Negative Life Events and Coping Style among the Young Adults in a Highly Collective Community of Borneo

  • Komalavani Subramaniam
  • Mai Sumiyati Ishak


This qualitative study explored the differences in the interpretation of “negative life events” and the coping style among male and female young adults aged 21-25 in a highly collective community of Borneo. In-depth interviews were deployed, and pattern saturated at 5 males and 5 females. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Finding shows that both gender, males and females, were most affected by self-image and identity crisis, implicating sensitivity for social acceptance/rejection, academic bullying, and friendship, family and and financial issues. Females were significantly affected by friendship problems and tended to deal with it using emotional-focused coping, such as, emotional release, whereas males reported rejection/one-sided love problems and tended to cope using action-focused coping style, such as, confronting, as well as action-focused release, such as, playing games. While the findings support the universal findings in the male-female differences in coping with negative events, this study found a unique difference in the coping style of the males to those of the lesser cohesive community - males in this community were found to be celebrating sharing of problems and emotional discomfort with close friends and family, as much as the females. This study suggests that careful considerations need to be given when generalizing the theory of emotional and social disconnectedness, in males in crisis in the highly cohesive community. Future research using mixed methodology can further explain the nature and generalizability of in-crisis males’ emotional and social connectedness in cohesive community, using a larger sample. Findings from this research would be useful to understand how our male and female youngsters in highly collective communities perceive life issues, and the pattern they choose in coping, and further assist in designing effective youth assistance and development programs.

Keywords: negative life events; coping styles; gender; young adults; collective community


Beck, A. T. (1987). Cognitive models of depression. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 1(1), 5-37.

Beck, T. (1967). Depression causes and treatment. University of Pennsylvania Press; Philadephia.

Ben-Porath, J. S., Waller, N. G., & Butcher, J. N. (1991). Assessment of coping: An empirical illustration of the problem of inapplicable items. Journal of Personality Assessment, 57(1), 162-176.

Benner, P. Tanner, C. A., and Chesla, C. A. (1996). Expertise in nursing practice: Caring, Clinical judgment, and ethics. New York: Springer.

Billings, A. G., and Moos, R. H. (1981). The role of coping responses and social responses in attenuating the stress of life events. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4(2), 137- 139.

Billings, A.G., Cronkite, R.C., Moos, R.H (1983). Social-environmental factors in unipolar depression: Comparisons of depressed patients and no depressed controls. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 92(2), 119- 133.

Burke, R.J., and Weir, T. (1976). Relationship of Wives' Employment Status to husband, wife and pair satisfaction and performance. Journal of Marriage and Family, 38(2), 279- 287.

Broderick, P. (1998). Early adolescent gender differences in the use of ruminative and distracting coping strategies. Journal of Early Adolescents, 18, 173-191.

Carleton, R. A., Esparza, P., Thaxter, P. J., and Grant, K. E. (2008). Stress, religious coping resources, and depressive symptoms in an urban adolescent sample. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 47(1), 113-121.

Carver, Charles S.; Scheier, Michael F.; Weintraub, Jagdish K. (1989). Assessing coping strategies: A theoretically based approach. Journal Personality and Social Psychology. 56(2), 267-283.

Christianson, S. A. (2014). The handbook of emotion and memory: Research and theory. Psychology Press.

Compas, B. E., Connor-Smith, J. K., Saltzman, H., Thomsen, A. H., & Wadsworth, M. E. (2001). Coping with stress during childhood and adolescence: problems, progress, and potential in theory and research. Psychological Bulletin, 127(1), 87.

Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. 1994. Stability and change in personality from adolescence through adulthood.

In C. F. Halverson, G. A. Kohnstamm, & R. P. Martin (Eds.), The developing structure of temperament and personality from infancy to adulthood: 139-150. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Costello, C. G. (1993). The advantages of the symptom approach to depression: Symptoms of depression. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1-21.

Conner, M. G. (2000). Understanding the difference between men and women. Online Essay Retrieved October, 15, 2014.

Cullen, A. E., Fisher, H. L., Roberts, R. E., Pariante, C. M., & Laurens, K. R. (2014). Daily stressors and negative life events in children at elevated risk of developing schizophrenia. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 204(5), 354-360.

Endler, N. S. & Parker, J. D. (1990). Multidimensional assessment of coping: A critical evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(5), 844-854.

Essau, C. A., & Trommsdorff, G. (1996). Coping with university-related problems a cross-cultural comparison. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 27(3), 315-328.

Folkman, S. (1984). Personal control and stress and coping processes: a theoretical analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(4),839.

Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1980). An analysis of coping in a middle-aged community sample. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 21(3), 219-239.

Galaif, E. R., Sussman, S., Chou, C. P., & Wills, T. A. (2003). Longitudinal relations among depression, stress, and coping in high risk youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32(4), 243-258.

Gelhaar, T., Seiffge-Krenke, I., Borge, A., Cicognani, E., Cunha, M., Loncaric D., Macek, P., Steinhausen H., & Metzke C.W. (2007). Adolescent coping with everyday stressors: A seven-nation study of youth from central, eastern, southern, and northern Europe. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 4(2), 129-156.

Hankin, B. L., & Abramson, L. Y. (1999). Development of gender differences in depression: Description and possible explanations. Annals of Medicine, 31(6), 372-379.

Han, S. S., Weisz, J. R., & Weiss, B. (2001). Specificity of relations between children's control-related beliefs and internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69(2). 240.

Hirsch, J. K., Wolford, K., LaLonde, S. M., Brunk, L., & Parker-Morris, A. (2009). Optimistic explanatory style as a moderator of the association between negative life events and suicide ideation. Crisis, 30(1), 48-53.

Korn, C. W., Sharot, T., Walter, H., Heekeren, H. R., & Dolan, R. J. (2014). Depression is related to an absence of optimistically biased belief updating about future life events. Psychological Medicine, 44(03), 579-592.

Lazarus, R.S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, Appraisal and Coping. New York: Springer.

Levenson, R. W. (1994). The nature of emotion: Fundamental questions. In Human emotion: A functional view, 1, 123-126.

Marsella, S. & Gratch, J. (2002). A step toward irrationality: using emotion to change belief. In Proceedings of the first international joint conference on Autonomous agents and multiagent systems. ACM.

Matud, M. P. (2004). Gender differences in stress and coping styles. Personality and Individual Differences, 37(7), 1401-1415.

Mikulincer, M. (2013). Human learned helplessness: A coping perspective. Springer Science & Business Media.

Mitchell, R. E., Cronkite, R. C., & Moos, R. H. (1983). Stress, coping, and depression among married couples. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 92(4), 433.

Murberg, T. A., & Bru, E. (2005). The role of coping styles as predictors of depressive symptoms among adolescents: A prospective study. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 46(4), 385-393.

Pearlin, L. I., & Schooler, C. (1978). The structure of coping. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 2-21.

Petty, R., Ostrom, T. M., & Brock, T. C.(2014). Cognitive responses in persuasion. Psychology Press.

Rabkin, J. G., & Struening, E. L. (1976). Life events, stress, and illness. Science, 194(4269), 1013-1020.

Quevedo, R. J. M., & Abella, M. C. (2011). Well-being and personality: Facetlevel analyses. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(2), 206-211.

Seiffge-Krenke, I., & Klessinger, N. (2000). Long-term effects of avoidant coping on adolescents' depressive symptoms. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 29(6), 617-630.

Skitch, S. A., & Abela, J. R. (2008). Rumination in response to stress as a common vulnerability factor to depression and substance misuse in adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36(7), 1029-1045.

Snyder, C. R., & Ford, C. E. (Eds.). (2013). Coping with negative life events: Clinical and social psychological perspectives. Springer Science & Business Media.

Stanton, A. L., Kirk, S. B., Cameron, C. L., & Danoff-Burg, S. (2000). Coping through emotional approach: scale construction and validation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(6), 1150.

Steffensmeier, D., & Allan, E. (1998). The nature of female offending: Patterns and explanations. Female offenders: Critical perspectives and effective interventions (pp.5-29).

Gaitherburg, MD: Aspen. Sveinbjornsdottir, S., & Thorsteinsson, E. B. (2008). Adolescent coping scales: A critical psychometric review. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 49(6), 533-548.

Tella, A., & Akande, S. (2007). Children’s reading habits and availability of books in Botswana primary schools: Implications for achieving quality education. The Reading Matrix, 7(2).

Verner-Filion, J., Vallerand, R. J., Donahue, E. G., Moreau, E., Martin, A., Mageau, G. A., & Martin, A. (2014). Passion, coping, and anxiety in sport: the interplay between key motivational and self-regulatory processes. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 45(6), 516-537.

Wasserman, D. (Ed.). (2015). Suicide: an unnecessary death. Oxford University Press.

How to Cite
Subramaniam, K., & Ishak, M. S. (2015). Negative Life Events and Coping Style among the Young Adults in a Highly Collective Community of Borneo. Journal of Cognitive Sciences and Human Development, 1(2), 20-33.