Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Phillip J. Brantley


This study examined the patterns and effectiveness of coping strategies utilized by individuals in a low-income, primary care environment. Documented relationships among coping strategies and the characteristics of this population suggest that the population should be marked by high levels of emotion-focused coping and low levels of problem-focused coping relative to the normal population. Descriptive statistics confirmed high levels of emotion-focused coping but failed to demonstrate low levels of problem-focused coping within the study sample. The influence of control (actual and perceived) on the patterns and effectiveness of coping strategies was also studied. Regression analyses indicated that, in the low-control environment of the study population, the use of problem-focused coping was positively associated with psychological distress. This finding supports the theory that problem-focused coping may be ineffective in environments that offer little opportunity for change and decision-making. In contrast, emotion-focused coping subscales revealed no consistent relationship between psychological distress and emotion-focused coping. This result suggests that the emotion-focused subscales may be sufficiently independent to resist any attempts at discovering meaningful commonalities among them with regard to their impact on psychological distress. Thus, while the global category of emotion-focused coping may provide a useful contrast to problem-focused coping in studying the implementation of coping strategies, this category may be less useful when examining strategy effectiveness. Finally, analysis of variance and appropriate post hoc procedures were utilized to examine differences among diagnostic categories on the set of coping subscales. While the perceptions of uncontrollability that characterize anxiety disorders were reflected in increased emotion-focused coping for individuals with these conditions, persons with anxiety disorders also reported increased levels of problem-focused coping relative to persons with no diagnosis. Furthermore, the strategies implemented were not useful in predicting membership in either the anxiety disorder or the depressive disorder categories. These findings raise important questions regarding the role of controllability perceptions in the implementation of coping strategies. In addition, the findings suggest that coping subscales may simply differentiate individuals with a diagnosis from individuals with no diagnosis rather than differentiating among specific diagnostic categories.