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versión On-line ISSN 1668-7027


KRZEMIEN, Deisy; MONCHIETTI, Alicia  y  URQUIJO, Sebastián. Active coping and adaptation to aging in women of Mar del Plata city: A review of the coping strategy of self-distraction. Interdisciplinaria [online]. 2005, vol.22, n.2, pp. 183-210. ISSN 1668-7027.

This paper reviews the concept of avoidance coping (particularly the coping strategy of self-distraction), pointing out its adaptative value in coping with critical life-events during old age in women. Scientific literature considers that there is a relationship between coping strategies and adaptation to critical events. Some studies suggest that active coping strategies promote effective adaptation, but avoidant strategies are considered less effective. The coping strategy of self-distraction is a mental and behavioural disengagement which occurs via a wide variety of activities that serve to distract the person from thinking about the goal with which the stressor is interfering. Tactics that reflect disengagement include: using alternative activities to take one's mind off a problem (a tendency opposite to problem focused coping or active coping), escaping through reading, cooking, visiting friends, studying, going out for a conference, or escape by immersion in television or in new projects. This paper discusses the empirical data obtained from a study on coping with critical life-events in female aging in a group of senior women in the city of Mar del Plata. By means of a quasi-experimental design using a pretest-postest technique and a control group, we evaluated coping strategies through the Brief-Cope Inventory, before and after a social learning program in a sample of 60 senior women who did not have any neurological symptomatology. The sample was divided into two groups: intervention group and control group. The intervention group consisted of 30 individuals, who participated in a social learning program at the Universidad de Adultos Mayores (Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata), and the control group, consisting of 30 individuals, did not do it. A comparative and quantitative analysis of data was done. Results of the study showed that critical life-events senior women have to cope with were loneliness, illness, widowhood, parental death or oncoming personal death, and social discrimination. There were significant differences in coping styles in both post-test groups. In general, the use of active and adaptative strategies (particularly the behavioural and cognitive coping style or type) increased in the intervention group; but the use of those evasive and emotional strategies decreased. Social learning was correlated positively and significantly with an active and adaptative coping style in the face of crisis in female aging. However, the use of self-distraction as a coping strategy also increased in the post-test intervention group. The data are discussed considering the theoretical framework and current evidence. Results allow for an alternative conceptualization about evasive coping to critical life-events in old age, particularly the self-distraction strategy, which is theoretically described as avoidant and non adaptative. Due to the nature of situations during aging, which have a low potential for control, the use of self-distraction as a strategy may be adaptative coping because it allows senior women to adjust and adapt to life changes, maintaining an active lifestyle and improving their quality of life. We suggest that self-distraction as a coping strategy be considered functional, which promotes an effective adaptation to situations during aging. Technically, there is no specific problem to solve, but rather changes, worries or critical life-events to be accepted by seniors. This study contributes to the cognitive and behavioural avoidance theory form a different angle, taking into account age and the nature of stressful events in the effectiveness and adjustment in coping. Finally, this paper suggests possible classification of critical life-events during aging that seniors face using coping strategies.

Palabras clave : Coping strategies; Self-distraction; Adaptation; Critical life-events; Aging.

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