Study Identifies Two Approaches To Coping With Climate Change

As we move through life, it is possible we come across the range of approaches of the people around us towards climate change. Amongst those who accept climate change, its current impacts and future threats, these realities are being processed and responded to in varying ways. Some may engage in activism and radical life changes, whereas others may find themselves resigned or less hopeful about the future. A new study, after surveying 334 parents, has identified two coping behaviours against climate change: adaptive approach coping and maladaptive avoidance coping.

Two coping mechanisms against climate change seem prominent. Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

The participants of this survey were parents with children between the ages of 3 to 10 years. They were approached with questions about their views on environmental issues and climate change, related stress, mental and overall health, and also whether it affected their behaviour and how. The results of this survey led to the identification of two groups of climate change coping approaches.

Adaptive approach coping refers to when people concerned with climate change and environmental issues engaged in behaviours and actions that they believed would help combat the issues. This group of people, which formed about 70% of the survey respondents, were also noted to have higher stress levels and a sense of personal responsibility. Moreover, they expressed a desire to find solutions to the problems, while also displaying more wishful thinking.

The remainder of the participants (30%) were categorised as ‘maladaptive avoidance coping’ group. These respondents displayed lower levels of stress and wishful thinking, but they also were less likely to engage in problem-solving behaviour or believe that their actions made a difference. Additionally, they felt relatively lesser guilt or personal responsibility.

Previous studies have linked environmental stress to negative effects on mental health. Based on this, the researchers expected to note poor mental health in the adaptive approach coping group. However, there was not much difference to be found in the general health, anxiety or depression symptoms of the two groups.

Another notable finding of the study was that women were more likely to have an adaptive approach towards coping with climate change. Other factors such as income, education, race, or employment did not seem to affect the coping approaches and views as the demographic makeup of the two groups.

Women were more likely to be proactive in the face of climate change threats. Photo by Yelena Odintsova on

According to the researchers, the findings lead to the conclusion that it may not be effective to direct climate change-related messaging based on demographic information. Such communication could be more effective if climate change coping profiles are taken into consideration. “If you think in terms of messaging about climate change or environmental problems, very often we look at social demographic targeting, and according to our findings, that’s not very useful because those two profiles should probably be receiving different kinds of messaging. Those who are already acting pro-environmentally need reinforcement of that behaviour, versus those who are in the maladaptive avoidance coping profile who don’t do much at all and need to be incentivized to start doing something,” said Sabrina Helm, associate professor at the University of Arizona and lead author of this study.

While the research includes parents of young children, coping mechanisms among children may vary. Given the young participants sparking climate change movements across the globe, the need for effective messaging towards younger audiences may have to vary.

The results of this study have been published in the Anxiety, Stress, & Coping journal.


Terra Love View All →

I am a simple writer who wishes to use her skill to create more awareness about the planet that offers us life.

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