Studies suggest that 5 to 14 percent of Canadian children (5 to 12 years old) have one or more anxiety disorders (Romano, Tremblay, Vitaro, Zoccolillo, & Pagani, 2001; Willms, 2002), and as such, problems with anxiety are the most prevalent psychological conditions affecting this age group (Malcarne & Hansdottir, 2001; Pollock, Rosenbaum, Marrs, Miller, & Biederman, 1995). Theory and empirical research (e.g., Aldwin, 2007; Sandler, Tein, Mehta, Wolchik, & Ayers, 2000) have recently focused on the role of coping strategies (i.e., the methods children use to manage everyday problems) and coping efficacy (i.e., perception of one’s own ability to deal with stressors) as two of the primary factors associated with the development and maintenance of problems with anxiety. Despite their potential importance, we continue to lack clarity regarding the interrelationships among coping strategies, coping efficacy, and anxiety due to empirical inconsistencies (e.g., Weems, Silverman, Rapee, & Pina, 2003), issues surrounding the instruments used to measure these constructs (e.g., Compas, Connor-Smith, Saltzman, Harding Thomsen, & Wadsworth, 2001), neglect of cross-cultural research (e.g., C. A. Essau, Aihara, Petermann, & Al Wiswasi, 2001), and a lack of comprehensive investigations of these constructs (e.g., Saavedra & Silverman, 2001).
Using structural equation modeling, the current study tested a model depicting the relationships among and between active, distraction, avoidance, and support seeking coping strategies and anxiety symptoms, as mediated by coping efficacy. A large sample of Canadian children (N = 506) aged 8 to 11 years (boys = 249, girls = 245, unknown sex = 12) participated in the study. Results partially supported hypotheses demonstrating that coping efficacy is a mediator of the relations between active coping strategies and anxiety symptoms. No support was found for coping efficacy as a mediator between the other coping strategies and anxiety.
This study contributes to the understanding of childhood anxiety by highlighting the importance of the relationship between anxiety and the methods children use to cope with stress and how perceptions of their coping abilities influence this relationship. Implications for the research, assessment, and treatment of childhood anxiety symptoms and suggestions for future research are discussed.