The influence of temperamental surgency on engagement and disengagement coping in preadolescent children

Open Access
Norton, Elizabeth Julia
Area of Honors:
Human Development and Family Studies
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Martha Ellen Wadsworth, Thesis Supervisor
  • Lisa Michelle Kopp, Honors Advisor
  • coping
  • stress
  • temperament
  • surgency
  • gender
  • children
In the absence of effective coping, stress can be detrimental to child development (Compas, 1987a). Determining factors that influence coping tendencies is vital to understanding how we can best help children to overcome stressors. This study, which was part of a larger experimental project, examined the relationship between temperamental surgency and coping strategies in a sample of preadolescent boys and girls. The primary hypothesis was that high surgency scores would predict the use of more engagement coping and fewer disengagement coping strategies. A sample of 96 fourth and fifth grade children (Mage = 10.65, SD = .67) and one of their parents participated in the study. Both child and parent were asked to complete a set of questionnaires including the Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire – Revised (EATQ-R) and the Response to Stress Questionnaire (RSQ). Bivariate correlations were conducted between one factor of the EATQ-R: surgency, and three factors of the RSQ: primary control coping, secondary control coping, and disengagement coping. A Fisher’s r-to-z transformation was used to evaluate whether there was a significant difference in the temperament – coping relationship between boys and girls. The results revealed a possible relationship between high surgency characteristics (i.e. thrill seeking) and primary control coping strategies (i.e. problem solving) in a child, as identified by their parent. Also from the parent’s perspective, children with high surgency scores were less likely to disengage in a stressful situation. There was not a significant difference in the way that surgency affects coping styles used by boys and girls. These findings highlighted key differences between the identification of primary vs. secondary control behaviors and parent vs. child report of coping. With its consideration of both coping and temperament, this study can inform future interventions by identifying which children are more vulnerable to negative development outcomes as a result of their propensity to cope with stress ineffectively.