Using Time-Varying Effect Modeling to Examine Age-Varying Gender Differences in Coping Throughout Adolescence and Emerging Adulthoodedit
Little is known about how and when coping trajectories differ between males and females. The current study aimed to examine gender differences in the use of specific coping strategies across developmental ages using time-varying effect modeling (TVEM) in a large, diverse community sample. A longitudinal study following adolescents across 4 years of high school and 5 years post graduation (N = 1,251) was combined with a nationally representative cross-sectional study of 18- to 22-year-olds (N = 595) to examine changes in gender differences in the use of coping strategies between ages 13 and 25. The same coping questionnaire was administered to both samples. TVEM was used to examine the age-varying prevalence rates of coping in males and females. Gender differences were greatest during middle-to-late adolescence (15-19 years) for active coping, social support seeking, planning, and venting emotions. Females reported greater use of these strategies than males, but males’ use increased over time and became equivalent to females after the age of ~19-20. Gender differences in the use of humor did not emerge until the age of 22, at which point the use of humor increased continuously among males but remained stable among females. The use of denial was fairly stable across time, with no gender differences at any age. Findings highlight the utility of TVEM for advancing our knowledge on gender and coping across developmental time, as males and females used coping strategies at differing rates throughout adolescence and emerging adulthood. Implications for tailoring gender- and age-specific intervention efforts to improve coping and related health behaviors are discussed.