Sex differences in coping and perceptions of life events.
These data illustrate some important methodological considerations about the study of life events and the study of developmental data. As the data on the distribution of life events indicate, when individuals retell their life stories, events are rarely discrete. Psychologically, an event expands to include those predictors that later became apparent and the time taken to put the event into perspective. This calls into question the interpretation given to many life event questionnaires that seek to consider an event within a narrow time framework. Positive and negative events appear to have differential consequences. Our exploration of coping with positive events was an interesting one. Most of our respondents did not perceive that they had a coping task to accomplish when the event was perceived as a positive one. Many of the events reported by our respondents were events in the lives of others. Although this was more often the case for women than for men, interpersonal events and events in which the major impact fell on a family member were quite common in later life. In attempting to understand the impact of sociohistorical events as a context for development, it has often been assumed that overall negative events such as wars and economic depressions will have predominantly negative impacts. Our data suggest that sociohistorical events form the context for events in the family life cycle that happen independently of what is happening in the larger society. Events related to family formation happened against different backgrounds of sociohistorical events. These data also suggest that we look for cohort effects in nonlinear ways that would reflect generational communality of an event. This study also has limits. Our sample was small, and as the respondents had maximum freedom to pick the events to be discussed, we only know that we had a sample of three positive and three negative event contexts. We did not ask individuals 500 many positive and negative events they had during their lives and how the events mentioned fit into that ranking. The interviews were rich in the individuals' perceptions of the important aspects of their lives and indicated a realistic group of persons who had managed to cope reasonably well with the events in their lives. The cohorts in the study are of the age that traditional gender differences are founded on. Looking at the content of the issues to be coped with and the requirements of the situation suggest that life experience is what is predictive of coping skills.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
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