can be characterised by turning to others for support whether they be peers, professionals or deities. 3. Non-productive coping, comprises eight strategies (worry, seek to belong, wishful thinking, not cope, ignore the problem, tension reduction, keep to self, and self-blame). These primarily reect a combination of what may be termed non-productive, avoidance strategies that are empirically associated with an inability to cope. These second order factors, known as coping styles, all have reliabilities exceeding 0.80 (Frydenberg & Lewis, 1996). When examining the impact of the programme, it is noted that three of the four


E. Frydenberg et al.

1: Seek Social Support is represented by items that indicate an inclination to share the problem with others and enlist support in its management (e.g., Talk to other people to help me sort it out). 2: Focus On Solving The Problem is a problem-focused strategy that tackles the problem systematically by learning about it and takes into account different points of view or options (e.g., Work at solving the problem to the best of my ability). 3: Work Hard And Achieve is a strategy describing commitment, ambition (achieve well) and industry (e.g., Work hard). 4: Worry is characterised by items that indicate a concern about the future in general terms or more specically concern with happiness in the future. e.g., Worry about what is happening 5: Invest In Close Friends is about engaging in a particular intimate relationship (e.g., Spend more time with boy/girl friend). 6: Seek To Belong indicates a caring and concern for ones relationship with others in general and more specically concern with what others think, e.g. (Improve my relationship with others). 7: Wishful Thinking is characterised by items based on hope and anticipation of a positive outcome (e.g., Hope for the best). 8: Social Action is about letting others know what is of concern and enlisting support by writing petitions or organising an activity such as a meeting or a rally (e.g., Join with people who have the same concern). 9: Tension Reduction is characterised by items that reect an attempt to make oneself feel better by releasing tension (e.g., Make myself feel better by taking alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs). 10: Not Cope consists of items that reect the individuals inability to deal with the problem and the development of psychosomatic symptoms (e.g., I have no way of dealing with the situation). 11: Ignore The Problem is characterised by items that reect a conscious blocking out of the problem and resignation coupled with an acceptance that there is no way of dealing with it (e.g., Ignore the problem). 12: Self-Blame indicates that an individual sees themselves as responsible for the concern or worry (e.g., Accept that I am responsible for the problem). 13: Keep To Self is characterised by items that reect the individuals withdrawal from others and wish to keep others from knowing about concerns (e.g., Keep my feelings to myself). 14: Seek Spiritual Support is characterised by items that reect prayer and belief in the assistance of a spiritual leader or Lord (e.g., Pray for help and guidance so that everything will be all right). 15: Focus On The Positive is represented by items that indicate a positive and cheerful outlook on the current situation. This includes seeing the bright side of circumstances and seeing oneself as fortunate (e.g., Look on the bright side of things and think of all that is good). 16: Seek Professional Help denotes the use of a professional adviser, such as a teacher or counsellor (e.g., Discuss the problem with qualied people). 17: Seek Relaxing Diversions is about relaxation in general rather than about sport. It is characterised by items that describe leisure activities such as reading and painting (e.g., Find a way to relax, for example, listen to music, read a book, play a musical instrument, watch TV). 18: Physical Recreation is characterised by items that relate to playing sport and keeping t (e.g., Keep t and healthy)

Figure 1. The conceptual areas of coping

Coping Skills Training for Adolescents at School


studies considered in this investigation reported only coping styles as the outcomes. Only one reported the impact of the intervention on both styles and strategies. The styles, as dened, provide insights into the effectiveness of the intervention since two of them highlight Productive (i.e., desirable) coping responses, and Non-productive (i.e., undesirable) coping responses. Due to their empirically supported relationship with well-being and dysfunction, respectively (Frydenberg & Lewis, 1999b), these outcomes are most appropriate for establishing the effectiveness of a coping intervention. Despite the validity of these measures, the evaluation is to some extent limited. This is because styles, as dened earlier, comprise a number of strategies. For example, Solving the Problem (Productive coping) is dened as keeping t and being socially connected while focusing on the positive and attempting to solve the problem. It is possible that a programme may impact some of these strategies while not affecting or even reducing reliance on others within the style. Therefore, using the style as an outcome may mask the success of a programme. In summary, consideration of styles as a criterion variable may be seen as a limitation of the current investigation. The second limitation relates to the use of a self-report survey inventory. The validity of any selfreport as a measure of behaviour cannot be assumed. Despite these reservations, as noted earlier, the scales have good indicators of both reliability and validity (Frydenberg & Lewis, 1993, 1996, 1999b). A further limitation of the analysis that has implications for generalisation relates to the observation that the four studies reported involved only two settings. Caution when generalising to other settings needs to be exercised. The Programme The principle that underscores the BOC Programme is that we can all do what we do better. If we do not like how we cope in certain contexts we can learn new strategies. It is possible to enhance and develop ones coping if we have a framework within which to do that. The ACS, with its 18 conceptual areas of coping, provides a framework and language with which individuals and groups can obtain their coping prole and make changes in their coping practices. Thus, the ACS provides the underpinning of this coping skills programme. Session 1 of the BOC Programme provides an introduction to the theoretical framework and language of coping that is rst introduced by the ACS and that is utilised in many of the subsequent sessions. Session 2 on Good Thinking helps young people become aware of the ways in which they can change how they think and, subsequently, how they appraise events (positively or negatively), and how they cope. Session 3 has an emphasis on what not to do. The evidence is emerging very clearly that when it comes to coping it is important to teach young people what not to do as much as what to do. It is the use of the non-productive coping strategies such as worry, self-blame and tension reduction that is most readily associated with depression (Cunningham & Walker, 1999). Session 4 emphasises communication skills that play an import-


E. Frydenberg et al.

ant part in effective interactions. Asking for help depends on the capacity to communicate effectively. The next six sessions (Problem Solving, Making Decisions, Goal Setting, Goal Getting, Aiming High and Time Management) provide an essential set of skills for high school students. Appendix 1 outlines in brief the focus and content of the 10 sessions. Study 1 In this study the impact of the Programme was assessed on Year 10 students (1617 years old) in a Melbourne co-educational high school (Luscombe-Smith, 2000). The sample consisted of 83 students (39 males, 44 females). All students participated in the Programme and there was no control group. The Programme was implemented across the entire year level by a registered psychologist/counsellor as part of the students pastoral care programme. All participants completed the ACS on three occasions; prior to programme implementation, one week after programme completion, and six months after programme completion. The results indicated a signicant increase in the coping style Reference to Others, with males increasing their use of this coping style more than females upon completion of the Programme. No other signicant changes in coping were noted. Study 2 The second study to be discussed was undertaken by Bugalski and Frydenberg (2000), and used the same sample of students as in Study 1. This study only investigated the students scores on the ACS on two occasions; prior to programme implementation and one week after programme completion. Consequently, there were fewer students who needed to be excluded due to incomplete data sets. The total number of students utilised in the study was 113 (57 males, 56 females). The students of interest in this study were those deemed to be at risk. Such a rating came from scores on the Childrens Attribution Styles Questionnaire (CASQ) (Seligman, 1995) and the Perceived Control of Internal States Questionnaire (PCIS) (Pallant, 1998). Scores on these two scales were both divided into three groups, thus producing low, middle and high scoring groups. Students scoring in the low range for both the PCIS (3246) and the CASQ ( 7 to 2) were deemed to be at risk (n 22). Those students scoring in the high range for both the PCIS (5165) and the CASQ (417.5) were deemed resilient and were labelled the resilient group (n 23). Those remaining students who had some combination of scores other than those already stated were considered intermediate and were named the main group (n 68). The at risk group consisted of students considered to be at risk for depression. The 22 students who comprised this group were approximately 20% of the sample. Kosky (1994) suggests that 1% of Australian school-aged children suffer from major depression and 14% of children show milder degrees of depression. These gures concur with the ndings of this study, as it is probable that not all students vulnerable to depression will manifest

Coping Skills Training for Adolescents at School


symptoms. The resilient group consisted of students considered to be resistant to the development of depression. The 23 students in this group constituted approximately 20% of the sample. No research to date offers information about the incidence of resilience in a normal population of children. Sixtyeight students made up a third group of students considered to be in the middle range (i.e., not particularly vulnerable, yet not resistant to depression). After participating in the BOC Programme, a decrease in Non-productive coping was found in the at risk group, while Non-productive coping increased in the resilient and main groups. The mean scores for Reference to Others coping indicated an overall increase across all subgroups. Once again mean scores for Productive (emotion-focused) coping indicated an increase in this coping style for the at risk and main groups, and a decrease for the resilient group. The mean scores for Productive (problem-focused) coping indicate a decrease in this style of coping across all subgroups. Changes in coping style due to programme exposure showed some differences between males and females. Females appeared to benet from the Programme due to a small decrease in Non-productive coping, while males appeared to increase in this type of coping style. The females also appeared to increase their use of Productive (emotion-focused) coping, while males decreased this type of behaviour. Both groups appeared to benet from the programme by increasing their use of Reference to Others coping; however, the males showed a signicantly greater increase than the females. The slight changes in Productive, problem-focused coping style did not differ between the genders. Bugalski and Frydenberg (2000) report in summary that there was evidence for the benets of the Programme in the decreases in Non-Productive responses for the at risk group; however, the resilient group appeared to increase their use of this type of coping style. The considerable gain in Reference to Others coping was similar for both the at risk and resilient groups. Both Studies 1 and 2 were focused at the Year 10 level and used a facilitator who was unfamiliar to the student participants. It has been suggested that interventions should be offered to students by the time they reach Year 9/10, since that is the age when there is a signicant increase in usage of Non-productive coping strategies (Frydenberg & Lewis, 2000). Nevertheless, it is important to consider the benets of the coping skills programme for differing age cohorts. The following two studies were conducted in the same school on two occasions, two years apart. On both occasions the Programme was presented by the schools own teachers. Study 3 Participants A sample of 88 Year 7 students (49 males, 39 females) was recruited from a secondary school in a western suburb of Melbourne, Australia. This school was willing to implement the BOC Programme as part of


E. Frydenberg et al.

Table 1. Descriptive statistics for dependent variables for pre-test (Time 1) and post-test (Time 2) for intervention and control groups (Study 3) Intervention group Variable Productive coping Time 1 Time 2 Non-productive coping Time 1 Time 2 Reference to Others Time 1 Time 2 Self-efcacy Time 1 Time 2 Mean (standard deviation) n Control group Mean (standard deviation) n

70.30 (12.1) 71.54 (11.1) 58.73 (13.3) 51.84 (11.7) 49.54 (17.3) 47.81 (17.5) 47.77 (9.6) 53.17 (7.5)

43 30 43 33 43 32 39 35

66.96 (10.3) 65.78 (8.4) 46.98 (8.8) 47.55 (9.9) 39.39 (12.5) 35.75 (8.8) 52.93 (6.5) 50.65 (5.9)

45 27 45 33 45 31 40 31

pastoral care curriculum. The students ages ranged from 11 years 11 months to 13 years 10 months. Two classes (43 students) participated in the Programme and two classes (45 students) were used as a control group. After the Programme, participant numbers were reduced to 75, as a result of school absenteeism. Procedure Prior to programme implementation, teachers consulted with the school psychologist regarding the content of the Programme as well as various strategies for introducing the different concepts outlined in the Programme. Both the teacher and the school psychologist were together in the classroom and conducted the BOC Programme as a team. The intervention and control groups were chosen according to time tabling considerations; that is, where the teachers were available to teach the groups at the same time, or on the same day, they became the intervention groups. The ACS was administered to both the intervention and control group participants in similar classroom conditions, prior to the Programme being conducted (Cotta, Frydenberg, & Poole, 2000). The students participating in the BOC Programme had one-hour sessions every week for 10 weeks while the control group did not receive the Programme. These sessions were within school hours as part of the pastoral care subject that students were required to do as part of the school curriculum. The control group continued with their regular pastoral care programme. At the completion of the Programme, the ACS and PCIS were administered to both the intervention and control groups. Results As reported in Cotta et al. (2000), due to the nature of sampling, the intervention and control groups differed to some extent on the pre-test (see Table 1).

Coping Skills Training for Adolescents at School


Table 2. Gains of intervention and control groups from occasion 1 to occasion 2 for dependent variables and t-tests of the differences (Study 3) Variable Gain Intervention group Productive coping Non-productive coping Reference to Others Self-efcacy ** p .01 0.65 7.38 0.64 5.34 Control group 0.43 2.05 2.67 2.89 0.16 9.43 2.03 8.24 55 64 61 64 0.87 3.21** 0.69 2.94** Difference Degrees of freedom t

Consequently an analysis of gains was conducted. The gains of the Intervention and Control groups from pre-test to post-test are presented in Table 2. The changes from pre-test to post-test showed some dramatic differences for the intervention and the control groups. The slight gain in Productive Coping in the intervention group was similar to that in the control group, so this difference proved to be non-signicant. There was evidence, however, of the benets of the Programme in the strong lift in Self-efcacy for the intervention group contrasting with a slight fall in these scores for the control group. This difference was clearly statistically signicant. Non-productive coping fell sharply in the intervention group while the control group showed something of an opposite trend. This difference was statistically signicant. The third style of coping, Reference to Others, showed some tendency to fall in both groups, so there was no signicant difference between the intervention and control groups on this variable. No gender-related analyses were reported. Cotta et al. (2000) continued the analysis, reporting changes in various strategies that composed the coping styles. These results are reported in Table 3, which includes values for t-test analyses for related samples that were conducted on pre-scores and post-scores for each of the 18 subscales of the ACS. Inspection of the data in Table 3 indicates that there are many more signicant differences, pre-test to post-test, on the 18 strategies for the intervention group compared with the control group. The intervention group showed signicant drops in the utilisation of strategies such as worry (P 0.01), seek to belong (P 0.05), wishful thinking (P 0.01), not cope (P 0.01), keep to self (P 0.01), spiritual support (P 0.05), and, probably most importantly, self-blame (P 0.001). In contrast the control group shows a signicant increase in self-blame (P 0.05), although decreases on work hard (P 0.05) and social action (P 0.05). Study 4 Participants Two years later a second study was conducted in the same metropolitan high school (McCarthy, 2001). The 235 students were in intact


E. Frydenberg et al.

Table 3. Gains of intervention and control groups from occasion 1 to occasion 2 for coping strategies and t-tests of the differences (Study 3) Coping strategy Gain Difference EC C 0.41 0.00 4.76 0.76 2.11 3.06 0.39 3.68 0.11 4.56 3.24 7.08 0.14 0.54 0.61 2.36 0.00 0.19 3.70 5.22 4.97 8.00 2.01 3.83 9.48 11.89 3.44 2.64 7.43 17.35 8.51 5.80 3.44 2.78 1.29 1.33 67 71 73 72 70 70 71 73 70 68 72 72 70 73 68 70 71 71 0.87 1.21 1.93 2.04* 0.57 0.98 2.08* 3.18** 1.23 0.73 1.72 3.79*** 2.04* 1.57 0.84 0.68 0.33 0.49 Degrees of freedom t

E Seek social support Focus on solving problem Work hard and achieve Worry Invest in close friends Seek to belong Wishful thinking Not coping Tension reduction Social action Ignore the problem Self-blame Keep to self Seek spiritual help Focus on the positive Seek professional help Seek relaxing diversions Physical recreation * p .05 ** p .01 *** p .001 4.11 5.22 0.21 8.76 0.11 6.89 9.86 8.21 3.33 1.92 4.19 10.26 8.65 5.26 2.84 0.42 1.29 1.14

classes in Year 7. The intervention group comprised 179 students (98 males, 81, females) while the control group numbered 56 (35 males, 21 females). Their ages ranged from 11 years 11 months to 13 years 10 months. Procedure Again the school implemented the BOC Programme as part of its pastoral care curriculum, administered by the schools pastoral care teachers. As reported earlier the teachers and the school psychologist jointly implemented the Programme. In Study 4 three teachers and a school psychologist were trained in the techniques of conducting the Programme by an external psychologist during a two-day inservice training sessions. The three teachers and the school psychologist then trained the remaining 10 pastoral care teachers in a one-day inservice session, employing a more condensed form of the training that they had received. There were 13 pastoral care classes to which students were randomly assigned at the beginning of the year. At the beginning of the second term, all 13 classes were administered the ACS by the researcher over a two-day period, due to the large number of classes. This served as the pre-test for this experiment. From here 10 of the 13 classes began the Programme, with the

Coping Skills Training for Adolescents at School


Table 4. Means and standard deviations of Productive coping and Non-productive coping of the intervention and control groups over time (Study 4) Intervention Mean Productive coping Time 1 Time 2 Non-productive coping Time 1 Time 2 Standard deviation Mean Control Standard deviation

73.75 72.09

9.7 1.2

73.45 72.92

8.5 8.8

52.97 51.53

10.5 10.7

53.30 54.23

8.0 9.6

remaining three classes commencing the Programme in the third term. As such, the 10 classes were considered to be the intervention group while the latter three classes were used as the control group even though they eventually participated in the Programme. During the rst week of the third term, approximately four weeks after the conclusion of the Programme for the intervention group and one week before the commencement for the control group, the post-test ACS was administered to the participants. Results Inspection of data in Table 4 indicates that the intervention group decreased in Non-productive coping while the control group increased. These changes, however, were statistically non-signicant. In contrast, Productive coping appeared relatively unchanged in both the control and the intervention groups. No gender differences were reported. In order to investigate whether there was any signicant effect of class membership on coping, among the 10 classes that comprised the intervention group, a repeated measures multiple analysis of variance was conducted. In this analysis, class was a between-subjects factor and Productive coping and Nonproductive coping were dependent factors. A signicant main effect was found for class (P 0.05) and for class over time (P 0.05). The univariate effects indicated that the signicant effect of class was carried by both Productive coping (P 0.05) and Non-productive coping (P 0.05). Consequently it can be argued that the effect of a programme depended upon the class and the trainer.

Discussion This paper presented evaluations of a school-based coping skills programme in two settings. In the rst setting (Study 1 and Study 2) the Programme was run at a Metropolitan high school as part of the Year 10 curriculum. Results for


E. Frydenberg et al.

this group showed a signicant increase in Reference to Others coping post Programme, for all groups. The at risk group appeared to show a decrease in the use of Non-productive coping post Programme, in comparison with the resilient group. In the second setting (Study 3 and Study 4), through collaboration between school staff and either a school psychologist or counsellor, a total of 323 adolescents were recruited from a Melbourne high school and divided into intervention and control groups, with the intervention group receiving the Programme. In Study 3, results showed signicant decreases in Nonproductive coping for the intervention group post Programme (as well as a trend indicating increases in Productive coping). In particular, a decrease was noted in adolescents use of worry, seek to belong, wishful thinking, not cope, keep to self, spiritual support and, probably most importantly, self-blame. In contrast, the control group showed a signicant increase in self-blame, although decreases on work hard and social action were noted. In summary, the intervention appeared to be successful in reducing reliance on strategies generally labelled elsewhere as maladaptive (Frydenberg & Lewis, 2000, 2002b). In contrast, the results of Study 4 indicate no signicant impact of the same programme in the same school, two years later. While in two studies gender differences in Reference to Others and Non-productive coping were noted, gender was not considered in the other two studies. When gender differences were reported, however, male participants in the Programme appeared to increase their usage of Reference to Others while females decreased their usage. The opposite occurred for Non-productive coping. Consequently, it is highly recommended that any evaluation of a coping skills programme needs to examine its differential impact upon males and females. This is particularly important as ignoring the possibility of opposite effects on males and females may underestimate the programmes impact. It is important for teachers and instructors to be conscious of the differential ways in which programmes might benet boys and girls and the need to adapt both the content and the process to their particular needs. In general, the ndings provide modest support for the value of the BOC Programme for students, particularly those at risk. However, the results of Study 4 appeared to indicate a potential problem related to the implementation of the Programme. In Study 3, where the psychologist was actively involved in the teaching of the Programme together with the classroom teachers, and in which all teachers conducting the Programme were trained by the psychologist, the Programme appeared to have had maximum impact. In contrast, in Study 4 only three of the 13 pastoral care teachers conducting the Programme were trained by the psychologist. They in turn trained the remaining 10 pastoral care teachers. A further difference can be noted between the training offered to teachers in Studies 3 and 4. In the former all teachers received two days training, in the latter three teachers received one day inservice and the remaining 10 received approximately a half-day.

Coping Skills Training for Adolescents at School Implications for Applied Practice


This study clearly indicates that where teachers together with psychologists are involved in the delivery of the Programme to students it was most successful. Every teacher can play an important role in prevention and early intervention programmes and activities that strengthen the resilience of students as they learn and develop. However, it would seem that there is a need for ongoing support for teachers if the benets are to be maximised. Student welfare is the responsibility of all staff working in a school context. Each teacher has a vital role (to play) as a source of support, in turn determining the success of their students. The most signicant amount of students time, apart from family, is spent with teachers who are often a most important adult connectionthe rst contact point for many issues and services. Teachers know that the social and emotional issues of students that emerge during the course of their schooling have great impact upon the community and can create serious, ongoing problems. Thus, any programme that can contribute to social emotional well-being is desirable. Nevertheless, careful consideration needs to be given to the delivery of such programmes. In particular, the implications of the data reported is that teachers require adequate preparation and the ongoing support of guidance and counselling personnel in order to ensure successful programme implementation. The framework policy documents issued by the Department of Education, Victoria (1998a, 1998b, 1999) emphasise a whole school approach to building resiliency in young people through programmes and strategies that foster adaptive coping skills to enable students to better deal with difcult issues, including depression, self-harm and substance abuse. Specically, the effectiveness of coping skills is signicant in how young people cope with stress and adversity. There is clear evidence that having effective coping and problemsolving skills lessens the risk of depression in the face of negative life events. Thus, the current series of studies is consistent with policies at the national and state level that recognise that proactive programmes, and approaches are urgently needed to redress the high levels of emotional distress experienced by many young people in schools. The results from the Programme support the feasibility of implementing low-cost, non-intrusive programmes utilising systems and structures already in place. Schools and school communities are urgently seeking ways of enhancing resiliency in young people. Hence implementation and evaluation of programmes grounded rmly upon theoretical principles that enhance coping skills in the school context are of paramount importance. Universal school-based intervention programmes promoting resilience in young people through utilising resources already available within the communities are scarce. The BOC model of programme implementation is innovative and cost-effective, and ensures that the Programme is owned and embedded within educational communities. The latter factor is deemed essential for any longer-term effectiveness of prevention programmes (Elias, 1991; Reiss & Price, 1996).


E. Frydenberg et al.

Bugalski, K., & Frydenberg, E. (2000). Promoting effective coping in adolescents at-risk for depression. Australian Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 10, 111132. Compas, B. E., & Hammen, C. L. (1994). Child and adolescent depression: Covariation and comorbidity in development. In R. J. Haggerty, L. R. Sherrod, N. Garmezy, & M. Rutter (Eds.), Stress, risk, and resilience in children and adolescents: Processes, mechanisms, and interventions (pp. 225267). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cotta, A., Frydenberg, E., & Poole, C. (2000). Coping skills training for adolescents at school. The Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 17, 103116. Cunningham, E. G., & Walker, G. (1999). Screening for at-risk youth: Predicting adolescent depression from coping styles. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 9, 1524. Cunningham, E. G., Brandon, C. M., & Frydenberg, E. (1999). Building resilience in early adolescence through a universal school-based prevention programme. Australian Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 9, 3747. Cunningham, E. G., Brandon, C. M., & Frydenberg, E. (2000). The development of coping resources in pre-adolescence within the context of the whole-school curriculum. East Lansing, MI: Resources in Education (ERIC Document Reproduction Services No. CG029974). Dadds, M. R., Spence, S. H., Holland, D. E., Barrett, P. M., & Laurens, K. R. (1997). Prevention and early intervention for anxiety disorders: A controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 627635. Department of Education, Victoria (1998a). Framework for student support services in Victorian government schools. Melbourne: Department of Education, Victoria. Department of Education, Victoria (1998b). Framework for student support services in Victorian government schools: Professional development support materials. Melbourne: Department of Education, Victoria. Department of Education, Victoria (1999). Framework for student support services in Victorian government schools: Teacher resource. Melbourne: Department of Education, Victoria. Diekstra, R. F. (1995). Depression and suicidal behaviours in adolescence: Sociocultural and time trends. In M. Rutter (Ed.), Psychosocial disturbances in young people (pp. 212 247). New York: Cambridge University Press. Durlak, J. A., & Wells, A. M. (1997). Primary prevention mental health porgrams for children and adolescents: A meta-analytic review. American Journal of Community Psychology, 25, 115152. Elias, M. J. (1991). A multilevel action-research perspective on stress-related interventions. In M. E. Colten, & S. Gore (Eds.), Adolescent stress: Causes and consequences (pp. 261 279). New York: Walter de Gruyter. Frydenberg, E., & Brandon, C. M. (2002). The best of coping. Melbourne: Oz Child. Frydenberg. E., & Lewis, R. (1993). Manual: The Adolescent Coping Scale. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research. Frydenberg. E., & Lewis, R. (1996). The Adolescent Coping Scale: Multiple forms and applications of a self report inventory in a counselling and research context. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 12, 216227. Frydenberg, E., & Lewis, R. (1999a). Things dont get better just because youre older: A case for facilitating reection. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 69, 8194. Frydenberg, E., & Lewis, R. (1999b). The Adolescent Coping Scale: Construct Validity and what the instrument tells us. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 9, 1936. Frydenberg. E., & Lewis, R. (2000). Coping with stresses and concerns during adolescence: A longitudinal study. American Educational Research Journal, 37, 727745. Frydenberg. E., & Lewis, R. (2002a). Concomitants of failure to cope: What we should teach adolescents about coping. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 72, 419443.

Coping Skills Training for Adolescents at School


Frydenberg, E., & Lewis, R. (2002b). Adolescent well-being: Building young peoples resources. In E. Frydenberg (Ed.), Beyond coping: Meeting goals, vision and challenges (pp. 175194). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kosky, R. (1994). Children, adolescents and depression. Mental Health in Australia, 6, 911. Kovacs, M. (1997). Depressive disorders in childhood: An impressionistic landscape. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38, 287298. Lazarus, R. S. (1991). Emotion and adaption. New York: Oxford University Press. Luscombe-Smith, N. (2000). Effectiveness of a school based coping skills programme on adolescents use of productive coping styles and locus of control. Unpublished masters thesis, University of Melbourne, Melbourne. Matheny, K. B., Aycock, D. W., & McCarthy, C. J. (1993). Stress in school-aged children and youth. Educational Psychology Review, 5, 109134. McCarthy, K. (2001). Assessing the effectiveness of Bright LivesBest of Coping programme in adolescents across three secondary schools in Melbourne. Master of Educational Psychology Thesis, University of Melbourne (submitted). Pallant, J. F. (1998). Development and evaluation of a multidimensional, multidomain inventory to measure perceived control of internal states. Unpublished doctoral thesis, Monash University, Melbourne. Reiss, D., & Price, R. H. (1996). National research agenda for prevention research: The National Institute of Mental Health report. American Psychologist, 51, 11091115. Roberts, C. M. (1999). The prevention of depression in children and adolescents. Australian Psychologist, 34, 4957. Rosenman, S. J. (1998). Preventing suicide: what will work and what will not. Medical Journal of Australia, 169, 100102. Roth, J., Brooks-Gunn, J., Murray, L., & Foster, W. (1998). Promoting healthy adolescents: Synthesis of youth development programme evaluations, Journal of Research on Adolescence, 8, 423459. Seligman, M. E. (1995). The optimistic child. NSW: Random House Australia. Shochet, I., & Osgarby, S. (1999). The Resourceful Adolescent Project: Building psychological resilience in adolescents and their parents. The Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 16, 4364.

Appendix 1.The Best of Coping: Developing Coping Skills

Outlines of Sessions Module 1: Map of coping. Looks at how each of us deals (or copes) with difcult situations, problems or worries and explores different coping strategies. Module 2: Good thinking. The aim is to understand the connection between thoughts and feelings and to learn to evaluate and change thinking. Module 3: Heading down the wrong track: Strategies that dont help. Looks at some Non-productive coping strategies that people use and to explores some helpful alternatives Module 4: Getting along with others. The session focuses on how to get our messages across and how to listen to messages from others Module 5: Asking for help. Explores the links we have with family and friends Module 6: Problem solving. Teaches the steps of problem-solving and provides practice in using them Module 7: Making decisions. Teaches how to explore options to make good decisions Module 8: Goal setting. Teaches the relationship between goals and achievement and explores goals for the participants own future


E. Frydenberg et al.

Module 9: Goal getting. Discover the elements of effective goal setting and how to write detailed goals Module 10: Managing time. Teaches participants how to evaluate their time and to learn to manage it in an effective way