2022 SPPAC Tran

Tran, S. T., Ricart, B., Ramos, B., Galloway, C., Stoner, A., & Raftery-Helmer, J. (2022, April). Effects of general and specific stress on pain coping efficacy in emerging adults. Poster presentation at the Society of Pediatric Psychology, Phoenix, AZ.


Effects of General and Specific Stress on Pain Coping Efficacy in Emerging Adults

Susan T. Tran1, Brittany Ricart1, Bianca Ramos1, Claire Galloway1, Alison M. Stoner2,3, Jacquelyn N. Raftery-Helmer4

1DePaul University, 2Reliant Medical Group, 3UMass Medical School, 4Worcester State University


Psychosocial stressors are common and negatively influence pain episodes and functional outcomes. Some coping strategies, such as emotion-focused and avoidant styles, are related to higher pain intensity and lower controllability of pain. However, there is a lack of research regarding the influence of compounding stressors on one’s ability to cope with pain, particularly among emerging adults. Accordingly, this study aims to 1) investigate differences in coping strategies between those with and without chronic pain and 2) investigate the influences of different stressors on one’s ability to cope with pain. 


Undergraduate students (N = 684; Mage = 19.91, SDage = 2.24; 24% male, 74% female, 2% other gender identity; 76% white; 21% Hispanic/Latinx) were recruited through Psychology classes at three universities. They completed an online survey including measures of pain intensity, frequency, and duration; general stress (Perceived Stress Scale); COVID stress (COVID-19 Exposure and Family Impact Survey-Adolescent and Young Adult version); discrimination stress (Adolescent Discrimination Distress Index); general coping strategies (Brief-COPE); and pain coping strategies and coping efficacy (Coping with Pain Questionnaire).


300 participants had no pain, 231 had pain for less than three months (acute), and 153 had pain for three months or longer (chronic). Those with chronic pain had more difficulty coping with pain than those with no or acute pain (F(2,628)=4.67, p=.01). Regarding coping styles, those with acute pain reported using more emotion-focused strategies (F(2,654)=3.12, p=.045); those with acute and chronic pain reported using more avoidant strategies (F(2,654)=11.36, p<.001) and pain-specific emotion-focused strategies (F(2,632)=14.80, p<.001). Higher general stress, discrimination and COVID stress were related to increased use of emotion-focused and avoidant coping strategies and more difficulty coping with pain (r=.08-.33, all p<.05). Pain frequency predicted more difficulty coping with pain; however, overall perceived stress, discrimination and COVID stress added significant variance to one’s ability to cope with pain (R2=.05, .014, and .014 respectively, all p<.05).


Emerging adults with pain tend to use more emotion-focused and avoidant coping strategies compared to those without pain. In the literature, these strategies tend to be associated with more general distress. Feelings of general stress, as well as COVID and discrimination stress interfered with coping with pain. Findings suggest the need for addressing stressors in emerging adults with chronic pain in order to reduce barriers to effective coping.