Reactive, anticipatory, preventive, and proactive coping: A theoretical distinction

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The transition to adulthood is a stressful period of life in which adolescents cope with various goals and demands. Many youth experience conflicts with peers and family members; they may experiment with smoking, alcohol, and drugs; and they may be faced with dietary problems, engage in sexually risky behavior, or drive recklessly. Educational and psychological interventions aim to prevent such risk behaviors. However, there is a difference between prevention and promotion (e.g., Nikitin & Freund, 2008). Coping to prevent adversity is different than coping to promote personal growth (proactive coping). Coping theory can account for this difference and can provide further perspectives that may facilitate the design of interventions (Schwarzer & Luszczynska, 2006). This article will differentiate proactive coping from preventive coping. It will also provide a broader scope by including reactive and anticipatory coping.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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ERA Access