Growing or Just Getting Along? Technical and Adaptive Competence in Coping among Adolescents



This study examined coping among African American adolescents with learning disabilities. Ninety-seven African American adolescents and their mother or primary caregiver participated in the study. The study centered on a new conceptual distinction between technical competence in coping and adaptive competence in coping. Technical competence referred to short-term, reactive attempts at coping based on individuals' abilities to find techniques for reducing their feelings of distress. Adaptive competence referred to longer-term, developmental processes of adaptive change that resulted in more global benefits for the individual. Past literature was reassessed on the basis of this conceptual distinction, and a new model of technical and adaptive competence in coping was proposed based on developmental theory. Perceptions of coping efficacy and the incidence of behavioral problems were regressed on measures of technical and adaptive competence in coping. Results were explored first as a general test of the model on the total sample, and second as a comparative analysis between gender subsamples. Total sample findings were consistent with hypothesized results. Technical competence was a better predictor of feelings of efficacy and adaptive competence was a better predictor of behavioral problems. Gender subsample differences were significant and supported a picture of gender-typed approaches to coping.