An exploration of stress and its perception in childhood
This research explores the concept of stress as it is perceived by children and builds a paradigm of this perception. The thesis argues that a cognitive paradigm is useful in understanding the stress process but seems incomplete without an acknowledgement of the role of unconscious cognition and phenomenology. This research extends this model to include these elements. A review of the literature includes an exploration of the definitions of the concept of stress and an examination and evaluation of the usefulness of the models of stress from which these definitions arise. From an initial literature review, a starting point in terms of an examination of "stressors" was identified and lead to a survey in this area. This led, in turn, to five subsequent investigations being undertaken for this thesis, each driven by questions and issues which emerged from the previous one. The methodology used in each study was different and driven by the questions that were under exploration. However, all had a qualitative philosophical base. The samples are described study by study and encompassed children from the age of eleven to adults. Results from this research confirm that triggers of and responses to stress are many and various. The individuals' perception of the stress appears to rest upon factors which include learned responses, social support and personality. Coping strategies are also many and various and likewise appear to rest upon the same mediating factors, as well as the individuals perceived control over the stressors. Suggestions are also offered for interventions that could be used in schools to help children to cope more successfully with stress. These suggestions look at the psychological environment of schools as well as the individual adolescents and events which may be stressful.