Skip to main content

Age-varying associations between coping and depressive symptoms throughout adolescence and emerging adulthood

  • Anna Vannucci (a1), Kaitlin M. Flannery (a1) (a2) and Christine McCauley Ohannessian (a1) (a3)

The objective of the current study was to apply the novel technique of time-varying effect modeling to examine age-varying associations between specific coping strategies and depressive symptoms across adolescence and emerging adulthood (ages 14–24). The participants were drawn from a community sample and followed across 4 years of high school and once 5 years postgraduation (N = 1,251, 53% female, 58% non-Hispanic White). Coping and depressive symptom questionnaires were administered across all data collection time points. Time-varying effect modeling used all available data (N = 5,651 measurement occasions) and adjusted for gender. Venting emotions and denial were associated with more depressive symptoms at a similar magnitude across adolescence and emerging adulthood. A positive association between problem solving oriented strategies (planning, active coping) and depressive symptoms was not observed until age 17.5, after which the magnitude of the association strengthened. More frequent instrumental and emotional support seeking were linked to fewer depressive symptoms between ages 18.8 and 23.6. More frequent use of humor was associated with greater depressive symptoms from ages 14.0 to 14.6, but with fewer depressive symptoms from ages 16.8 to 18.8. The findings illuminate when and how associations between specific coping strategies and depressive symptoms may emerge and change across developmental age, generating both theoretical and clinical implications.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Anna Vannucci, MCenter for Behavioral Health, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, 282 Washington Street, Hartford, CT 06106; E-mail:
Hide All

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health Grant K01-AA015059 (C.M.O., Principal Investigator). We thank all of the adolescents and parents who participated in this study. We also acknowledge the study staff for their unmatched dedication to the implementation and conduct of this project and thank Sarosh Khan and Sonja Gagnon for their invaluable assistance in preparing this manuscript.

Hide All
Abramson, L. Y., Metalsky, G. I., & Alloy, L. B. (1989). Hopelessness depression: A theory-based subtype of depression. Psychological Review, 96, 358372.
Aldao, A., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Schweizer, S. (2010). Emotion-regulation strategies across psychopathology: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 217237.
Amirkhan, J., & Auyeung, B. (2007). Coping with stress across the lifespan: Absolute vs. relative changes in strategy. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 28, 298317.
Arnett, J. J. (2015). Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Auerbach, R. P., Abela, J. R., Zhu, X., & Yao, S. (2010). Understanding the role of coping in the development of depressive symptoms: Symptom specificity, gender differences, and cross-cultural applicability. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 49, 547561.
Bastin, M., Mezulis, A. H., Ahles, J., Raes, F., & Bijttebier, P. (2015). Moderating effects of brooding and co-rumination on the relationship between stress and depressive symptoms in early adolescence: A multi-wave study. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43, 607618.
Beardslee, W. R., Gladstone, T. R., & O'Connor, E. E. (2012). Developmental risk of depression: Experience matters. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 21, 261278.
Beck, A. T., Brown, G., Steer, R. A., Eidelson, J. I., & Riskind, J. H. (1987). Differentiating anxiety and depression: A test of the cognitive content-specificity hypothesis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 96, 179183.
Best, J. R., & Miller, P. H. (2010). A developmental perspective on executive function. Child Development, 81, 16411660.
Blalock, J. A., & Joiner, T. E. Jr. (2000). Interaction of cognitive avoidance coping and stress in predicting depression/anxiety. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 24, 4765.
Brière, F. N., Janosz, M., Fallu, J.-S., & Morizot, J. (2015). Adolescent trajectories of depressive symptoms: Codevelopment of behavioral and academic problems. Journal of Adolescent Health, 57, 313319.
Burnett, S., & Blakemore, S. J. (2009). The development of adolescent social cognition. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1167, 5156.
Cairns, K. E., Yap, M. B. H., Pilkington, P. D., & Jorm, A. F. (2014). Risk and protective factors for depression that adolescents can modify: A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Journal of Affective Disorders, 169, 6175.
Calkins, A. W., McMorran, K. E., Siegle, G. J., & Otto, M. W. (2015). The effects of computerized cognitive control training on community adults with depressed mood. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 43, 578589.
Calmes, C. A., & Roberts, J. E. (2008). Rumination in interpersonal relationships: Does co-rumination explain gender differences in emotional distress and relationship satisfaction among college students? Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 577590.
Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Weintraub, J. K. (1989). Assessing coping strategies: A theoretically based approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 267283.
Chiang, C.-T., Rice, J. A., & Wu, C. O. (2001). Smoothing spline estimation for varying coefficient models with repeatedly measured dependent variables. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 96, 605619.
Cicognani, E. (2011). Coping strategies with minor stressors in adolescence: Relationships with social support, self-efficacy, and psychological well-being. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41, 559578.
Compas, B. E., Connor-Smith, J. K., Saltzman, H., Thomsen, A. H., & Wadsworth, M. E. (2001). Coping with stress during childhood and adolescence: Problems, progress, and potential in theory and research. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 87127.
Cristea, I. A., Kok, R. N., & Cuijpers, P. (2015). Efficacy of cognitive bias modification interventions in anxiety and depression: Meta-analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 206, 716.
Cuijpers, P., Geraedts, A. S., van Oppen, P., Andersson, G., Markowitz, J. C., & van Straten, A. (2011). Interpersonal psychotherapy for depression: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 168, 581592.
de Voogd, E. L., Wiers, R. W., Zwitser, R. J., & Salemink, E. (2016). Emotional working memory training as an online intervention for adolescent anxiety and depression: A randomised controlled trial. Australian Journal of Psychology, 68, 228238.
Domes, G., Schulze, L., Böttger, M., Grossmann, A., Hauenstein, K., Wirtz, P. H., … Herpertz, S. C. (2010). The neural correlates of sex differences in emotional reactivity and emotion regulation. Human Brain Mapping, 31, 758769.
Dozois, D. J., Martin, R. A., & Bieling, P. J. (2009). Early maladaptive schemas and adaptive/maladaptive styles of humor. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 33, 585596.
Dunbar, J. P., McKee, L., Rakow, A., Watson, K. H., Forehand, R., & Compas, B. E. (2013). Coping, negative cognitive style and depressive symptoms in children of depressed parents. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37, 1828.
Erickson, S. J., & Feldstein, S. W. (2007). Adolescent humor and its relationship to coping, defense strategies, psychological distress, and well-being. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 37, 255271.
Eskin, M., Ertekin, K., & Demir, H. (2008). Efficacy of a problem-solving therapy for depression and suicide potential in adolescents and young adults. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 227245.
Evans-Polce, R. J., Vasilenko, S. A., & Lanza, S. T. (2015). Changes in gender and racial/ethnic disparities in rates of cigarette use, regular heavy episodic drinking, and marijuana use: Ages 14 to 32. Addictive Behaviors, 41, 218222.
Fields, L., & Prinz, R. J. (1997). Coping and adjusment during childhood and adolescence. Clinical Psychology Review, 17, 937976.
Flannery, K. M., & Smith, R. L. (2016). The effects of age, gender, and gender role ideology on adolescents’ social perspective-taking ability and tendency in friendships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Advance online publication.
Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1980). An analysis of coping in a middle-aged community sample. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 21, 219239.
Frewen, P. A., Brinker, J., Martin, R. A., & Dozois, D. J. (2008). Humor styles and personality-vulnerability to depression. Humor, 21, 179195.
Galambos, N., Leadbeater, B., & Barker, E. (2004). Gender differences in and risk factors for depression in adolescence: A 4-year longitudinal study. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 28, 1625.
Garcia, C. (2010). Conceptualization and measurement of coping during adolescence: A review of the literature. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 42, 166185.
Garnefski, N., Legerstee, J., Kraaij, V., Van Den Kommer, T., & Teerds, J. A. N. (2002). Cognitive coping strategies and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A comparison between adolescents and adults. Journal of Adolescence, 25, 603611.
Garrison, C. Z., Addy, C. L., Jackson, K. L., McKeown, R. E., & Waller, J. L. (1991). The CES-D as a screen for depression and other psychiatric disorders in adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 30, 636641.
Gelhaar, T., Seiffge-Krenke, I., Borge, A., Cicognani, E., Cunha, M., Loncaric, D., … Metzke, C. W. (2007). Adolescent coping with everyday stressors: A seven-nation study of youth from central, eastern, southern, and northern Europe. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 4, 129156.
Haan, N. (2013). Coping and defending: Processes of self-environment organization. Oxford: Elsevier.
Haarasilta, L., Marttunen, M., Kaprio, J., & Aro, H. (2005). Major depressive episode and physical health in adolescents and young adults: Results from a population-based interview survey. European Journal of Public Health, 15, 489493.
Hamilton, J. L., Stange, J. P., Shapero, B. G., Connolly, S. L., Abramson, L. Y., & Alloy, L. B. (2013). Cognitive vulnerabilities as predictors of stress generation in early adolescence: Pathway to depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41, 10271039.
Hammen, C. (2005). Stress and depression. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 293319.
Hammen, C. (2006). Stress generation in depression: Reflections on origins, research, and future directions. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 10651082.
Hankin, B. L. (2009). Development of sex differences in depressive and co-occurring anxious symptoms during adolescence: Descriptive trajectories and potential explanations in a multiwave prospective study. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 38, 460472.
Hankin, B. L., & Abramson, L. Y. (2001). Development of gender differences in depression: An elaborated cognitive vulnerability–transactional stress theory. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 773796.
Hankin, B. L., & Abramson, L. Y. (2002). Measuring cognitive vulnerability to depression in adolescence: Reliability, validity, and gender differences. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 31, 491504.
Hankin, B. L., Oppenheimer, C., Jenness, J., Barrocas, A., Shapero, B. G., & Goldband, J. (2009). Developmental origins of cognitive vulnerabilities to depression: Review of processes contributing to stability and change across time. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 13271338.
Hankin, B. L., Wetter, E., & Cheely, C. (2008). Sex differences in child and adolescent depression: A developmental psychopathological approach. In Abela, J. R. Z. & Hankin, B. L. (Eds.), Handbook of child and adolescent depression (pp. 377414). New York: Guilford Press.
Hayes, S. C. (2004). Acceptance and commitment therapy, relational frame theory, and the third wave of behavioral and cognitive therapies. Behavior Therapy, 35, 639665.
He, X.-Q., Wu, X.-W., Tang, H.-B., & Hu, Q.-Z. (2015). Mediating effect of humor style between attachment and depression in college students. Chinese Journal of Clinical Psychology, 23, 285289.
Hoek, W., Schuurmans, J., Koot, H. M., & Cuijpers, P. (2012). Effects of Internet-based guided self-help problem-solving therapy for adolescents with depression and anxiety: A randomized controlled trial. PLOS ONE, 7, e43485.
Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 169183.
Hyde, J. S., Mezulis, A. H., & Abramson, L. Y. (2008). The ABCs of depression: Integrating affective, biological, and cognitive models to explain the emergence of the gender difference in depression. Psychological Review, 115, 291313.
Ingram, R. E., & Luxton, D. D. (2005). Vulnerability-stress models. In B.L. Hankin & J. R. Z. Abela (Eds.), Development of psychopathology: A vulnerability-stress perspective (pp. 3246). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Joormann, J., & Quinn, M. E. (2014). Cognitive processes and emotion regulation in depression. Depression and Anxiety, 31, 308315.
Kato, T. (2015). Frequently used coping scales: A meta-analysis. Stress and Health, 31, 315323.
Kelly, M. M., Tyrka, A. R., Price, L. H., & Carpenter, L. L. (2008). Sex differences in the use of coping strategies: Predictors of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Depression and Anxiety, 25, 839846.
Kessler, R. C., Petukhova, M., Sampson, N. A., Zaslavsky, A. M., & Wittchen, H. U. (2012). Twelve-month and lifetime prevalence and lifetime morbid risk of anxiety and mood disorders in the United States. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 21, 169184.
Kuiper, N. A. (2012). Humor and resiliency: Towards a process model of coping and growth. Europe's Journal of Psychology, 8, 475491.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.
Liu, R. T. (2013). Stress generation: Future directions and clinical implications. Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 406416.
Liu, R. T., & Alloy, L. B. (2010). Stress generation in depression: A systematic review of the empirical literature and recommendations for future study. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 582593.
Mahmoud, J. S. R., Staten, R. T., Hall, L. A., & Lennie, T. A. (2012). The relationship among young adult college students’ depression, anxiety, stress, demographics, life satisfaction, and coping styles. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 33, 149156.
Malooly, A. M., Flannery, K. M., & Ohannessian, C. M. (2017). Coping mediates the association between gender and depressive symptomatology in adolescence. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 41, 185197.
Malouff, J. M., Thorsteinsson, E. B., & Schutte, N. S. (2007). The efficacy of problem solving therapy in reducing mental and physical health problems: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 4657.
McLaughlin, K. A., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2012). Interpersonal stress generation as a mechanism linking rumination to internalizing symptoms in early adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 41, 584597.
Mennin, D. S., Holaway, R. M., Fresco, D. M., Moore, M. T., & Heimberg, R. G. (2007). Delineating components of emotion and its dysregulation in anxiety and mood psychopathology. Behavior Therapy, 38, 284302.
Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2000). The role of rumination in depressive disorders and mixed anxiety/depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 504511.
Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Aldao, A. (2011). Gender and age differences in emotion regulation strategies and their relationship to depressive symptoms. Personality and Individual Differences, 51, 704708.
Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Wisco, B. E., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Rethinking rumination. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 400424.
Oldehinkel, A. J., & Bouma, E. M. (2011). Sensitivity to the depressogenic effect of stress and HPA-axis reactivity in adolescence: A review of gender differences. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 35, 17571770.
Pettit, J. W., Lewinsohn, P. M., Seeley, J. R., Roberts, R. E., & Yaroslavsky, I. (2010). Developmental relations between depressive symptoms, minor hassles, and major events from adolescence through age 30 years. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 119, 811824.
Phelps, S. B., & Jarvis, P. A. (1994). Coping in adolescence: Empirical evidence for a theoretically based approach to assessing coping. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 23, 359371.
Rnic, K., Dozois, D. J., & Martin, R. A. (2016). Cognitive distortions, humor styles, and depression. Europe's Journal of Psychology, 12, 348362.
Rohde, P., Lewinsohn, P. M., Klein, D. N., Seeley, J. R., & Gau, J. M. (2012). Key characteristics of major depressive disorder occurring in childhood, adolescence, emerging adulthood, and adulthood. Clinical Psychological Science, 1, 4153.
Rose, A. J., Glick, G. C., Smith, R. L., Schwartz-Mette, R. A., & Borowski, S. K. (2016). Co-rumination exacerbates stress generation among adolescents with depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Advance online publication.
Rose, A. J., & Rudolph, K. D. (2006). A review of sex differences in peer relationship processes: Potential trade-offs for the emotional and behavioral development of girls and boys. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 98131.
Rueger, S. Y., Malecki, C. K., Pyun, Y., Aycock, C., & Coyle, S. (2016). A meta-analytic review of the association between perceived social support and depression in childhood and adolescence. Psychological Bulletin, 142, 10171067.
Russell, M. A., Vasilenko, S. A., & Lanza, S. T. (2016). Age-varying links between violence exposure and behavioral, mental, and physical health. Journal of Adolescent Health, 59, 189196.
Ryan-Wenger, N. M. (1992). A taxonomy of children s coping strategies: A step toward theory development. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 62, 256263.
Schuler, M. S., Vasilenko, S. A., & Lanza, S. T. (2015). Age-varying associations between substance use behaviors and depressive symptoms during adolescence and young adulthood. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 157, 7582.
Schwartz-Mette, R. A., & Smith, R. L. (2016). When does co-rumination facilitate depression contagion in adolescent friendships? Investigating intrapersonal and interpersonal factors. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Advance online publication.
Seiffge-Krenke, I. (1995). Stress, coping and relationships in adolescence. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2011). Coping with relationship stressors: A decade review. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 196210.
Seiffge-Krenke, I., & Stemmler, M. (2002). Factors contributing to gender differences in depressive symptoms: A test of three developmental models. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 31, 405417.
Selye, H. (2013). Stress in health and disease. New York: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Skinner, E. A., Edge, K., Altman, J., & Sherwood, H. (2003). Searching for the structure of coping: A review and critique of category systems for classifying ways of coping. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 216269.
Skinner, E. A., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2015). Coping across the lifespan. In Wright, J. D. (Ed.), International encyclopedia of the social and behavioral sciences (pp. 887894). Oxford: Elsevier.
Somerville, L. H., & Casey, B. (2010). Developmental neurobiology of cognitive control and motivational systems. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 20, 236241.
Sontag, L. M., & Graber, J. A. (2010). Coping with perceived peer stress: Gender-specific and common pathways to symptoms of psychopathology. Developmental Psychology, 46, 16051620.
Spendelow, J. S., Simonds, L. M., & Avery, R. E. (2016). The relationship between co-rumination and internalizing problems: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 24, 512527.
Tan, X., Shiyko, M. P., Li, R., & Li, Y. (2012). A time-varying effect model for intensive longitudinal data. Psychological Methods, 17, 6177.
Twenge, J. M., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2002). Age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, and birth cohort difference on the children's depression inventory: A meta-analysis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111, 578588.
Vasilenko, S. A., & Lanza, S. T. (2014). Predictors of multiple sexual partners from adolescence through young adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55, 491497.
Ward, R. M., & Hay, M. C. (2015). Depression, coping, hassles, and body dissatisfaction: Factors associated with disordered eating. Eating Behaviors, 17, 1418.
Weissman, M. M., Orvaschel, H., & Padian, N. (1980). Children's symptom and social functioning self-report scales comparison of mothers’ and children's reports. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 168, 736740.
Whiteford, H. A., Degenhardt, L., Rehm, J., Baxter, A. J., Ferrari, A. J., Erskine, H. E., … Johns, N. (2013). Global burden of disease attributable to mental and substance use disorders. Lancet, 382, 15751586.
Young, J. F., Benas, J. S., Schueler, C. M., Gallop, R., Gillham, J. E., & Mufson, L. (2016). A randomized depression prevention trial comparing interpersonal psychotherapy. Prevention Science, 17, 314324.
Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., & Skinner, E. A. (2011). The development of coping across childhood and adolescence: An integrative review and critique of research. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 35, 117.
Zoogman, S., Goldberg, S. B., Hoyt, W. T., & Miller, L. (2015). Mindfulness interventions with youth: A meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 6, 290302.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Vannucci et al. supplementary material
Vannucci et al. supplementary material 1

 Unknown (273 KB)
273 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 5
Total number of PDF views: 52 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 175 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 25th April 2018 - 15th August 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.