Coping Strategies

Related to acculturation strategies are the coping strategies. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) have identified two general coping strategies: problem-focused (attempting to change or solve the problem) and emotion-focused coping (attempting to regulate the emotions associated with the problem). More recently, Endler and Parker (1990) have identified a third: avoidance-oriented coping.

According to Lazarus and Folkman (1984), a typical Western perspective of creative problem solving is an example of problem-focused coping. In contrast, Chinese people prefer to deal with stress by employing emotional coping strategies. The present quantitative study found that there is no significant difference among three coping strategies. Chinese students engage in a wide range of coping strategies to cope with their stress. The interview transcripts, however, confirm previous studies’ findings that Chinese students typically prefer using emotion-coping strategies. A mechanical engineering student argued:

As sojourners here, most of us are powerless to change entire cultures or external environments, and in many cases, we have limited resources for changing the troublesome features of the stress-provoking environment. In these instances, emotion-focused coping may be more effective than problem-focused coping in reducing stress. (Participant 8)

A bioengineering student concurred:

I preferred to take direct actions when I was in China. In contrast, here [in America] I most often try changing my perceptions or appraisal of stressful events. In many cases, there is nothing we can do about the stressful environment or external culture. What we can do is change our perceptions and regulate our emotions to suit the environment. (Participant 17)

When employing emotion-coping strategies such as endurance, there is a significant difference between single and married students (t = 2.488, p = 0.016 < 0.05). Single students (M = 3.26, SD = 1.11) use endurance to cope with their daily stress more than married students do (M = 2.47, SD = 1.21).

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