The coping style that individuals think they will use when encountering stressful situations may differ from actual coping response in real situations.
In a longitudinal study on some 500 university students, perceived coping style was identified using the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations on the first occasion. In the subsequent eight test occasions, which occurred on a weekly basis, the students were asked about a negative life event that occurred during the past week and the actual coping responses they used.
The perceived coping style and the actual coping response matched well for task-oriented and emotion-oriented coping. For avoidance-oriented coping, however, perceived coping style and actual coping response were weakly correlated.
Epidemiological studies on coping and mental health should discriminate coping style and coping response. Clinicians should be cautious about patients' own information about avoidance-oriented coping.