Coping with chronic illness in childhood and adolescence

Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2012;8:455-80. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032511-143108. Epub 2011 Dec 20.


Chronic illnesses and medical conditions present millions of children and adolescents with significant stress that is associated with risk for emotional and behavioral problems and interferes with adherence to treatment regimens. We review research on the role of child and adolescent coping with stress as an important feature of the process of adaptation to illness. Recent findings support a control-based model of coping that includes primary control or active coping (efforts to act on the source of stress or one's emotions), secondary control or accommodative coping (efforts to adapt to the source of stress), and disengagement or passive coping (efforts to avoid or deny the stressor). Evidence suggests the efficacy of secondary control coping in successful adaptation to chronic illness in children and adolescents, disengagement coping is associated with poorer adjustment, and findings for primary control coping are mixed. Avenues for future research are highlighted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*