Adaptive Coping with Stress

Scale: KIDCOPE – Child version

What it measures:

  • The frequency with which different coping strategies are used by a youth in response to stressors and the youth’s perceptions of their effectiveness.

Intended age range: 7- to 12-year-olds; an adolescent version is also available for use with 13- to 17-year-olds.

Brief description: The KIDCOPE (child version) asks about 11 different types of coping strategies, using 1 or 2 questions per strategy for a total of 15 questions. Four of the strategies asked about are approach-oriented and thus generally considered to be positive or adaptive (i.e., problem solving, positive emotion regulation, cognitive restructuring, seeking social support), whereas seven are escape-oriented and thus generally considered to be negative or maladaptive (i.e., distraction, negative emotion regulation, social withdrawal, wishful thinking, self-criticism, blaming others, resignation). Youth are asked to indicate both how often a particular coping strategy was used (i.e., frequency) and how much it helped (i.e., efficacy). Sample items include: “I tried to fix the problem by thinking of answers” (problem-solving) and “I just tried to forget it” (distraction). Frequency is assessed by asking youth whether they made use of each strategy (Yes or No); efficacy is assessed by asking youth to rate how helpful the strategy was (if used) on a 3-point scale: Not at all, A little, or A lot. Youth can be asked to self-identify a recent stressor to consider when responding to the questions on the measure or, alternatively, to consider a pre-identified type of stressor (e.g., a recent difficulty experienced in getting along with peers).

The adolescent version of the measure assesses the same coping strategies, but with fewer items (11); these items have a higher reading level and more refined response scales for ratings of frequency and efficacy.

Rationale: Numerous measures of coping exist for children and adolescents. Nearly all of these are quite lengthy and thus likely to be impractical for use by most mentoring programs. The KIDCOPE was selected based on its relative brevity, assessment of specific coping strategies, and promising evidence of reliability and validity. The child version of the measure was selected for primary consideration due to its greater overlap with the age range of youth served by most mentoring programs.

Cautions: Research indicates that the effectiveness of coping strategies used by youth may vary depending on the specific features of the stressor involved and the context in which it occurs. For example, although “approach” strategies generally have been found to be most helpful, some research suggests this may not necessarily be the case for urban youth who frequently confront violence and related types of stressors.

Special administration information: Careful consideration should be given to the stressor that youth are asked to consider in completing the measure. In many instances, it may be most appropriate to have each youth self-identify a stressor to ensure its relevance and personal importance. In these cases, the stressors that youth self-identify should be reviewed immediately after administration to determine whether any follow-up support or referral may be necessary; youth should be made aware of this possibility prior to completing the measure.

How to score: There are multiple options available for scoring the KIDCOPE. One of these is to consider each of the 11 assessed types of coping strategies separately. This approach may be desirable when there is interest in understanding the potential effects of a program on youths’ use of particular approaches to coping (e.g., problem-solving); however, the resulting scores will be less reliable (dependable) because they are each based on only 1 or 2 items. Alternatively, separate scores can be computed for positive and negative coping strategies by averaging across responses for the items that ask about each type of coping (as listed above). This approach provides distinct information about youths’ use of both “adaptive” and “maladaptive” coping strategies, while likely providing enhanced reliability of scores and thus sensitivity to potential program effects. Ratings of frequency and efficacy can be considered separately or in combination when scoring the KIDCOPE. The most straightforward approach is the former, in which frequency can be computed as to whether a coping strategy was used (when considering each separately) or the total number of strategies used within a given category (e.g., positive), and efficacy can be computed as the average of the ratings of helpfulness (0 for Not at all, 1 for A little and 2 for A lot) for those strategies endorsed.

How to interpret findings: Higher scores reflect greater reported use and/or perceived helpfulness of the indicated coping strategy or type of coping (e.g., positive or negative).

Access and permissions: This scale is available for non-commercial use with no charge and is made available here.

Alternatives: An overview of several widely used measures of coping for youth can be found here. These measures typically assess similar types of coping strategies to those asked about on the KIDCOPE, but do so with a greater number of items and thus are likely to offer enhanced reliability and sensitivity.

Citation: Spirito A., Stark L. J., & Williams, C. (1988). Development of a brief checklist to assess coping in pediatric patients. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 13, 555–574.

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